Andre Bourcier says that Yukoners need new blood in Ottawa, and he’s the right type.
The 52-year-old trained linguist, former head of the French school board and longtime Whitehorse resident announced he is seeking the NDP nomination for the next federal election.
“It’s time to look at the future and say, ‘Come on, we’ve been doing this for the past 10 years and it’s not working,’” he said in an interview yesterday.
“It’s time to look at something else. Larry (Bagnell), he’s been there, and it’s my understanding that it wasn’t fantastic.
“Then with Ryan (Leef) and Stephen Harper, it seems that it’s not what Canada wants.”
He joins Melissa Atkinson, a First Nation lawyer who announced her candidacy last week, as the only two candidates in the running.
Victor Kisoun, who had put his name forward in January, has since dropped out of the nomination race.
Members of the NDP’s federal riding association for Yukon will pick their candidate on July 7.
That person will go up against Leef, Bagnell and the Green Party’s Frank de Jong during the upcoming federal election, set for Oct. 19.
Bourcier says he fell in love with the territory when he moved here over 15 years ago to work at the Yukon Native Language Centre, where he trains teachers for the native language instructor program at Yukon College and documents First Nation languages.
He joined the French school board in 2004, becoming its chair in 2006 and staying with the organization until 2013.
For the past year he’s been the vice-chair of the Association franco-yukonnaise.
Bourcier said getting into politics was just a natural extension of the work he’s done at the community level over the past decade.
“You get involved and then you see that it would be nice to do more.”
During his time with the school board, it took the Yukon government to court, claiming the territory had withheld funds and was depriving the school board control over its staff and admissions.
Negotiations with the Department of Education were heated and “adversarial,” Bourcier said, but the experience of trying to get the community the services it was entitled to under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are skills he can put to use at the federal level.
“That’s one of the reasons why I’m running. I have all that experience, I know how tough it is on communities,” he said.
“Then you see it on the First Nation side these days, this seems to be the way the government wants to deal with these issues.”
The Peel watershed and Bill S-6, thorny issues that have dragged on in court for several months, could have been avoided, Bourcier said.
Listening to the needs and aspirations of citizens, rather than confronting them, is key, he added.
“Given the experience that I have, maybe I can do something, go to Ottawa and carry that voice, carry my feelings towards that,” he said.
“And how detrimental it is to communities, how divisive a stand it is. Citizens shouldn’t take their governments to court, there’s something that doesn’t fit in my mind regarding that.”
Bourcier also finds Bill C-51, Harper’s controversial anti-terror bill, concerning.
“It’s going to change the way people talk, how they feel that they can voice opposition to the government, and it’s difficult to understand why we’d need something like that in Canada,” he said.
“These aren’t the values that I hold. We have to be careful with this vision of fear and repression.”
He says the NDP’s plan to implement a $15-a-day program would make lives easier for Yukon families. Bourcier also said that income inequality has increased in the past nine years and Canada’s economy has become too closely tied to the “boom and bust of oil prices.”
Working with Association franco-yukonnaise and the francophone daycare in Whitehorse, he’s witnessed young families struggle to make ends meet.
“It’s something we really have to look into to ease the capacity to have kids in these daycares.”
Born in Quebec, Bourcier began studying linguistics and working with First Nation people there before an opportunity to work in the Mackenzie Delta became available in the mid-1990s.
He worked with the Gwich’in in Fort McPherson for a bit before eventually moving to Whitehorse.
Contact Myles Dolphin at