NDP candidate Anawak brings message to western Nunavut
“I will represent Nunavut in Ottawa and not Ottawa in Nunavut”
CAMBRIDGE BAY — After an unscheduled encounter with incumbent Nunavut MP and Conservative candidate Leona Aglukkaq Sept. 19 at the airport in Cambridge Bay, New Democratic Party candidate Jack Anawak headed straight into the western Nunavut town with something novel to offer voters there: a public campaign on his opponent’s home turf.
While in Cambridge Bay, Aglukkaq had attended the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami annual general meeting and spoken to students at Nunavut Arctic College, but she organized no public events.
An hour after his arrival in Cambridge Bay, you could find Anawak, in an orange shirt, in the lobby of the local co-op store standing by a table of Orange Crush soda pop containers and campaign materials to meet shoppers and potential NDP voters, like Janet and Mary Anivalok, who were both — although not intentionally — dressed in orange.
Later that evening, at the Elders Palace, Anawak’s local organizers, John Main and Amanda Hanson Main, had invited people to come to what was billed as a rally, with snacks and door prizes.
While less than a dozen people showed up, those who did come arrived with questions, and listened to Anawak closely as he spoke to them.
His message: “I will represent Nunavut in Ottawa and not Ottawa in Nunavut.”
And he’ll do that as a member of the NDP, not the Liberals.
The NDP, Anawak told everyone, is the party that can now best represent their interests.
Anawak, a two-term Liberal MP who was elected to represent the old Nunatsiaq riding in 1988 and 1993, stepped down from the House of Commons in 1997 to serve as Interim Commissioner for Nunavut.
He later served as an MLA in the new Nunavut assembly in 1999. After being voted out of cabinet in 2003, he was appointed Canada’s Arctic Ambassador until being dismissed from the position in 2006. He later served as a vice president for Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.
Now Anawak says, if elected, he and the NDP will fight for more money for Nunavut and Nunavummiut and bring $15-a-day childcare to the territory as well as better care for elders.
Among his priorities — a new focus on mental health and providing improved health care in general.
“I’ve been an advocate for mental health and well-being for so many years,” said Anawak, who has been through addictions treatment to address the trauma of abuse, cultural loss, losing his mother and later, two brothers to suicide.
Anawak also said the NDP would support:
• work to curb climate change; and,
Anawak slammed the recently-announced decision to build a $16.9-millon Franklin Centre in Gjoa Haven.
He suggested that a centre built after an Inuk noted for his successful skills might be more appropriate for Nunavut than one for a failed British explorer in the Arctic — and said that Nunavut still needs a heritage centre to which many of Inuit artifacts stored in the South could be brought.
Those at the event had their own concerns to raise with Anawak: how would the NDP pay for the promised new $15-a-day childcare? And who would work there when it’s so hard to find staff now?
To that, Anawak responded that higher corporate taxes could help pick up the financial slack — and that with more training and higher wages, childcare workers would feel more validated and stay on the job.
He also said he would work closely with the Government of Nunavut to do that.
Another voter wanted to know if the NDP is “anti-development,” and whether the NDP would support mining, so important to the future of the Kitikmeot region. Consultation and more training, Anawak said, would be key to making sure Inuit benefit from mining.
Improving education in Nunavut, he told another woman who wanted to know about training, would be a priority for the NDP.
The NDP would look for solutions “outside the box” to keep students in school, he said, and encourage post-secondary studies — even if education remains a territorial responsibility.
To a student who complained about inequalities in student help — that students with children get the same amount as those who don’t — and to another woman who said it’s not fair that federal child benefit money is clawed back from income support, Anawak said “we will find a way to find the help you need.”
Anawak encouraged everyone to make sure they’re registered to vote in the federal election Oct. 19 at elections.ca.
Then it was time to hold a draw for the fox furs hunted by John Main, a camp stove and a few cartons of Orange Crush pop — and take a photo before breaking up. The next public event, a brunch, was scheduled for Sunday morning.
Some residents at the evening rally told Nunatsiaq News that they came mainly because they aren’t sure who to vote for.
One woman said she had hoped to see Aglukkaq when the MP was in town, but hadn’t, and would also have liked to question Liberal candidate Hunter Tootoo.
But the three candidates are heading to Iqaluit this week, where a Sept. 24 debate has been organized for the Nunavut Trade Show.
A Sept. 19 poll by Nanos Research for CTV and the Globe and Mail says the federal race nationally is tight, with the Conservatives at 30.4 per cent support, the NDP at 28.9 per cent, the Liberals at 30.8 per cent and the Greens at six per cent, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.