Next ballot likely in February

Akulliq frustration plagues voters as recount ends in tie

By CHRIS WINDEYER

Akulliq's never-ending election continues after a judicial recount revealed that front-runners John Ningark and Steve Mapsalak finished in a tie with 157 votes each.

By law, the result of the Jan. 8 recount means that voters in Repulse Bay and Kugaaruk must go back to the polls for a second by-election, likely some time in February.

"I'd bet you any money we could go 400 years in Nunavut from now on and never have this convergence [of events] again," said Sandy Kusugak, Nunavut's chief electoral officer. "It's just a fluke."

One thing the result won't change is the date when MLAs return to Iqaluit to start preparing for their first full legislative session.

MLAs will get back to work Jan. 21, undergoing a second round of legislative training and caucus meetings, said John Quirke, clerk of the legislature.

Plans call for a one-day legislative session Jan. 26, though MLAs may opt to extend it, Quirke said.

It also means that a leadership forum planned to fill the eighth and final cabinet seat may go ahead without a member for Akulliq present. That's up to the sitting MLAs to decide, Quirke said.

Mapsalak, who said he had already accepted the Dec. 15 by-election result, which he lost, said he's not happy that residents of Repulse Bay and Kugaaruk will go without representation in Iqaluit during a key phase of the new assembly.

"We'll be missing out on everything… and that was my disappointment with another by-election," he said.

But Ningark said it's important to get the correct result even if it means another delay.

Akulliq has been without an MLA since late September, when nominations for October's general election opened.

"If you have any doubts, in a free country, do another vote, do another election, do it right," he said.

Both Mapsalak and Ningark say they'll run in the next by-election.

Also on MLAs' agenda later this month is the formulation of various standing committees.

Members have already established a striking committee that's tasked with surveying MLAs to determine their interests and recommend who's on which committee.

But the final make-up of committees is determined by consensus among MLAs.

The original results of the Dec. 15 by-election gave Ningark, a former Northwest Territories MLA and cabinet minister, a two-vote win over incumbent Steve Mapsalak. Helena Malliki finished third with 111 votes and Marius Tungilik was fourth with 38.

After last week's recount, which took two hours in the chambers of the Nunavut Court of Justice, Ningark and Mapsalak had 157 each, while Malliki gained two votes to finish with 113 and Tungilik gained one to finish with 39.

Kusugak said at least two ballots were originally not counted because a returning officer didn't know that ballots marked with a pen were to be counted.

"Although the voter turnout was pretty high in Akulliq, I suspect there are other people saying ‘Oh no, why didn't I vote?'" Kusugak said.

Nunavut's elections act says that a tie vote must be resolved through a new by-election.

While that means an even longer delay until Akulliq has an MLA, Kusugak said she thinks most people would prefer that than the system for deciding ties in hamlet elections. There, the winner is chosen by drawing a name from a hat.

Members of the striking committee are Tununiq MLA James Arvaluk, Pangnirtung MLA Adamee Komoartok, and Baker Lake MLA Moses Aupaluktuq.

The Management and Services Board, which does housekeeping work for the assembly, is already in place, as required by law.

Its members are Speaker James Arreak, education minister Hunter Tootoo, and regular MLAs Fred Schell, Ron Elliott and Paul Okalik.

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