N.W.T. Election 2023: George Nerysoo's Mackenzie Delta interview

He says revamping the education system is another area he wants to look into.

"Forcefully promoting our students is not helping anybody. It is not helping our families, it's not helping the individual self-esteem," he said. "We have to come up with a creative idea to get this social promoting idea out of the governance."

Richard Ross Jr and incumbent Frederick Blake Jr are also running for the seat.

This interview was recorded on October 18, 2023. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Aastha Sethi: Why did you decide to put your name forward to run for office this time?

George Nerysoo: The main reason I put my name forth, I was approached by many members. Residents of three communities, they said that I would make a good candidate to advocate for the people that I represent. After a few weeks or so, of thinking about it, I decided that I would put my name forward to represent the residents.

Q: What are some of the issues you're hoping to look into?

A: The main issue I find that is a barrier within the communities, not just the Mackenzie Delta ... is community safety. Drugs is a big issue in some of the communities. If we resolve this issue of alcohol and drug abuse, then we have healthier communities and some of the other concerns that are facing our members and residents will work itself out. But the community safety issues was one of my main priorities, as was in education.

Q: In what ways would you be able to come up with a solution to address the challenges of drug abuse in the communities?

A: I have been dealing with this issue for a long time. I have a personal issue with addiction and ... I don't need this in my life.

I give advice where I can but it will come down to community members gathering. We have a lot of things to do and I have ideas that I can bring forward to the appropriate departments. It's a whole regional issue that we can tackle.

Once we have this whole drug and alcohol issue under control, we can have healthier communities. It will further benefit residents, mainly the children. Once we have a healthy community, children will be able to learn at school, [they will be] wanting to go to school and attend community functions without drugs being in these areas.

Q: Frederick Blake Jr has been an MLA for Mackenzie Delta for many years. How do you aim to strategize your campaign or do things differently?

A: My strategy is to take advice from the residents, that's who I am representing. I am not representing myself. I am representing the riding of the Mackenzie Delta. My strategy is to take advice and listen to people's concerns because I feel the Mackenzie Delta is a very prominent place to live. We want to bring that back to people. The people need it, they want it.

Sonny has done his work, and I believe people who believe he deserves this. It's people's choice, it is not my choice to make myself the MLA. The people will speak for themselves.

Q: What are some of the challenges that people have shared with you?

A: Lack of representation. They say they want representation where the successful candidate will be more available to people. They want to see the MLA more present in the communities. Also, tackle some of the bigger issues we are all dealing with, especially housing. My main concern is community safety. Once we have a healthier community, then we'll be able to work on those other issues which will then be given to the appropriate ministers to assist with that matter.

Q: What can be done to make the communities safer? What steps can be taken? Can you elaborate?

A: It will involve a number of people like the RCMP, the local governments, people from education, to make these communities healthy again. Once upon a time, we were a very healthy region. We were able to do things on our own, our own traditional [ways], now all of that is sort-of dying. We have to revive all this stuff and that's what makes a healthy community.

Q: You mentioned your thoughts on improving the housing situation. How would you go about that?

A: I know in the communities there is a big waiting list. We have illegal stuff happening within the housing. We have to address that issue so we can have a mechanism where we can address this at a community level. Also, some sort of reform to tackle how we address the rent issue issue right now. It is based on your income taxes. Some people are just working seasonally. It's not me to solve this problem – I may have ideas [with which] I can stand up for people, to be an advocate for them. To tackle these issues, I would also need to hear from the people on what they want me to do, and how they want me to do it.

Q: What are your ideas on moving the Mackenzie Valley Highway construction forward?

A: That's a good question because I haven't really thought about that. But it is something we can look at. It's been possible for a long time, but every year that goes by it becomes more and more expensive. It is something each region will have to get together and discuss. The next government will probably be running deficits so I think we'll be dealing with more pressing issues – but like I stated, every year that goes by, it's going to cost more and more.

Q: How do employment rates look in the Mackenzie Delta right now?

A: It's pretty stable. More and more people are working on seasonal jobs. [There is] more contracting within the communities because I noticed in some of the communities that the bigger centres are winning contracts that our local people can do. They have the workforce within the communities themselves, but we still get bigger contracts within the region, coming into our communities.

We have to come up with some sort of solution where we can have more of the local contractors taking on these jobs. They can do them. I believe they can do them with just a little help.

Q: Are there other issues you wish to work towards?

A: Yes, one of my other concerns is education. It took me 30 years to get back into the school system. I never graduated and at one time I decided I wanted to go back to school. I took upgrading and I was able to do my Grade 12 in math, English and science. I encourage students to continue pursuing their education.

Our education system needs to be revamped. Forcefully promoting our students is not helping anybody. It is not helping our families, it's not helping the individual self-esteem. It is just creating more chaos for the government once they socially promote an individual to go to a college or university. The self-esteem goes down. More times than not, he or she is stuck in that system. We have to come up with a creative idea to get this social promoting idea out of the governance. Then, we'll get our students educated properly.

Asked to declare any outstanding lawsuits, debts or other issues that might form a conflict if elected, the candidate said there were none.

Aastha Sethi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio