In an earlier version of this story, EDGE confused Roy Erasmus, the candidate for Frame Lake, with Roy Erasmus Jr., the former president and CEO of Det’on Cho Corp. The writer regrets the error and apologizes for any confusion it caused.
Lawyer, politician, bureaucrat – Roy Erasmus has been all of those, and after a decade and a half away from the Legislative Assembly, he wants voters in Frame Lake to return him as an MLA.
“These are critical times for residents of the NWT. Strong, decisive leadership is needed. Our elected representatives need to understand the challenges, needs and desires of voters and their families,” Erasmus said in his campaign announcement.
“With my previous experience as an MLA and as a senior manager in the GNWT, I have the knowledge and skills to achieve results that will make real and positive differences,” said Erasmus.
Erasmus was born and raised in Yellowknife and graduated from St Pat’s High School, the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Alberta. He is the second oldest in a family of 12 children.
In an interview with EDGE, Erasmus outlined his ideas for education, economic development, reducing the cost of living, improving health care, and making the territory more energy self-sufficient.
“We need to increase and improve adult education,” said Erasmus, who served as an assistant deputy minister of education after he lost his seat in 1999 to Joe Handley.
“There’s hundreds and hundreds of people who don’t have a good education. They need upgrading to go into a trade or college, or university.”
“We need to provide more programs at the college level and we need a real campus here in Yellowknife. This [Aurora College] campus needs to be fixed. We need to keep our kids here to finish their education.”
The decades-long discussion around a University of the North “needs to be put it into motion. We have Dechinta University and it attracts people from the south. I think we could attract people here for Northern studies.”
A former land-claims negotiator for the Akaitcho Territory Tribal Council, Erasmus believes that settling outstanding claims will open the Great Slave Geologic Province to development and lower the cost of land for housing in Yellowknife.
“Ultimately, we have to get beyond mining,” he said. “Most agree we need resource development, non-renewable resources included., but we should be looking at agriculture, forestry, tourism, and fishing.”
On consensus government, Erasmus said:
“There is room for more transparency. Often people don’t take the time to inform the public because they just want to get on with it. They want things to happen. That’s the dilemma. People want things to happen, but they also want to be informed. The process could take years.
“There are instances you don’t want to have the public there, because information could come out midway through the process, before a firm decision has been reached, and the public gets the wrong idea. But there has to be more information.”
On leaving the selection of premier and cabinet to MLAs:
“What you see is what you get. It’s like voting for an MLA. It seems to be working pretty good, with two ministers for the North, two for the South and two from Yellowknife. It would be an added cost to include the general public.”
Personal experience with health issues has made Erasmus an advocate for healthy diet and exercise.
“The GNWT needs to promote proper nutrition and warn the public about sugar. It’s evil. That’s what’s causing our problems. We need better services for our ageing population and prevention. It would save money.
“We need an alcohol and drug treatment centre. I can see on-the-land programs, but we need to re-open the Hay River treatment centre instead of sending people south.”
On the cost of living:
“The GNWT needs to make sure that housing is more affordable, especially for low income people and the homeless. We have public housing now, but as soon as someone goes to work, their rent goes up. That’s a disincentive.
“Also, registration for recreation programs and alternative medicine should be subsidized for everyone. If there was a tax deduction for fitness programs, that would lower the cost of living and decrease costs for health care down the road.
“We need to promote and assist more with conversion to alternative fuels like wood pellets, and teach people about energy conservation. The government needs to be proactive, rather than wait for people to ask.
On the subsidy for electrical rates, Erasmus said: “It can’t continue. Studies have been done on this. People have been talking about run-of-river generation and we need to implement this. We can’t put $20 million into diesel generation every year. This is Canada in 2015, and we shouldn’t be doing that.”