Acclaimed a second time, 'veteran; MLA says he spent time talking with voters

Curley enjoys luxury of loafing through election

By CHRIS WINDEYER

RANKIN INLET – It's election day and Tagak Curley is relaxing behind the desk of his spartan office in the Siniktarvik complex.

The walls are plain white, the furniture sparse, and the only sign visible is a mockup for campaign buttons, which read "Vote Tagak," that were never ordered.

While candidates across the territory are run off their feet ensuring their supporters get out to the polls, Curley gets to waltz into his second term as a member of the legislature without any of the trouble.

As he himself admits, the free pass – no one ran against Curley for the second consecutive election – is perhaps "a bit strange."

It's the second straight election he's won without a single ballot cast. But he says it gave him time to ponder some of Nunavut's myriad social and economic problems.

"I'm an effective ball player in politics," he says, wrapping a slip of paper around a pen and unrolling it repeatedly. "I don't sit around. Matter of fact, I hate to sit around."

Curley says he's spent the 35-day campaign period meeting elders and voters and compiling a 10-point list of issues he wants to see the next legislature tackle.

The document promotes everything from better air transportation and improved justice administration to a breakfast program for every community in the territory. He also wants to build local community access roads and wharves throughout Nunavut.

He's aware that the territorial budget is already stretched thin, and that the global financial meltdown means Ottawa has no money to bail out Nunavut if it overspends.

But Curley says the election earlier this month of Conservative Leona Aglukkaq, Nunavut's former health minister and frequent rival in the legislature, offers the GN a "pipeline to the prime minister's office."

Curley says Nunavut has never reviewed some of the programs that were copied over from the Northwest Territories during division and has no clear strategy for spending federal infrastructure money.

The next government should review those programs and give departments clear direction to cut waste and duplication.

One way, Curley suggests, is to take the transportation responsibilities from departments like Health and Social Services and Community and Government Services, then roll them in with the transport responsibilities of Economic Development and Transportation, to form a separate Department of Transportation.

"It does not mean more money put in, but making programs more effective," he says.

All this might sound like the platform of a man running for premier. Curley would likely be a front-runner if he chose to try again.

He lost out to current premier Paul Okalik after the 2004 election. Okalik, who won re-election to Iqaluit West, plans to seek a third term as premier, but other contenders, such as Louis Tapardjuk, may also emerge.

Currently all MLAs meet after the territorial election and pick a premier and cabinet from among their ranks, with the premier then doling cabinet portfolios. Curley likens the result to "communism."

"Right now, that's what our system appears to be. Nineteen MLAs choose the chairman of the board."

At least one candidate, Joe Sageaktook in Iqaluit Centre, floated the notion of introducing party politics to Nunavut's system.

Curley's not against the idea, but would rather see a commission consult Nuna­vummiut on how they'd like to see the system change.

For his part, Curley suggests it might be simpler to put candidates for premier to a territory-wide vote shortly after the general election, sparing MLAs from what Curley describes as an ugly and acrimonious process of picking a leader.

"[An election] cuts the crap of speculation," he said.

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