Election to be held almost two months after rest of Nunavut
Akulliq voters have choice of four candidates
After what must seem like an endless campaign, candidates in the Akulliq riding are just about ready for their day of reckoning at the polls.
Nearly two months after voters in most of Nunavut went to the polls, voters in Repulse Bay and Kugaaruk will go to the polls Dec. 15. As a bonus for their patience, they'll have a fourth candidate to choose from.
Helena Malliki, a community justice outreach worker from Repulse Bay, joins Steve Mapsalak, the incumbent, former MLA John Ningark and Marius Tungilik, all three of whom were candidates the first time around.
The delay was caused when former MP and MLA Jack Anawak challenged in court a ruling by Elections Nunavut that he was not eligible to run in the Oct. 27 election, because he had not been a Nunavut resident long enough. Anawak's challenge was eventually dismissed.
"We had momentum before," Ningark said. "I signed my declaration and then we were told the election is cancelled. We lost that momentum."
The delay also meant that Akulliq didn't have a vote at the Nunavut leadership forum, and no chance to have an MLA stand for the premier's job or a cabinet position. MLAs did save one cabinet seat that will be filled in the new year, when the Akulliq MLA is elected.
That's nice, said Tungilik, but Akulliq was still left out of the decision-making process.
"I feel that we have been denied our democratic right to be fully involved in governing Nunavut," he said, while adding he appreciates that the Akulliq MLA will have a say in who becomes the seventh and final cabinet minister.
As for issues, both Tungilik and Malliki want to tackle poverty and housing problems.
"People still go on the radio asking for loans, selling whatever they have at rock bottom prices just to get by," Tungilik said.
Malliki said she'd like to see a network of youth centres opened across the territory, which she said would offer alternatives to crime and suicide, especially in small communities.
"[Youth] are bored and they have no place to go," she said.
Malliki also wants to see fish plants built to kick start the economies of Repulse Bay and Kugaaruk.
"We can make a good business out of the fish plant," she said.
Ningark, a former MLA in the Northwest Territories assembly, agrees that people need jobs. While the mining sector has been a source of well-paying jobs for Nunavummiut, "that's not enough. You have to look across the board."
"We have all kinds of talents here. I don't think any of the young people want to make a living off the land. You don't want to [be] a full-time hunter, living in a modern home with all the bills you have to pay."
Ningark also thinks the territory needs to pay more attention to the environmental impact of the mining industry.
Mapsalak, from Repulse Bay, won Akulliq easily in 2004, beating four other candidates including Ningark.
Nunatsiaq News made repeated, unsuccessful attempts to interview Mapsalak.