Raising the Barr

Kevin Barr isn't new to political campaigning. In 2006, he ran for an MLA position with the New Democratic Party in territorial elections. He lost that spot by the exact number of votes he beat out Yukon Federation of Labour president Alex Furlong with on Wednesday night.

Kevin Barr isn’t new to political campaigning.

In 2006, he ran for an MLA position with the New Democratic Party in territorial elections.

He lost that spot by the exact number of votes he beat out Yukon Federation of Labour president Alex Furlong with on Wednesday night.

A difference of 31 votes gave Barr the title of Yukon’s federal NDP candidate.

And it was the party that sought him out, he said.

People kept inquiring whether I would put my name forward, he said. “So after taking some time and checking with some people that I respect, and spending some time out in the bush, I came back and decided I would let my name stand.”

A main focus in the well-known musician’s campaign is small business.

Owning Eagle’s Landing Bed and Breakfast in Tagish, Barr is familiar with the challenges of running a small enterprise.

Plus being an independent musician is a business in itself, he said.

“Small businesses want more support,” said Barr, pointing out that this is a national priority for the NDP as well. The party is suggesting small-business tax credits.

First Nations’ issues are also a main focus for Barr.

There are a lot of things that seem to be left unfinished when it comes to aboriginal people, he said, listing the finalization and implementation of land claims and addressing the intergenerational effects of residential schools.

Barr was integral in establishing the Committee on Abuse in Residential School and served as its co-ordinator for eight years.

The drop-in centre for residential school survivors was funded by the national Aboriginal Healing Foundation, which ended last year.

Since then, CAIRS has been barely getting by, month-to-month.

Nailing down permanent funding for the organization will continue to be a priority for Barr, he said.

There is also the issue of clean drinking water, flagged by the national Assembly of First Nations.

“We shouldn’t have to be fighting to get support to have clean water,” he said.

Ongoing environmental issues are also important to Barr -“How we are going to maintain a sustainable way of life up here that includes a strong economy and to keep intact what we have with the beauty of the mountains around us?”

Barr believes in a compromise between environment and industry, pointing to the “security deposit” mining companies must give before starting work in the territory.

“How do we work with investors and people creating jobs in a way that doesn’t leave Yukoners holding the bag?” he said. “Simple business things.”

Barr briefly mentioned the woes of pensions, home care and health care, nationally, but quickly returned to local issues by acknowledging the ‘brain drain’ experienced in the territory.

“How do we keep people to continue to work on people developing the capacity here in the Yukon?” he said. “By Yukoners, for Yukoners – people that invest their lives here.”

These are unique, ongoing issues, he said.

Above all, Barr hopes to promote co-operation and respect, locally and federally.

This optimism may sound naive, especially from someone who has never sat in parliament.

But Barr is confident he will listen to his constituents and not be afraid to speak his mind in Ottawa.

“I stand in my truth,” he said. “I just choose to do it in a respectful way. I have no fear of being able to say what needs to be said and to be understood and heard. That’s why people come up to me … to say that I have their support.

“I work hard. I am a person that comes from the grassroots. I’ve been there. I still work for being a voice for people, people who are not heard, and I won’t stop doing that. I will never stop doing that, I’ll just be doing it in a different arena.”

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com