Western Nunavut’s Cambridge Bay riding has a new MLA: Jeannie Ehaloak

Elections Nunavut confirms Oct. 30’s close result on Nov. 4


Jeannie Ehaloak, seen here on the ice in front of the community of Cambridge Bay, is the western Nunavut town's new MLA, Elections Nunavut confirmed Nov. 4 after a recount of the Oct. 30 election night vote. (PHOTO COURTESY OF JEANNIE EHALOAK)

Jeannie Ehaloak, seen here on the ice in front of the community of Cambridge Bay, is the western Nunavut town’s new MLA, Elections Nunavut confirmed Nov. 4 after a recount of the Oct. 30 election night vote. (PHOTO COURTESY OF JEANNIE EHALOAK)

The western Nunavut community of Cambridge Bay has a new MLA: Jeannie Ehaloak.

That was confirmed at about 7 p.m. by Elections Nunavut, which had conducted a judicial recount of the Oct 30 territorial election results on Nov. 4, in Cambridge Bay.

In unofficial results Oct. 30, Ehaloak won the riding with 259 votes, with a tight nine-vote margin over Pamela Gross, the executive director of the Kitikmeot Heritage Society, who received 250 votes.

Harry Maksagak placed third with 126 votes.

But because the difference between Ehaloak and Gross was less than two per cent, the returning officer in Cambridge Bay asked for a recount.

The wait for the result for “was an emotional roller coaster,” Ehaloak told Nunatsiaq News.

After the result was announced Nov. 4, Ehaloak, already on her way to Iqaluit via Yellowknife to start her orientation as an MLA, went on social media, to her campaign Facebook page, to thank Gross and Maksagak for their efforts during the campaign.

Gross went to her campaign Facebook page to congratulate Ehaloak and to thank Maksagak for his campaign.

“Quana to all those who supported me during this election, your support is very much appreciated also quana for opening your doors and voicing your opinion on the election,” Gross said.

During her campaign, Ehaloak, who took leave as mayor of Cambridge Bay to run for MLA, emphasized the experience in public service that she would offer the community of about 1,700 as its new MLA.

Ehaloak will fill the position occupied by Keith Peterson, who served as minister of health, justice and finance, but did not seek re-election Oct. 30.

In making the jump to the Nunavut legislature, she follows in the path of Peterson, who served as mayor in Cambridge Bay before becoming the riding’s MLA.

As mayor, Ehaloak, like Peterson before her, headed the Nunavut Association of Municipalities.

She also served on the executive of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, as well as on the CFM’s forum for the territories and remote municipalities and on Nunavut’s infrastructure advisory committee.

Several voters in Cambridge Bay told Nunatsiaq News that they voted for Ehaloak on account of her experience and said they hoped she would be selected to serve in cabinet as a voice for the growing community and the Kitikmeot region.

As MLA, Ehaloak said she will commit to working with youth who make up the majority of Cambridge Bay’s population: “We’re here for them and we will help them,” she said in a candidate’s forum held Oct. 28 in Cambridge Bay.

Mental health will also be important to target, said Ehaloak, while en route to Iqaluit from Cambridge Bay, where residents this weekend continued to mourn the loss of a teenage boy at Kiilinik High School Nov. 3 to suicide.

Other local issues that Ehaloak plans to work on include reducing homelessness and improving access to housing in Cambridge Bay.

Ehaloak has said she would also like to work on the new Education Act, which died during the final session of the legislative assembly.

And, should the next government decide to approve the opening of a beer and wine store in Cambridge Bay—which voted “yes” to such a store last May— Ehaloak said she would want to see profits put back into community wellness programs.

Ehalok also campaigned as a member of the Cambridge Bay community, which includes many Inuinnait who located there from the 1950s on.

“I was born on Jenny Lind Island-Cam 1 and lived in Cambridge Bay all my life, I am a residential school survivor. I do not define myself by this, only acknowledge it is part of my past,” Ehaloak said in her closing statement at the candidates forum.

She said residential school affected her and her family and many others negatively, “but it has given me an education and the foundation for my positive attitude and determination.”

“For those of you that do not know me, I have had my challenges but strive to ensure that I live in a healthy and strong environment,” she said.

In 2012, Ehaloak, then a year into her first term as Cambridge Bay’s mayor, shaved her head, then trekked over the sea ice 200 kilometres from Bay Chimo to Cambridge Bay to raise money for cancer research and to promote healthy living.

“I did not make the decision to run for MLA overnight. I have been preparing myself to serve as your MLA which is not a job but a service to our community at the highest order,” she said.

Now Ehaloak will have a chance to prove that in the Nunavut legislature, where she will sit with five other women who were also elected Oct. 30.

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