Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut February 07, 2014 - 5:05 pm

Three Nunavut communities to host alcohol plebiscites

Arviat, Chesterfield Inlet and Kugluktuk to hold votes on liquor sales

On Feb. 24, voters in Arviat will decide to go from a total alcohol ban to an open system. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
On Feb. 24, voters in Arviat will decide to go from a total alcohol ban to an open system. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)

Three Nunavut communities will ask their residents this month if they want to loosen restrictions on bringing in alcohol.

Arviat, Chesterfield Inlet and Kugluktuk all recently filed petitions to the Nunavut Liquor Commission, triggering a Feb. 24 plebiscite in each of the three communities.

On that day, eligible voters will be asked if they want to move to an unrestricted or “open” system, where only the general territorial liquor laws would apply.

The communities’ current statuses vary: in Arviat, voters will decide if they want to go from a total ban on alcohol to an unrestricted system.

In Chesterfield Inlet, local residents will decide to go from a restricted to an open system.

And in Kugluktuk, voters will decide whether or not they want to keep a restricted system, where a local alcohol education committee approves requests to bring in alcohol, to an open system. Kugluktuk’s alcohol education committee was first voted in in 2007.

The Feb. 24 plebiscite is the first in Nunavut since 2012, when Kimmirut residents voted to end a prohibition on alcohol and establish an alcohol education committee.

Another plebiscite was held at the same time in Resolute Bay, where only 34 per cent of per cent of residents voted to dissolve its local alcohol education committee.

Nunavut Liquor Commission plebiscites require a 60 per cent vote to signal a change.

But the vast majority of communities petitioning the commission are looking to move away from the “dry” model, noted the liquor commission’s director Marion Love.

“It’s a sign of the times,” she said. “It’s a sign of Nunavut maturing.”

To trigger a plebiscite, however, only 20 signatures are required from permanent residents who must also be eligible voters.

The Nunavut Liquor Commission must then receive a recommendation from its minister (the commission falls under Nunavut’s minister of finance) before the plebiscite is called. The vote itself is administered through Elections Nunavut.

While it’s unusual to have three communities hold a plebiscite the same day, Love said the October 2013 territorial election delayed two communities’ requests until now.

In Arviat, the ballot question will ask: “Are you in favour of ending the current system of liquor restriction in Arviat with an unrestricted system where only the general liquor laws of Nunavut apply?”

Voters in that community can vote in advance polls at Arviat’s community hall Feb. 17 from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Residents can vote Feb. 24 at the same time and place.

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