Federal election 2021: NDP candidate Kelvin Kotchilea says he will ‘invest in northerners’ if elected

Kelvin Kotchilea is running as the NDP candidate for the Northwest Territories in the 2021 federal election. (Photo courtesy of Kelvin Kotchilea.)

Five candidates are running in the federal election to represent the Northwest Territories as the Member of Parliament.

Election day is Sept. 20.

CKLB had the chance to speak with candidates about what they hope to accomplish if elected to the House of Commons.

The transcription has been edited for clarity and accuracy.

Kelvin Kotchilea: NDP

Q: Why are you running to be the Member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories?

A: So right now, I am a candidate for the NDP. So I was scouted based on the platform and the social media ideas from my past experience in last month’s by-election for the Monfwi. 

I also have 10 years of experience with the GNWT and an educational background in environment and natural resources and in business administration.

Q: Tell me, what was it about the NDP that really called out to you?  

A: The fact that it is a passionate and caring party that’s very multicultural and diverse. Right now, it’s 52 per cent woman candidates, 79 per cent of us fall under categories of Indigenous, LGBTQ, disabled, youth.

It’s a unique party that speaks to almost everybody from one skill to another, when you look at the Liberals and Conservatives, they’re very still traditional.

Q: Kelvin, if you win the riding for the Northwest Territories, but your party does not form government, how would you work with one of the other political parties that do form government to make sure northern voices are still heard?

A: When you look at the data, it’s still going to be a minority government, we just don’t know who’s going to come out on top because it’s a short election. What I think a lot of people did not anticipate, was the fact that the NDP is doing quite well with the young voters. And because we have a diverse set of candidates, we have a great opportunity to be a strong second, if not even a strong minority.

I think people shouldn’t really count us out of having to work with other parties. I think that when you really do look at it, the best products that are created is always with a minority government. Because when you have a majority [government] bills are passed without it having a third or a fifth look into how Canadians reflect on it.

With my position, I’ll make sure that northern priorities are always recognized and brought up in the House of Commons.


Q: Speaking of northern priorities, what do you think is the biggest issue facing the Northwest Territories right now?

A: I know when you look at my neighbours to the east, Nunavut, they touched on housing, mental health addictions. When you look at your neighbours to the west, they touched on reconciliation, climate change.

For myself in the Northwest Territories, I feel we need more autonomy and when I say autonomy, I mean that the federal government needs to give [the] GNWT more responsibility to reflect change for northerners, and Indigenous governments need to have established land claims in order, in all the regions. They have the right to make their own laws that reflect on their traditional lands. 

Secondly, I would like to invest in northerners. When I mean invest in northerners I’m talking about not having enough childcare for young mothers that do have post secondary education but are not in the workforce. I’m talking about creating more skill sets in the communities through having local teachers, local nurses, local Red Seal certified carpenters, electricians.

We need to build capacity and investing in northerners is the best way to beat addiction and the housing situation because people need to have meaningful employment and purpose.

The biggest thing is investing in people in the north.

Q: You mentioned land claims there, how would you go about trying to ensure that land claims do get settled?

A: In 2015 we had a majority Liberal government and we had a Member of Parliament as part of that government.

Here in the Dehcho region and the Akaitcho region still don’t have established land claims. It doesn’t make sense that six years of government that should have at least helped these two key Indigenous groups that are working towards land claims and self-government.

If I’m elected as a member of parliament, I’m going to fight for those groups, because not only will it benefit Indigenous groups, but it benefits the Government and Northwest Territories, and residents, because now we’re going to have areas that we know that are available for development, areas that are, put aside for protection, areas that are traditional use for communities and Indigenous groups.

I think overall, we need to have establishment across the North. When you have areas that do have land claims and self-government and areas are unsettled, it’s a big question mark as to where we’re going to head as the North.

Q: My final question for you Kelvin is just why should people vote for you in this upcoming federal election?

A: I have traditional understandings with culture — hunting, being out on the land. At the same time, I still have the western academics, through schooling.

I can talk to communities, from a culture perspective, at the same time, talk to entrepreneurs, local businesses, the mining sector, from a financial point of view and environmental skill set.

I’m also very passionate about where I feel changes need to be made. And at the same time, an NDP party, it’s quite an energy when you really connect with other candidates with other supporters.

We [elected] an NDP party in the past, I feel that we need to [elect] an NDP party again, to reflect on what people want as residents of the Northwest Territories.


About the Author

Luke Carroll
Luke Carroll is a journalist originally from Brockville, Ont. He has previously worked as a reporter and editor in Ottawa, Halifax and New Brunswick. Luke is a graduate of Carleton University's bachelor of journalism program. If you have a story idea, feel free to send him an email at luke.carroll@cklbradio.com