Tununiq's three contenders offer electorate lots of choice in approach and experience

Two promise infrastructure, one promises nothing

By CHRIS WINDEYER

Three men are running for the job of MLA in the north Baffin riding of Tununiq.

Two are promising to bring new infrastructure to Pond Inlet. The other isn't promising anything at all.

James Arvaluk, Simon Merkosak, and Elizirie Peterloosie are the candidates in the Oct. 27 election.

Merkosak said he's not making specific promises in this campaign. He agrees Pond needs new infrastructure, but said instead he wants to spur economic development in the territory by winning royalties and benefits for the GN from the mining sector.

"We have to ensure we're getting meaningful benefits," he said. "Not only the communities but also the Nunavut government as well."

To do that, he wants to lobby the federal government and work with newly-elected MP Leona Aglukkaq to get a share of federal mining royalties, as well as more money for infrastructure.

Another concern is what Merkosak says is the growing potential for shipping traffic to pass through the Northwest Passage, near Pond Inlet. The GN needs to "start planning for it right now."

Nunavummiut, he said, need to be included in discussions between Canada and countries, like the United States, who believe the passage is an international straight.

Merkosak, who's served as chairman of the Qulliq Energy Corp. and who runs Merkosak Construction, said he's running on his "business acumen." He's been asked before, and now is the right time to run, he said.

"This is another chapter in my life that I am going through."

Arvaluk won a 2006 by-election held to replace Jobie Nutarak, who held the seat from 1999 and served as speaker of the legislative assembly until he died in a snowmobiling accident in April, 2006. Arvaluk defeated Rhoda Cunningham by 56 votes to win.

Arvaluk has extensive political experience, but it's marred by some brushes with the law. He's twice had to resign from office for assaulting women. In 2006, he told Nunatsiaq News the people of Pond Inlet let bygones be bygones by re-electing him.

Now, he says people in the community are asking him to run again, and he agreed, because his shortened first term as Tunnuniq's MLA didn't give him enough time to accomplish everything he wanted.

Pond Inlet needs infrastructure, chiefly a dock, which would protect hunters' boats from the waves of the Davis Strait, Arvaluk said. It could also serve as a place for boats fishing the north Davis Strait turbot fishery to change crews and unload their catch.

"[Now] they have to go all the way down to Greenland or Newfoundland to unload," he said. "So… if they could unload here it could be a good opportunity for the community."

Spending on infrastructure is a way to counter what Arvaluk calls Nunavut's "artificial economy" that's dominated by government jobs and instead build a stronger private sector.

"We are building a huge bureaucracy for our small population."

But much of that money must come from Ottawa. It will be up to the premier to go to Ottawa and fight for more money for infrastructure.

But that's not a job he wants. Arvaluk said he's been asked by some MLAs to run for premier.

After talking with his family, he said he doesn't want the territory's top job, but said he's willing to sit as a cabinet minister if he's re-elected and selected by his colleagues.

Also in the race is hunter Elizirie Peterloosie. Like Arvaluk, he says Pond Inlet faces major infrastructure needs, particularly a new clinic, recreation centre, airport and dock.

He told Nunatsiaq News translator Itee Akavak that, if elected, he'd consult with hamlet council and local residents to find out what they want.

Peterloosie said he decided to run for office because he's been inspired by the work he's seen MLAs do on television or when he's come down to Iqaluit and visited the legislative assembly.

He also said he has no interest in being a cabinet minister, and feels he can best do his job by being a regular MLA.

The Oct. 27 election will also be the first without Sam Omik, hunter and former Qikiqtani Inuit Assocation board member, who ran in 1999, 2004 and 2006, finishing well behind the winners each time.

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