Teacher and long-time volunteer Beaton Mackenzie may have four unsuccessful election campaigns to his name, but he says his commitment to the community and willingness to listen makes him someone to vote for on Oct. 19.
“I enjoy sitting down and having discussions, and … you can always do something better,” says the 61-year-old special needs teacher who has lived in Yellowknife for 35 years. “I have a passion for this community. This is my home and I would like to make sure it’s healthy and a place that when people come to visit they leave saying it’s such a great community.”
He’s run three campaigns for a seat in the territorial and once for a seat on city council. Having volunteered widely across the city with things like Super Soccer, Raven Mad Days, and the seniors rec hockey league, Mackenzie is a fairly recognizable face in some circles. Others will recall him from the controversy that surrounded his 2012 municipal run, when he suggested people coming out of the Yellowknife corrections facility should be sent back to their home communities.
He’s since moderated his view somewhat: “You know what, yes they can stay, but if they end up being repeat offenders they may end up having to pay the consequences of being sent back.”
And he claims the main reason he spoke publicly about it during the last election was to “get people to open up and say, ‘ok we do have an issue, how can we solve it?’”
Going into this election here are some of the things on Mackenzie’s mind:
Giant Mine Solar Power Farm
While municipal government has relatively little control over cost of living, Mackenzie argues the City could help reduce people’s power costs by promoting a solar farm on the Giant Mine property.
“We have an area at Giant Mine [and could] possibly look at [putting] solar panels there to produce power during the summer for all the sunlight we have. It is a big enough area that we could…produce enough usage of electricity at that time to save the amount of water behind the dams that could be built up for the winter.”
While he admits such an investment is largely outside the purview of City Hall, he argues, “we can push the government and say ‘listen, we have the land here to put this project on.’”
Mackenzie says he would have likely have opposed last year’s purchase of the 50/50 lot: “I would like to see the City not get into buying real estate property unless they have a goal for that property.”
However now that the City owns the land, he thinks council should cautiously pursue the plaza proposal. This should start with fixing up the sidewalks and streets around the lot, which would buy time to get the REITs on board. “Once they see the City wants to change it, they may say, ‘you know what, we will contribute to this plan and assist you.’”
Canada Winter Games
Mackenzie is a sports enthusiast but reticent to support the games until cost studies come out.
“I would have to see the report…and say ‘is it doable? Can we do it? Can we walk away with not having debt from it?’”
As stated above, he’s softened his view on sending people back to communities after coming out of corrections, but still thinks priority for services should be given to people from the NWT.
“I think we can take care of our own people. We shouldn’t have to take people from say, Nunavut, and house them here. They should be able to arrange for their own programs for their people.”
In terms of what the City could be doing to better address the problem of homelessness, Mackenzie argued there should be a staff member at City Hall dedicated to coordinating the different government groups and NGOs in town that work with the street population, “so everyone is on the same page together.”
He also suggested the City start putting money towards groups willing to hire people in the street community. “If the City wants to give another $50,000, I would prefer they give it to businesses or NGOs and say, ‘this is to hire people and give them some confidence in themselves.’ They’re contributing, they get their dignity back.”