Churchill-Keewatinook Aski NDP candidate Niki Ashton, who has represented Northern Manitoba in Parliament since 2008, announced her party’s northern and Indigenous platform Oct. 10 near the Miles Hart Bridge over the Burntwood River at the northern edge of Thompson.
The platform focuses on housing, health care, infrastructure and education, as well as having the federal government fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declarations of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“That means respect when it comes to econmic development, when it comes to resource development, when it comes to housing health care and education,” said Ashton.
Proper infrastructure, particularly for transportation, is vital as climate change affects winter roads, Ashton said.
“We know on a mild October day that climate change is real in our north and nowhere is it more evident than for the communities that rely on the winter road system,” she said. “Because of climate change, winter roads are becoming less reliable in our north and I am proud that the NDP is committed to partnering with First Nations and building an all-weather road system, recognizing that it is necessary as we face the reality of climate change and that it is necessary as the cost of living continues to increase in many of these communities.”
The platform also includes federal support for the building of airports in Wasagamack in the Island Lake region and Pauingassi near the Manitoba-Ontario boundary.
“We are committed to partnering with these communities, making sure that they have adequate infrastructure,” she said.
Ashton says the NDP is also committed to building a hospital in the fly-in Island Lake region, which has a population of more than 10,000 people.The party would also launch an inquiry into medical services if elected as Canada’s next government.
“We need to get to the bottom of what’s happening and why so many First Nations people are falling through the cracks,” Ashton said, adding that housing and health care were the two biggest concerns she heard from residents in Gillam and Spilt Lake on her way back from the Oct. 8 debate against Liberal candidate Judy Klassen in Churchill.
“People are very concerned about the gaps they’re seeing federally with medical services but also they way that compounds the provincial cuts we’re seeing,” said Ashton.
She also said Northern Manitoba residents were disappointed with the performance of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau when it comes to Indigenous issues.
“We’ve heard a lot of broken promises from Justin Trudeau,” Ashton said. “I hear from a lot of people that are very hopeful about the message we’re putting forward. We’re the campaign that’s by far visited the most, gotten out there. We’re putting Indigenous and northern issues on the national stage as well, through our work, through the work of our leader.”
Along with Ashton and Klassen, the other Churchill-Keewatinook Aski candidates are the Conservatives’ Cyara Bird, the Green Party’s Ralph McLean and the People’s Party of Canada’s Kenneth Klyne.
Election day is Oct. 21.