For Nancy, the fourth time’s a charm

“I can only handle this honour with great care”


After an exhausting winter battle, Liberal Nancy Karetak-Lindell of Arviat will for a fourth time represent the people of Nunavut in the House of Commons, this time as a member of the official opposition.

“It is an honour. I can only handle this honour with great care,” Karetak-Lindell said, her voice still a little hoarse from a hacking cough produced by a bad case of the flu that dogged her for most of the seven-week campaign.

“My health wasn’t where I wanted it to be for a winter campaign or any campaign,” Karetak-Lindell said.

Despite that, she easily fended off a strong challenge from David Aglugark of the Conservatives, who she defeated by nearly 1,000 votes.

With four straight victories to her credit, Karetak-Lindell becomes one of the winningest politicians in Nunavut’s history.

Aglukark raised the Conservative total to 2,692, up dramatically from the 1,075 votes that Duncan Canningham took in 2004, but far short of what Aglukark needed to defeat Karetak-Lindell.

Though some people expected that many Nunavut voters would punish her for supporting the outgoing Liberal government’s same-sex marriage bill, her vote dropped only slightly, down to 3,683 votes from the 3,818 that she took in the June 28, 2004 federal election.

Nunavut’s unofficial results, all 38 polls reporting, are as follows:

* Nancy Karetak-Lindell (Lib): 3683, 39.9%
* David Aglukark (Con): 2692, 29.1%
* Bill Riddell (NDP): 1544, 17.0%
* Ed deVries (Marijuana): 724, 7.8%
* Feliks Kappi (Green): 545, 5.9%

Nunavut’s voter turnout, at 51.1 per cent, is a big improvement over the 43.8 per cent recorded in 2004, but still less than the national turnout figure of 64.9 per cent.

Nationally, Paul Martin’s ruling Liberals went down to defeat, winning only 103 seats, prompting Martin to announce that he’ll quit his party’s leadership.

Stephen Harper, whose Conservatives won 124 seats, will become the next prime minister of Canada, heading a fragile minority government that will depend on support from either Jack Layton’s NDP (29 seats), Gilles Duceppe’s Bloc Québecois (51 seats), or the Liberals.

Although Harper’s government will be constrained by their need to attract support from members of smaller parties, Karetak-Lindell says she’s still not certain that Harper’s government will follow through on the $5.1 billion worth of commitments that Paul Martin made to aboriginal people last fall.

“I’m very worried about that,” Karetak-Lindell said, saying she’s especially concerned about that the new social housing construction money that the federal government promised to give northern Canada.

At stake are at least 1,200 new social housing units, many of which are expected to go to Nunavut over the next five years, including some that were expected to be funded before the end of the current fiscal year on March 31.

As time slips away, Karetak-Lindell fears that this money may not flow in time for Nunavut to take advantage of it during this year’s construction season.

“Everyone knows that in Nunavut we have to start making sealift arrangements right now to make the sealift deadlines this summer,” she said.

To that end, she said that, as an opposition member, she’ll get more freedom to criticize the government in public, and she said she may adopt a different approach to her work.

While she recognizes that some of her detractors say she’s not outspoken enough in representing Nunavut’s interests, she defends herself by pointing to the quiet lobbying she’s done in numerous meetings with federal ministers and civil servants, and officials with NTI and the GN.

“Just because I don’t put out a press release every time I meet with a minister, it doesn’t mean I’m not doing anything,” she said.

She admits that the criticism she took for her stand on same-sex marriage wasn’t easy for her, but she says it was harder for her family.

“It’s very tough for my boys. They get very protective. It’s a very difficult situation for them,” she said.

But Karetak-Lindell does not regret her decision to say yes to Bill C-38.

“I could have taken the easy way out, but I wanted to take a stand on human rights and I wanted to win on principle… I accept the decline in my support.”

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