'You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to see the real issues'

Ejesiak kicks off Liberal campaign in Nunavut


Kirt Ejesiak, the Liberal candidate for Nunavut, says he's not intimidated by apparent plans by the Conservative Party of Canada to target Nunavut in next month's federal election, which is likely to be held either Oct. 14 or Oct. 21.

A long list of Conservative cabinet ministers, from Prime Minister Stephen Harper on down, have issued a steady stream of spending announcements in Nunavut during the two-week period before the Labour Day weekend.

"I've been listening to those announcements. If I asked a local person tomorrow, in front of the Northmart, here are the announcements that Harper's made, will that change your situation of being unemployed, illiterate, no house, no training? I don't think so," Ejesiak said.

The Nunavut Liberal Association nominated Ejesiak, 38, in the spring of 2007, but he's waited even longer than that to run for the House of Commons.

"I've probably waited all my life to run as a federal candidate. And this is it," Ejesiak said.

He says he's prepared for his candidacy by talking to as many people as possible, including Kitikmeot residents, whom he visited during a trip to their region late last year.

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"I don't think you need to be a brain surgeon to see what the real issues are in Nunavut. We have a housing crisis, poverty is through the roof, people on social assistance. Those are the important issues that I've been hearing from the people: housing, poverty, the health and well-being of Inuit in general," Ejesiak said.

"There seems to a sense of despair, more than ever, and we need to address it immediately."

A small business owner, Ejesiak is CEO and creative director of Uqsiq Communications, a multimedia firm , and a managing partner of the Red Boat art gallery in Apex. He has also worked as chief of staff to Nunavut premier Paul Okalik, and served as an Iqaluit city councillor and deputy mayor.

In 2005, he won a prestigious Fulbright scholarship, allowing him to attend the Kennedy School of Government at Boston's Harvard University, where he earned a masters degree in public administration. He's the first person from Nunavut to attend Harvard.

"I just want to ensure that people know we need a strong voice in Ottawa and I want to be that voice. I think I'm the best person to represent their aspirations, their hopes and their dreams."

With 25 communities stretched across two million square kilometres of geography, Nunavut is the toughest federal riding in Canada in which to run an election campaign, especially when it's only five weeks long.

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"I think it's impossible to visit 26 communities in 36 days, but I will try to get to as many as I can."

Ejesiak is already mapping out the first two weeks of his campaign. To help him reach voters, he has campaign managers working for him in each of Nunavut's three regions.

In every election since 1988, Liberal candidates have won Nunavut, often in lopsided landslides. But Ejesiak says he's not taking anything for granted. He'll run a classic Nunavut campaign based on face-to-face contact with voters.

"My strategy is to ensure I visit the communities and visit families one-on-one.

It's just going to be old-fashioned, to sit down at the table with people and say okay, what are your issues and how can I help."

And he says that the people of Nunavut are likely to stick with the Liberal party

"I think Liberal values have been consistent with Inuit values: equality, fairness, ensuring that aboriginal people are actually paid attention to," he said.

The Liberal nomination in Nunavut opened up in December of 2006 when Nancy Karetak-Lindell, the sitting member since 1997, announced she would serve out her term but would not seek the nomination in another election.

In the 2006 federal election, Karetak-Lindell was sick for much of the campaign but still won the Nunavut seat with about 40 per cent of ballots cast. David Aglukark Sr. of the Conservative party finished second with about 29.9 per cent.

As of Nunatsiaq News press-time Sept. 3, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was expected to call the federal election by the end of this week. At the same time, the Conservative party was expected to name their Nunavut candidate by the end of this week.

The New Democratic Party candidate in Nunavut, Paul Irngaut, awaits a leave-of-absence from his employer, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., which will allow him to speak freely in public.

The Green party has yet to name a candidate for Nunavut.

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