Castillo wants “people to be accountable for what they’re spending our dollars on”
In any election, government outsiders promising change have a certain pizzazz. But don’t underestimate the value of actually knowing how government works, says Edwin Castillo, a long-time bureaucrat who’s running in Yellowknife North, formerly Weledeh. Castillo is currently the manager of financial planning for the NWT Housing Corporation, but he’s worked widely across the GNWT, in Economic Development and Tourism (now ITI), Finance, and the Executive, as well as on special files like the partition of Nunavut and the NWT.
“I’ve got the experience in terms of public service, and I have a financial background, so I think I could provide a little more credibility in terms of decision making,” says Castillo, who moved to Yellowknife in 1968 from the Philippines and grew up in Yellowknife North, as well as at the now-abandoned Giant Mine townsite. “Rather than relying on some of the support, I’d be able to actually help in that regard.”
This isn’t Castillo’s first election. In the 1990s he served for eight years as the vice-president of the Catholic school board. Until recently, he also served as treasurer on the Stanton Territorial Foundation board.
“I’ve also lived through a lot of this stuff already, raising children here in the North; I’m not sure any of the other candidates have that within them. For me as a single dad, I’ve gone through the pains and some of the challenges and difficulties, so I can relate to people.”
Castillo is campaigning on a range of issues from fairly broad populist policies like diversifying the economy and improving education, to specific initiatives to improve the GNWT’s bureaucracy, like introducing “risk management frameworks” for each department and increasing the independence of GNWT auditors.
On the economic front, he wants the GNWT to focus on diversification: “I’d like to wean away from the dependence on the public sector,” he says. Entrepreneurship should be encouraged by streamlining government policies that hamstring business and funding business incubation programs. Land claims should be settled, so “there’s stability there and the NTW is attractive [for businesses] to come in and set up shop.”
On a larger scale, mining, which he says makes about 30 percent of the territory’s GDP, has to be promoted, but not oil and gas. “I don’t think oil and gas has too much of a future at this point in time… I think we have to be prudent in terms of our expenditures, and go into cleaner greener energy areas… Solar and biomass really is probably what I would focus on.”
As the biggest source of GNWT revenue comes from the feds (not NWT businesses and taxpayers), Castillo says MLAs need to be pushing for a fairer share of post-devolution resource royalties and more formula funding. He acknowledges, “if we have more for royalties [the feds are] going to cut back on pure formula financing,” but says the GNWT can still be doing more to monitor the funding needs of the territory, “so the feds know exactly what’s happening here.”
Education and Immigration
Castillo is in favour of a university in Yellowknife and wants to see improvements in early childhood education. Junior Kindergarten was a good idea, he says, but seriously underfunded, “particularly for the schools here in Yellowknife that had to deal with special needs, as well.”
“If you’re going to put a program together you have to front up the money or, given that there’s scarce resources, put the money where the priority should be.”
Another way to improve childcare is through expanding our immigration programs and focusing on reuniting families, he says.
“When I was growing up, you had families taking care of the kids. I want to bring forward, speed up the immigration process so families can actually take care of the kids, it’s all in one shop basically and it’s cheaper that way too. You get a revenue source by bringing in people in and you’re eliminating a lot of the day care costs for kids by being with parents.”
On the governance front, Castillo says there needs to be a better culture of accountability for politicians and bureaucrats alike. He supports establishing an ombudsman’s office and increasing the independence of GNWT auditors. If elected, he says he’ll work to ensure all GNWT departments are collecting metrics on their programs and evaluating how successful the programs are.
“You want people to be accountable for what they’re spending our dollars on,” he says.