Conservative wants to reverse Liberal “neglect”

Duncan Cunningham attacks Liberal party’s record on infrastructure, housing



A Conservative government would offer more federal programs to Nunavut, such as fisheries development and housing projects, says

Duncan Cunningham, Nunavut’s federal Conservative candidate.

Cunningham, who carries a thick portfolio of experience with Inuit organizations and the territorial government, said the federal government owes Nunavummiut more support under the Nunavut land claims agreement, which he says the Liberals have neglected for over a decade.

“For many people, the land claims agreement was a dream… come to fruition,” Cunningham said during a campaign stop in Iqaluit. “But it seems to have fallen off the table.”

Cunningham, 48, a former territorial public servant living in Pond Inlet, argues the Liberals have failed to provide Inuit access to government programs guaranteed by the land claim, especially compared to First Nations across the country. He notes that the Liberal government has spent millions on housing on First Nations reserves, and on boats and harbours to help First Nations communities develop their fisheries.

Cunningham said that if he wins the June 28 election, he would champion Inuit rights in a way former MPs haven’t. He said his party policy of letting MPs vote how they want, instead of following a party directive, will let him better represent Nunavut’s interests.

Cunningham also expects he will be able to attract more funding for Nunavut from the federal government, by showing southern Canada how Nunavut can become an economic success story, if given the same support as the rest of the country.

Cunningham said the South needs to take stock of the economic opportunities in the North, such as minerals, oil and gas development.

Moreover, he says the federal government must provide Nunavut with the infrastructure needed to make the most of developing those resources.

“The idea is for Canada to see that Nunavut is prepared to be a contributor to the Canadian economy… with some basic support from the federal government,” he said.

Cunningham says his southern roots won’t be an obstacle to victory. He said he earned the respect of many Nunavummiut when he was executive director of the Baffin Regional Inuit Association, the predecessor to the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, in the 1980s.

Also, he said he’s proven his commitment to Inuit as director of the former territorial department of sustainable development in Pond Inlet, where he set up an office entirely staffed and now run by local residents. Cunningham also employed an all-Inuit staff when he ran a translation business out of Iqaluit several years ago.

Besides being fluent in French, Cunningham also reads, writes and speaks Inuktitut, which he’s studied since moving to Pangnirtung more than a decade ago.

Cunningham adds that he and his party share many values with Inuit, such as the importance of family ties, and respect for elders.

While financing most of his campaign himself, Cunningham plans to visit most communities before election day.

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