Judicial recount ordered as two votes separate candidates
Akulliq's never-ending election heads to a judge
John Ningark is the new MLA for Akulliq. Maybe.
Ningark, a veteran of the old Northwest Territories legislature, appeared to squeak past incumbent Steve Mapsalak by two votes in a by-election held this past Monday, Dec. 15.
But Ningark's narrow margin of victory means the results will go to a judicial recount.
Ningark took 157 votes to Mapsalak's 155. Helena Malliki of Repulse Bay finished with 111 votes, while Marius Tungilik, also of Repulse, finished fourth with 38. Voter turnout was relatively high at 78 per cent.
"If I'm the winner of this election then I feel really good, and I feel I owe it to the people of Repulse Bay and the people of Kugaaruk," Ningark said in a telephone interview from Yellowknife.
Ningark said his first order of business would be to meet with hamlet councils in both Repulse and Kugaaruk to see what their priorities are.
But he's also hesitant about saying too much because the outcome of Monday's vote is still uncertain.
Speaking this past Tuesday, Sandy Kusugak, Nunavut's chief electoral officer, said she didn't yet know when the results of a judicial recount would be known.
The count takes only "a couple of hours," but must be overseen by a judge, and the riding's returning officer must be present. Candidates, who may also sit in on the process, must also be notified.
Factor in the Christmas season, when many people are busy and travelling, and it could be 2009 before the people of Akulliq know who will serve as their MLA. The 2008 Nunavut general election, which began in mid-September when nominations opened, has become an epic.
"For the people of Akulliq it's turning into the longest election ever," Kusugak said. "And for the people who were candidates it's certainly not a situation you would ever hope for."
The by-election became necessary after Jack Anawak challenged Nunavut's elections act in court after Kusugak ruled he was ineligible to run because he hadn't lived in the territory for one year.
A judge eventually dismissed that challenge, and a related complaint under the charter of rights and freedoms, but in the interim was forced to cancel the Oct. 27 general election in Akulliq.
MLAs elected in October met in Iqaluit last month to select a premier and cabinet, with no one from Akulliq in the assembly when voting took place. A seventh cabinet slot was kept vacant and is to be filled once the MLA joins their colleagues in the capital.
Whoever emerges the winner after the recount, the result means MLAs can now select the seventh and final member of cabinet before the legislature resumes Jan. 26.
John Quirke, clerk of the legislative assembly, said a leadership forum to select the new minister would most likely be held the week before that sitting.
Ningark said he likely won't stand as a candidate for that seventh cabinet slot, and says he doesn't yet have any preferences for who should get that job.
"I haven't been in a political arena for so many years, so I may be a little rusty so maybe I will not put my name forward," he said.
Ningark also he said he likes Premier Eva Aariak's "positive vision."
"If I am elected an ordinary MLA I'd like to support her on her positive vision for Nunavut," he said.
Even if Mapsalak manages to overtake Ningark in the recount, the result will still leave Aariak as the only woman in the 19-seat legislature.