Michael McLeod confirmed his intention Tuesday to seek the Liberal nomination in the Northwest Territories, and immediately moved to the front in a three-way race. (EDGE broke the news that he would be running back in late May.)
The former territorial MLA and cabinet minister, and brother of Premier Bob McLeod, is better-known than declared Liberal contenders Kieron Testart and Gail Cyr.
But if media interest in McLeod’s announcement – made separately to just two reporters in the empty Yellowknife Airport – is any measure, he is in a tough fight to unseat incumbent NDP MP Dennis Bevington or best the Conservative’s Floyd Roland.
Reading from a prepared statement, McLeod said he has been encouraged by numerous residents across the territories to seek the Liberal nomination and contest the October 19 federal election.
“I’m running because I want to see an improvement in the quality of life; we have to address the high cost of living. Affordable home ownership, sustainable energy initiatives have to be supported. Using imported fuel to generate electricity is not sustainable.”
“Our economy has slowed down considerably and we need to be sure industries are comfortable investing here,” he said, before leaving to attend the Dene Nation annual assembly in Deline.
In a brief interview that followed his announcement, McLeod said there are opportunities to move beyond an economy based on resource extraction by developing a manufacturing base.
Lowering the cost of food in remote communities might be as simple as building longer runways that could accommodate larger planes.
“If we had a road down the Mackenzie Valley that would help with the cost; there are things we can do beside providing subsidies. For the long-term, we need a better plan,” he said.
A number of small, remote communities “are really challenged in a lot of different ways – lack of housing, health services, policing – that make it very difficult to live without an economic base.
“Everybody should be entitled to the same standard of living across Canada, and I don’t think our standard in the Northwest Territories are at the national average,” said McLeod, who thinks the solution is in building the northern economy.