Brian Willows to run for MLA


Brian Willows: retired executive from Northwest Territories Power Corporation wants to give back to Hay River and the North.

Brian Willows: retired executive from Northwest Territories Power Corporation wants to give back to Hay River and the North.

A second person has announced his intention to run in Hay River South for the upcoming territorial election.

That is Brian Willows, a retired chief operating officer of the Northwest Territories Power Corporation.

“I retired about five years ago, and you contemplate all this knowledge that you’ve gained over a career and you say to yourself, ‘What can I do to give back to my community, give back to the North?’ It’s been very good to me,” he said when asked why he has decided to run. “I’ve been very fortunate, and I have both the health and the time, and I think I have the knowledge to do a very good job. I mean I’m a passionate guy and when I put my teeth into something, I get it done.”

Willows, who is originally from Victoria, B.C., has lived in the North for a little more than 40 years. Before settling in Hay River, he lived in Fort Smith, Yellowknife and Inuvik, and travelled to every community in the territory.

The 62-year-old believes the most important thing that he would bring to the position of MLA is experience.

“I have a lifetime of experience in many fields – be it operations, health, safety, communications, training,” he said. “All those types of departments have reported to me over my career, so I’ve had lots of dealings with the GNWT in the past. I was in a position where I’d have to go and give briefings to the premier, to ministers, so I have a good understanding of how things work.”

Willows worked in the electrical energy business his whole adult life, the vast majority of that time in the North.

Energy is one of the biggest contributors to the high cost of living in the NWT, he added.

“It’s one of the very few costs in the Northwest Territories that we absolutely have the ability to affect but it requires government investment, it requires government partnerships and a vision…. We’ve been talking about it forever but nothing has happened. It’s time for something to happen.”

Willows said he was disappointed when the GNWT closed the addictions treatment centre on the Hay River Reserve two years ago, both because of the effect on people and the lost positions.

“The fact that they haven’t got one treatment centre in the Northwest Territories is, in my view, shameful,” he said.

Willows pointed out that another of his linchpin issues is seniors and outmigration to the south, suggesting government has to do more to keep seniors in the NWT, perhaps even through subsidies.

“Without them, we’re not going to keep some of the backbone of our communities together, and that’s the elders and our seniors,” he said. “In my view, subsidies are far cheaper than having to build new seniors’ centres or losing those people and not getting the transfers that we get from the federal government. So to me, you’re actually saving money by encouraging ways to keep seniors in their homes for as long as they want to be.”

Federal transfer payments amount to about $30,000 per person per year.

Willows unsuccessfully ran for town council in Hay River’s 2012 municipal election.

In April, businessman Wally Schumann Jr., a former president of the Hay River Metis Government Council, announced he will run in Hay River South.

Jane Groenewegen, who has represented Hay River South since 1995, has not yet announced whether she will seek re-election.