For Dennis Bevington, campaigning in a federal election is nothing new – this is his fourth carrying the New Democrat banner in the NWT.
But the current election is different he said.
While he has won before – this is his ninth year representing the NWT in parliament – the New Democratic Party has never really been in contention before to possibly win.
Bevington said he could never say “with any degree of confidence” that the NDP was going to be the government in any election.
“I’ve been in five of them previous to this,” he said. “Now, people have supported me throughout the North and supported the New Democratic Party because they liked our positions. I think it’s exciting that we have a chance now to be government and actually do the work that we’ve always wanted to do for people.”
Depending on the day and the opinion poll, the NDP might be slightly ahead or locked in a close three-way national race with the Conservatives and Liberals.
Bevington, who was campaigning in Hay River last week, believes the strength of the NDP in the national polls is attracting the notice of people in the NWT.
“The other is what happened in Alberta,” he said, referring to the victory of the NDP in a province that had been Progressive Conservative for more than four decades. “People talk about that a lot…. They recognize that change can happen in Canada through the electoral system. Massive change can happen.”
In fact, Bevington, who didn’t announce he would seek re-election until June, admitted the possibility of serving in a government was a factor in that decision.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to actually represent Northerners in a government,” he said.
That leads to the obvious question of what role Bevington might see for himself if the NDP did win the coming vote, in particular whether he might become a cabinet minister.
“People are interested in what I have to offer in a government,” he said, noting he has served in roles such as transport critic and energy critic for his party.
However, he pointed out his main role in his party in parliament has always involved Northern development.
“I’ve always been the critic, the go-to person on Northern development in our party and the Arctic,” he said. “I’ve done that throughout my time in parliament, so I do have the credentials there in our party. I’ve got support throughout the party for my positions…. I feel confident that, if we’re the government, I’m going to have a big say in those areas.”
However, Bevington is not a fan of the current Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
“My feeling about that particular department is it needs to be split,” he said. “I’d be an advocate to see that that department actually finally separates, and that we establish a different entity there for the North. Because it’s not only about Northern development. It’s about the Arctic. It’s about a transition phase towards more and more responsibility for the people that live in the North.”
Plus, he said aboriginal affairs would be a huge department on its own.
It is not NDP policy to see the current department split.
As of Sept. 24, Bevington has travelled to 14 or 15 communities in this campaign.
“I’ve travelled about 6,000 kilometres by vehicle and I’ve done a number of flights by aircraft,” he said, as he was about to get into his truck for a drive from Hay River to Yellowknife.
When all is said and done, the 62-year-old expects to visit about 25 communities, maybe more in the 78-day campaign.
Bevington has made four or five stops in Hay River.