Four standard bearers take on St-Julien

Liberal incumbent appears unbeatable with First Nations, Inuit support


Four federal parties are challenging the Liberals’ hold in the federal riding of Nunavik-Eeyou, even if the Liberal incumbent Guy St-Julien looks unbeatable due to his strong support among First Nations and Inuit voters.

The Conservative Party, the NDP and the Green Party are hoping to do well in Nunavik-Eeyou, as is the Bloc Québécois, the party favoured to receive the majority of Quebec’s overall vote.

François Dionne, a semi-retired accountant, is the Conservative Party candidate. He’s running for the second time to represent the riding in Ottawa.

In 2000, when Dionne ran under the Canadian Alliance, he picked up about six per cent of the vote in Nunavik.

This time, Dionne is hoping for a much better showing, from voters who support Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper and believe Harper will head a majority or minority Conservative government after June 28.

“A vote for Stephen Harper is a vote for me,” said Dionne in a telephone interview from Val d’Or region where he is campaigning.

Dionne also urged voters in the riding who want a change from the past ten years of Liberal government to support his candidacy.

Dionne promised a Harper government would still continue to support aboriginal peoples’ development through a combination of self-government and economic development.

“We wouldn’t just cut native people loose,” Dionne said.

Dionne has never visited Nunavik, and said he can’t because no money is available to cover the travel costs.

“That is not fair to the candidate or the voters,” he said.

Echoing the BQ candidate Yvon Lévesque, Dionne promised he would visit Nunavik immediately following his election.

The NDP is also hoping to improve on the four per cent of the vote it received from northernmost part of the riding in 2000.

NDP candidate Pierre Corbeil’s slogan is Nous valons mieux-Nous pouvons mieux or We’re worth more, we can do better.

Corbeil, bilingual and well-informed about the region, is a former civil servant who now works for a printing firm.

Corbeil said he’s running in Nunavik-Eeyou to promote social justice, protect the environment and improve living conditions.

He said the NDP would improve the delivery of health in Nunavik by investing more money in programs and education.

“The key is local involvement by people in the communities. It’s much more effective for someone who speaks Inuttitut to communicate [with] and understand a patient who speaks the same language,” Corbeil said.

The NDP doesn’t expect to win in Nunavik-Eeyou, although in 1988, Corbeil pointed out, the NDP came in second, with 26 per cent of the vote.

Corbeil’s objective is to increase the voter turn-out in the riding from 56 per cent to 63 per cent, pick up some of these votes and build up a strong riding association for the next federal election.

“The progressive, grass-roots message of the NDP is being heard from coast-to-coast and is starting to reach people,” Corbeil said. “It’s not just a theoretical message, but a practical message [about] what we want to bring to the daily life of ordinary citizens.”

Corbeil said he was willing, but couldn’t afford to visit Nunavik during the election campaign. He said he’s done his best to speak to local media and distribute pamphlets. He decided not to send up any posters because they were made of non-biodegradable plastic.

The Green Party candidate, Martin Fournier, is a student in British Columbia who is originally from the Abitibi region. Fournier could not be reached for an interview.

Elections Canada’s electoral office is in Val d’Or. The riding’s chief returning officer, Richard Séguin, said polls will be set up in every Nunavik community on June 28.

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