Nunavut MLAs vote in favour of new electoral map
“The commission worked very hard on this legislation”
(Updated Oct. 28, 4:25 p.m.)
Nunavut MLAs voted in favour of a proposed new electoral boundaries map Oct. 28, with only three members speaking against the bill.
Bill 22, an Act Respecting Constituencies of Nunavut passed earlier that day, despite opposition from MLAs Ron Elliott, Johnny Ningeongan and Moses Aupaluktuq.
Under the plan, produced earlier this year by the Nunavut Electoral Boundaries Commission, the number of members will rise from 19 to 22 in time for the next territorial election.
The unpopular Akulliq constituency, which straddles the Kitikmeot and Kivalliq regions, will be eliminated.
Instead, Kugaaruk will join Taloyoak in a newly re-drawn Nattilik district, while Gjoa Haven will get a seat of its own.
And Repulse Bay will join Coral Harbour in a seat to be called Aivilik.
Under the current electoral map, the member for Akulliq must spend at least two travel days to move between Kugaaruk and Repulse Bay, the two communities in the district.
Also under the new bill:
• Iqaluit’s three electoral districts will be replaced by four new ones, to be named Niaqunnguuti, Sinaaa, Tasirluq and Manirajaaq;
• Arviat will be divided into two new seats, Arviat North and Arviat South;
• Whale Cove will move from Rankin Inlet South into Arviat North;
• Chesterfield Inlet will move into Rankin Inlet North; and
• The current riding of Amittuq will be split into two new seats, with Hall Beach moving into a new Igloolik South constituency.
The three-person Electoral Boundaries Commission, made up of Justice Ted Richard, Gordon Main and Kirt Ejesiak, began work this past January, then submitted their plan in a report released this past June 7.
Richard said the biggest part of the commission’s work was to ensure the distribution of electoral seats among Nunavut’s widely scattered population is consistent with constitutional principles laid down by the Supreme Court of Canada.
This means each electoral district may vary in population by no more than 25 per cent above or below the average.
This ensures that all voters, no matter where they live, enjoy equality of voting power.
“The dominant factor [in the commission’s report] is this notion of equality of voting power,” Richard told reporters this past June.
The only exception to this principle is tiny Sanikiluaq, which gets its own seat despite its small population.
The three new MLAs will cost about $900,000 a year in additional spending. One-time modifications to the legislative building in Iqaluit to create new office space will cost of about $1 million.
The vote in the assembly this session went ahead despite a call from Quttiktuq MLA Ron Elliott to defer the measure until the fifth legislative assembly.
But MLAs in support of the bill said the outcome of Nunavut’s electoral boundaries commission is clear.
“[The commission] worked very hard on this legislation, listening closely to Nunavummiut,” said Rankin Inlet South-Whale Cove MLA Lorne Kusugak. “Based on what they heard, they [made recommendations] and that it not be put off indefinitely. They did not suggest that it be considered at the next election.”
Premier Eva Aariak stressed the importance of giving Nunavummiut a voice and an opportunity to be heard.
“No doubt there are certain elements in the communities that do not have access to being heard because their numbers are small,” she told MLAs.
But some MLAs say the new bill will change little besides increasing the cost to Nunavummiut taxpayers.
“Adding another three MLAs is not going to make much of a difference,” said Nanulik MLA Johnny Ningeongan, who tabled letters from constituents in Coral Harbour who are opposed to the electoral changes.