Federal election 2021: Independent candidate Jane Groenewegen wants to give northerners another option

Jane Groenewegen is running as an independent candidate for the NWT in the 2021 federal election. (Photo courtesy of Jane Groenewegen.)

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.

Jane Groenewegen: Independent

Q: Tell me Jane, why are you running in this upcoming election?

A: Well I really hadn’t pre-planned this very much. But just listening to people’s concerns about having options for candidates to choose from.

We really pride ourselves in our wonderful democracy that we have here in Canada, but that participation is sometimes premised on people having a range of options to choose from when they go to the polls.

I had heard some despair, I suppose in the public with the current state of government at the federal level. And I thought, well, I’m 65 years old, this isn’t really something I had in my plans. However, I think I have a unique set of skills and experience that could lend itself to serving the people of the Northwest Territories again.

So rather than stand on the sidelines, and rather than complaining about some of the things that we see coming out of Ottawa, I thought I might as well be proactive and put my name in there and see what people think.

Q: So running as an Independent, whichever party forms government, obviously you won’t be a part of that party. So how do you plan to still represent northern voices?

A: Well, I don’t know what we will end up with after the election. We could end up with a minority government, again. Depending on how the three major parties try to work together or not work together.

I think that the vote of an independent candidate could be valuable to a minority governing party, in which case, they would be looking for support from independents. And I’m not the only candidate that’s running as an independent either. I understand that there’s an independent candidate running in Yukon as well, who may have a very big chance of getting elected.

So I think that an independent candidates vote or support on legislation, or bills, or passage of initiatives that whoever the governing party is working on could could become valuable.

And representing northerners isn’t only about what happens on the floor of the House of Commons. A lot of it is work behind the scenes, it’s constituency work, it’s networking, it’s getting the ear of other elected members so that they have a better understanding of the way things operate in the North, which is very unique, and I think very poorly understood by people in southern Canada.

Q: Tell me, what is your platform? 

A: Well, I don’t have a glossy book to refer to like the Conservatives, that they can whip out their 92 page platform book. Obviously I do not have the capacity or the or the backing of a machine like the political parties out there that have been working on platforms for some time.

So I have a fair amount of knowledge because of having served in government for many years previously, so I have a pretty good understanding.

I will admit that I will have to probably learn from constituents what some of the other issues are just in talking to other leaders and other residents in the Northwest Territories. Even in the last week, I have found out about things that were federally funded, that have been cut, and the big impact that it has on their communities.

I see myself listening, to what northerners aspirations are, where they see deficiencies in how things are funded by the federal government. Just working on grassroots kinds of issues. So I don’t have political platform that is applicable to the entire country.

I see the Liberals came out with a platform [on Wednesday] and you know, $10 a day daycare, electric cars, COVID vaccination passports, a lot of things that really are irrelevant to the North.

I don’t know how else to say it, but I don’t know how far you can go between remote communities with an electric car, $10  a day a daycare is great if we actually had daycares in all communities, which we do not.

And COVID passports, well a billion dollars to help provinces come up with COVID passports. That’s an interesting concept, but I think we’re learning very quickly here, that even vaccinated people can catch the new variants of COVID-19 that are surfacing now. That rendering some of those vaccinations kind of obsolete, so a billion dollars on a passport system for something that may not even be contained by the vaccinations that those passports would reflect.

I don’t know what all the answers are on the pandemic. But I think there’s a lot of spending on a national level that just does not translate into much for the territory.

Q: So on some specific issues, such as land claims, and self-government, how would you go about participating in those negotiations and discussions as a non-Indigenous person?

A: I would make it my business to stay in touch with people who are at the table. And I don’t think the fact that I’m not Indigenous would hinder me from staying apprised of the progress and the aspirations of the people who are at negotiating tables.

I think that sometimes these negotiations, you can look at it two ways. Sometimes they seem like they’re taking a long time to arrive at consensus. And in another way, maybe that’s okay, because maybe when they are finalized, there will be a product and there will be an agreement there that will be most satisfactory to the Aboriginal governments.

But I would not see my role as a non-Indigenous person being any different than an Indigenous person when it comes to the dealings of our Indigenous governments with Canada and the GNWT.

I don’t think that they would see it that way. That’s my opinion, obviously the GNWT is also a party to a lot of those tables. And I think the most important thing is to be there to support, be there to be knowledgeable about the progress about how things are going and do anything possible to help in any way.

And that requires really staying in contact with other people in leadership in the Northwest Territories to collaborate on these outstanding issues.

Q: Having served as an MLA for 20 years, tell me about some of the connections you made in that time that you think would be beneficial to you as the Member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories?

A: I think I can safely say I know people in every community in the 33 communities in the Northwest Territories, I think I can safely say that the people know me.

And right now with COVID restrictions, it’s not possible to do a lot of in person campaigning. But I think it would be safe to say that a lot of people in the North have followed politics over the years. They would have seen me in the positions that I took and the work that I did as an MLA, so they may already feel that they know me to some extent, and I feel like I know them.

Because of working in so many different files and under different committees, I worked on the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment and worked on the social program standing committee.

When I was the MLA for those years, really covered a wide spectrum of northern issues. And so I feel like I made a lot of connections there. And on a national level, to some extent, as well.

When I was minister, now it’s kind of a revolving door on ministers in other jurisdictions, I mean who was a minister when I was there 20 years ago, may not be the minister today. But I think it does speak to some degree of credibility that I have the experience and background that I do and and I am fairly approachable and accessible to people.

I have no issue standing up for what I believe is in the best interest of my constituents, I’m not shy.

Q: My final question for you is why should people vote for you on this upcoming election?

A: Well, I think they just need to compare what I have to offer versus the other candidates.

And they have a slate of five names to choose from. And I’m just putting my experience and skill set out there as an option. If they feel that I could bring value to this position representing them, well, then I would ask them to vote for me.

I don’t in any way discourage the other candidates. I listened to this young man [Kelvin Kotchilea] that’s running for the NDP on CBC interview [Wednesday] morning. It’s really heartening to see younger people out there wanting to get involved in leadership, everybody has to start somewhere.

And certainly Mr. McLeod, I mean, he’s been serving to our territory for a long time as well.

So I’m just adding another option, another dimension. And that’s how I see my participation in this election.

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