Iqaluit Centre voters concerned about core issues

After easy win in 1999, Tootoo now faces crowd of five challengers


Housing, jobs, daycare, health and education – these are the kinds of bread-and-butter issues that candidates in Iqaluit’s smallest constituency are hearing about from the voters of Iqaluit Centre.

The incumbent, Hunter Tootoo, took the seat easily in 1999 with 54 per cent of the vote. This time around he faces five challengers: Natsiq Alainga-Kango, Mike Courtney, Kevin MacCormack, Pauloosie Paniloo, and Mary Ellen Thomas.

Alainga-Kango, who in 1999 ran unsuccessfully against Ed Picco in Iqaluit East, said she won’t run against Picco this time because she feels he’s the best of Iqaluit’s three incumbent MLAs.

“I feel that he has done a good job,” Alainga-Kango said.

Alainga-Kango, who runs a business in Iqaluit with her husband, Joshua, says her first campaign priorities are education and health care, closely followed by transportation.

In health care, she says she would like to see more procedures performed at the new Qikiqtani Hospital to cut down on travel to Ottawa, and more recognition for Inuit midwives.

To improve transportation, she supports the idea for a deep-water port in Iqaluit, and is also open to the idea of an Iqaluit-Kimmirut road-port, which she says could bring benefits to both communities.

Courtney, a lifelong northerner from Churchill, Manitoba, has lived in Iqaluit for the past four years, involving himself in the local hockey association and other community activities.

Courtney, who is making daycare a big issue in his campaign, said he’s telling voters about his experience at making things happen at the community level.

And he says that, if elected, he would be the kind of MLA that community organizations could rely on to help them lobby the Nunavut government.

“In every community that I’ve lived in, in my 18 years in Nunavut, I’ve always been involved with programs, projects and issues. I’m the type of guy who, if the job’s not getting done, I’m not scared to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty to do it,” Courtney said.

Kevin MacCormack, a business consultant known around the Baffin region for his work in economic development and the commercial fishing business, is stressing his experience in economic issues.

He owned the former Imavik fish plant in Pangnirtung, and before that worked as an economic development officer in charge of fisheries development.

“I have a passion for sustainable development, economic development. That’s my baby. With my experience, it fits me like a glove,” MacCormack said.

Mary Ellen Thomas, who works at the Nunavut Research Institute, says she’s running because the last legislative assembly did not deal with social and economic concerns.

“Everyone I know is either broke, or working two jobs, or struggling to make ends meet. These are not the kinds of issues I saw being raised and I would like to try and raise those issues,” Thomas said.

Thomas suggested that Iqaluit’s rising crime rate is a sign that Nunavut’s social programs are not keeping pace with Iqaluit’s social problems.

“I saw the RCMP parked three times in a week on my street. I didn’t ever used to see that before,” Thomas said.

She said she is running in Iqaluit Centre because the riding contains a mix of people likely to respond to the “kinds of issues that I most want to talk about.”

In her discussions with voters, Thomas, a long-time adult educator, says she’s found that many people are confused about what level of government is responsible for what issue – some people are complaining to her about issues outside of the GN’s jurisdiction, such as roads.

“So I’m using the opportunity to look for the ‘teachable moment,’ the time when you can explain that’s a municipal issue, and that’s who you talk to or that’s a federal issue and that’s who you talk to,” Thomas said.

Hunter Tootoo says housing and education, the legislative assembly’s top two priorities in 1999, remain his priorities.

“We have to find ways to make housing more affordable and available to all people, whether it be those who have no choice but to live in social housing, those who have no choice but to live in staff housing, and those who have the luxury of choosing to be homeowners,” Tootoo said.

Doing that requires partnerships between the GN and all other stakeholders, Tootoo said, including the federal government, NTI, and even the private sector.

In education, Tootoo said the first thing the legislative assembly should do is figure out what it wants to accomplish in education, “to ensure that our young people, after going through that system, have the tools that they need.”

He says he favours a legislated limit on class sizes, and wants any new education act to enhance, not weaken, the role of district education authorities.

Pauloosie Paniloo was caribou hunting outside of Clyde River this week, and was not available for comment by press-time.

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