Nunavut’s Tununiq candidates talk about health care, justice, infrastructure
Pond Inlet voters may choose between Joe Enook, David Qamaniq and Jeannie Mills
Candidates in Nunavut’s Tununiq riding are honing in on infrastructure, health care and community justice.
The riding, which covers the North Baffin community of Pond Inlet, has three candidates running for MLA: incumbent Joe Enook, past challenger David Qamaniq and political newcomer Jeannie Mills.
Joe Enook has served as MLA for six years after winning a byelection in 2011, and is hoping to follow through with projects he’s been pushing for in the legislature.
“It’s imperative we have someone who can continue the work I have started,” he said. “I know my experience is needed.”
He said his efforts have seen funding go towards Pond Inlet’s small craft harbour, set to be complete by 2019.
But he also said that the slow-moving legislative process means projects like the harbour, which has been in talks for over 30 years, need a lot of attention from an MLA.
“Things don’t change over night. We still have issues we had six years ago,” he said. “My job is to continue to push these issues.”
He said he has been unable to get an elders and youth centre in Pond Inlet started, but said that “it isn’t for lack of trying.”
Smaller gains during his term were the building of a boat launch, as well as a baseball diamond and upgrades to the basketball court.
“Our community is vibrant. We are growing. There is always going to be a need for infrastructure,” Enook said.
He wants to keep working on managing dust-ridden roads in the community, and make efforts to address increasing ship traffic, he said, since Pond inlet is located near the eastern entrance of the Northwest Passage.
“We need to control and manage what goes on in our waters,” he said.
David Qamaniq has run for MLA more than once before, but has never been elected.
“I’ve been approached by community members. They have confidence in me to be an MLA,” he said.
Qamaniq is on leave from his position as Qikiqtani Inuit Association community co-ordinator for the Mary River project.
He was part of negotiations for the Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement between QIA and Baffinland on the Mary River mine.
He also served as hamlet mayor from 2005 to 2007 and with the Pond Inlet District Education Authority for 12 years.
“I have developed the ability to make realistic short- and long-term plans and know how to follow up with the decision-making process,” he said.
As part of his platform, Qamaniq wants to speed up programming that would see RCMP special constables hired from the community, and to have a youth summer constable program put in place.
He said the principles of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit need to be represented better in the justice system, through programs in correctional centres and for young offenders. The same focus needs to be fostered within education and health, he said.
With community level experience around the Mary River project, he said economic development and Inuit employment are also on his radar.
“Devolution talks should be a priority for the Government of Nunavut so it can access royalties from development such as mining and oil and gas development,” he said.
Political newcomer Jeannie Mills wants to see health care reform in Nunavut at the community level.
“I have been on the frontlines of health care in Nunavut for a long time,” she said. “I know what works… and I know what we need right now to help the health care crisis.”
Mills is currently a homecare nurse in Pond Inlet, but worked as a community healthcare nurse for many years in the North.
While Pond Inlet has been her home for the last 11 years, she has also worked as a nurse in Cape Dorset, Qikiqtarjuaq and Arviat, as well as in western Nunavut communities and the Northwest Territories.
In the community, she serves as a Canadian Ranger and as a leader for Junior Rangers. She is a member of the hamlet wellness committee and is president of the Pond Inlet Library and Archives Society.
Mills said increasing baseline health for residents in the territory will only happen if the state of the social determinants of health in Nunavut are addressed.
Those determinants are adequate housing, accessible healthcare, sustainable employment, good recreation and the ability to feel safe in your community, she said.
And, if communities want to see more Inuit in health care jobs, mentorship must be a priority, she said, adding that she has seen two Nunavut residents pursue post-secondary education in the field of health because of her mentorship.
After health, her platform focuses on housing support and economic development.
“We need to see the small craft harbor finished, we need to push to have the airport upgraded, we need an elders and youth centre,” and more long-term jobs, she said.
She also wants to see housing options better reflect the needs of residents.
“Two-bedroom units in fiveplexes are not addressing the reality of what families look like in communities,” Mills said, adding that more school carpentry programs should include lessons in house building.