Election promises are easy to make and many territorial candidates, including my opponent, are promising a Northern University. What these promises lack are concrete plans that take into account the millions, if not billions, of dollars that a university would require. While a Northern University has been a longstanding aspiration for Northerners and would provide unquestionable economic benefits, it is impossible to take this proposal seriously without a plan to pay for it.
I’m offering something different: a 10-year plan to transform Aurora College into a polytechnic with a new campus facility for Yellowknife. This investment is not only achievable; it builds on what we already have on the ground.
My plan will expand post-secondary opportunities for Northern students and support the growth of a knowledge economy in the NWT. Aurora College is our opportunity to create real results for higher learning and give Northerners access to skills training and employment opportunities that work for the NWT.
Yellowknife’s campus is badly in need of support and our students deserve a new facility that supports their learning. Fort Smith and Inuvik have seen significant investment in their campus facilities while Yellowknife has been ignored. Yellowknife students are often unable to progress in their programs due to a lack of available classes, which places them at risk for eviction from student housing and lost funding from Student Financial Assistance. Our students deserve support from their government and my plan will invest in their success and will address their needs.
My plan also opens up funding for made-in-the-North academic institutions like Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning and Collège Nordique. These private institutions are innovative examples of higher learning that are designed for the NWT. There is no reason why our government should be holding back on embracing the opportunities these institutions represent. My plan will bring new funding and new support to growing Northern academic institutions.
My plan is ambitious and, more importantly, achievable with the current resources available to our government. We can and should dream of all possibilities for the NWT but a commitment to build a Northern University without a plan to pay for it is an empty promise.