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Party organizer flies to Iqaluit to help set up campaign office

Aglukkaq resigns cabinet post to run for Tories

By CHRIS WINDEYER

Never one to back away from a political fight, Leona Aglukkaq resigned as Nunavut's health minister last week and announced she's running for the Conservative Party in next month's federal election.

"It is with mixed emotions that I announce today that I will be resigning executive council effective at the end of today," Aglukkaq told MLAs Sept. 10. "My desire to serve the people of Nunavut will continue as I embark on my campaign to become the Conservative Member of Parliament for Nunavut."

With that statement, the Nattillik MLA confirmed what had become the worst kept secret in Nunavut politics, thanks in part to the apparently accidental posting of her name and biography on the Conservative Party website the weekend before she announced her candidacy.

She said she was recruited by the party and decided to run the week before her announcement.

Aglukkaq will set her sights on the relatively friendly confines of Parliament Hill after four years in Iqaluit, where she took plenty of lumps in question period, first as finance minister and later as health minister.

Before the 2004 territorial election, Agglukaq worked as a deputy minister and assistant deputy minister at various departments in the Government of Nunavut, and served as a hamlet councillor in Cambridge Bay for six years.

Infrastructure, resource development, devolution and the cost of living are going to be the focus of her campaign, Aglukkaq said. Those are things she says the Conservative Party supports, and have also been the focus of the GN and Inuit organizations.

While there's been criticism, largely from the New Democratic Party, that the attention paid to the North by the Conservative government has been too militaristic, Aglukkaq said her party's emphasis on tax cuts benefits Nunavummiut who face the highest living costs in the country.

"Every single penny counts," she told reporters. "This government is trying to reduce [Nunavummiut's] taxes so that every citizen in Nunavut is not impacted by the high cost of living."

"I see the other parties going in the opposite direction: increased taxes which Nunavummiut today cannot afford."

Aglukkaq also plans to court the youth vote.

"I think people should get excited about this election, particularly young people… as the territory of Nunavut is going to develop it's the young people that have to make the decisions as to what kind of territory they want."

Like her Liberal and New Democratic opponents, Aglukkaq plans to rely heavily on the post office and community radio to get her message out to voters across the territory. But she said she's going to attempt – weather, time and money permitting – to visit every community in Nunavut before Oct. 14.

That will cost money, and a source with knowledge of the campaign said the party is prepared to spend up to $80,000 to help get Aglukkaq elected.

Aglukkaq also confirmed a federal Conservative organizer responsible for the North was flown to Iqaluit to help set up her campaign office, located in the Navigator Inn.

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