Kusugak and Lightstone trade jabs over Iqaluit vaccinations

Iqalungmiut 45 years of age and over now getting called in for a shot

MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone, left, and Health Minister Lorne Kusugak, right, seen in undated file photos, traded jabs in the legislature Tuesday over the Health Department’s plans for administering COVID-19 vaccinations in Iqaluit. (File photos)

By Jim Bell

Welcome to Nunavut’s battle of the vaccine vials.

In a testy exchange Tuesday with Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone, Health Minister Lorne Kusugak managed to clarify who in Iqaluit is eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination right now, when they’ll be able to get one, and how many people in Iqaluit have received a shot.

During question period in the legislature, Kusugak responded to a series of queries from Lightstone that criticized the Health Department’s communication efforts. The health minister struck back by saying health workers had administered at least 1,100 vaccinations in Iqaluit, as of Tuesday.

“It’s amazing how we have vaccinated over a thousand people in Iqaluit, and Mr. Lightstone didn’t even know there was a vaccination happening,” Kusugak said.

In his questions, Lightstone complained that the territorial government is now phoning people in Iqaluit who are 45 years of age and over, inviting them to come in to get vaccinated.

But that’s confusing, because the GN’s website states that only people over the age of 60 and frontline workers in Iqaluit are eligible for shots, Lightstone said.

“I myself, as well as my constituents, are very concerned over the lack of communication about the Government of Nunavut’s vaccination rollout plan,” Lightstone said.

Kusugak responded by saying health workers in Iqaluit are working their way downwards by age group in their distribution of the vaccine — by calling back those who have already called public health to say they want a shot.

“The members of this fine city have been calling our public health office and booking appointments to get callbacks,” he said.

He said health workers in Iqaluit started with those 60 and over, then 55 and over, and are now calling back those who are 45 and over.

After explaining that, Kusugak mocked Lightstone’s use of social media.

“I will assume that Mr. Lightstone will put it on his Facebook page before the day is over,” he said in an apparent reference to a controversy triggered when Ligthstone posted comments in early February on social media about the vaccine rollout in Iqaluit.

Kusugak also said in his responses that, because of Iqaluit’s large population, the vaccine must be rolled out differently in the capital city compared to other communities.

“We can’t do a mass vaccination with the whole population of Iqaluit. It would mean we would have to do 4,000 or 5,000 at the same time,” Kusugak said.

But he did say that some time before the end of March, the Health Department hopes to vaccinate everyone in Iqaluit who can’t get a shot now. But he could not give an exact date.

“It has always been the plan of government to include everybody in Iqaluit who wants to get vaccinated that is 18 and over to get vaccinated,” he said.

Tuesday’s question-period exchange was the latest round in a squabble between the two politicians that broke out online Feb. 5.

That was when Lightstone took to Twitter to allege Iqaluit will get left behind by the Government of Nunavut’s vaccination program.

He did that by sharing a screenshot of a GN email that said the government would do community-wide vaccination clinics in every community — except for Iqaluit.

In that Feb. 5 email, the GN said that, unlike smaller communities where all adults would be eligible for a jab, not everyone in more populous Iqaluit will be able to get one right away.

Instead, they’ll divvy up the vaccine in Iqaluit based on “vulnerability categories” and the number of available doses.

After Lightstone shared that information “with sadness,” Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell entered the fray.

Bell fired off an aggrieved letter of his own, saying the GN rollout policy for Iqaluit “is completely irresponsible of our government.”

But Bell settled down the next day, following a phone call with Kusugak, saying the tiff was “all a misunderstanding.”

That’s because Kusugak assured him everyone in Iqaluit would get a jab by the end of March.

As of Wednesday, 7,073 doses of the Moderna vaccine had been administered in Nunavut, but that figure is not broken down by community.

Share This Story

(30) Comments:

  1. Posted by Amoudla Sataa on

    I’d like to add my 2cents. I have been waiting since the roll out of 60 and older. There is been no notification or any information about the roll out for 55 and older. I have also called the 975-4810 and the voice message has not been changed to indicate who is now eligible if interested. I only kept calling and recently got a call back to schedule me in.
    I look forward to seeing any posts from the GN Health Minister, including Adam Arreak Lightstone. I appreciate Adams posts, he keeps ppl updated.

  2. Posted by Icholas on

    Yes,yes,yes..when there’s nothing go to your social media network.. it will work wonders for you

  3. Posted by Yeah yeah on

    Would be nice if the new Health minister didn’t take these legitimate questions as personal attacks. The correct response would have been: Yes we got the message wrong in these last few weeks for Iqaluit, but we’ll be correcting that today.
    Kusugak also shouldn’t defend himself by gloating about how many people habe been vaccinated. We got a very generous share of vaccines from the federal government. A medium-sized logistics company could have achieved similar results.
    He also twisted Lightstone’s line of questioning to make it seem like he was critical of frontline workers. C’mon man, that’s dirty politics. Just admit there have been a few gaffes and move on. Easy as that.

  4. Posted by bob on

    For someone much older and with much more experience Kusugak is acting immature. He pretends to be sarcastic but instead comes off as dismissive. Not a good thing if the core requirement of your job is to listen to people. Perhaps his commitment is fading after years of service. A few months back this the same guy who told his people to “take a valium”. This is the health minister saying that. Imagine the arrogance to think that way. The last thing Nunavut needs is an Inuk Rob Ford. Now he’s mocking Lightstone about the use of social media on the floor of the Legislative Assembly. There are two types of politicians- the ones who want to serve people and the niachuriks who just want to feed their ego with power and grandstanding. Kusugak falls into the latter.

  5. Posted by PS on

    Adam was right about communication, till today they have not updated the voice mail about who is eligible for vaccine. It still says 60+

  6. Posted by privilege on

    Takes some serious privilege to demand quicker access to vaccines when the CPHO is trying to give priority access for the most remote.

    I realize privileges comes as second nature to some but this is a real show of privilege by some of these Iqaluit blowhards.

    Priority for the smaller communities with more overcrowded housing + more poverty + more Inuit residents by population + less health care services. That is what CPHO is trying to set up. This is what Lightstone is arguing against.

    The MLA should explain where he wants the GN to take Iqaluit’s vaccine doses from. Which community should wait so that Iqaluit goes first? Be specific and explain to the CPHO why he is wrong and DR Lightstone and Dr Bell are right.

    • Posted by Pork Pie on

      Privilege here, privilege there… look around and see, privilege everywhere.

      Calling out perceived privilege has become an exceedingly easy criticism these days, it is a bludgeon that stigmatizes, not unlike a scarlet letter or black tar and feathers.

      This is not to say that privilege does not exist or that the term is meaningless. It has a place, indeed. But let’s not rely on it as a go to critique simply because it has become so effective and fashionable.

      To the main point, wanting quicker access to the vaccine is not a sign of ‘privilege,’ it’s simple wanting quicker access to a vaccine in the middle of a deadly pandemic.

      That is all.

      It’s unfortunate that given supply issues decisions about allocation had to be made, but that’s just the way it is. Someone was bound to feel left out.

    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      This has nothing to do with privilege. Iqaluit should receiving the majority of the available vaccines for a number of valid public health reasons. It is the largest community in Nunavut with a very large transient population and a significant number of persons traveling through on their way to the rest of Territory. It is a minor miracle that there has not been a significant Covid outbreak in the community to date.

  7. Posted by Jiena on

    Our health care workers are doing their best and I want to thank them for their dedication. The voice mail message on the COVID vaccine line was still announcing vaccines for 60+ yesterday and my voice mail message was returned asking if I’m in a priority group or over 60. I’m 57. Minister Kusugak is coming across as dismissive of our elected MLA Lightstone who is doing the job he was elected to do and that is advocate for Iqalungmiut. Like it or not, Lightstone was elected to do what he is doing and he communicates diligently about it. There are a few communication lessons to be learned from him.

  8. Posted by Umingmak on

    Is Lightstone capable of doing anything other than complaining 24/7? He’s a really horrible MLA.

    • Posted by Lightstone supporter on

      I think he’s doing a wonderful job. So nice to see a government representative fighting for his people. Thanks to Mr. Lightstone, Kusugak is now being watched and will be called to account if the 18+ of Iqaluit are not vaccinated by the end of March. Thank you, Mr. Lightstone!

    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      MLA Lightstone is doing his job and faithfully representing the interests of his constituents, which is something that a far greater number of our MLAs should be emulating. They aren’t being paid to sit there and keep quiet.

      • Posted by Math on

        No he’s not, there are better ways to get things done with his colleagues in Cabinet. Lightstone is just picking at the low hanging fruit to appear like he’s doing right by his constituents. A simple email sent beforehand would have resolved the issue. Clearly an oversight by very busy health care workers.

        • Posted by Calculator on

          Lightstone has tried writing to the Minister several times without a proper or no response at all, just like the Dept of health’s website and phone number, communication has been terrible.
          We got to see why its not the greatest with this exchange between Lightstone and the Minister of Health.
          Improvements needed!

  9. Posted by Artie on

    I tend to agree with Lightstone. He is simply asking the questions that his constituents are asking him. And if his FB & Twitter profiles are the place where he is sharing updates & info then good for him. At least his constituents & others in NU know he will be transparent & share all that he knows. Kusugak is old-school & needs to retire from politics.

  10. Posted by WTH on

    Hey Lorne most people get the news off of social media. Realize that and get your messaging right and if you mess admit it, fix it and move on. Adam has the right to post things on his social media pages so the the people can know what is going on.

    Can someone tell me how Lorne got the Health Minister roll? He did shut a crap job at CGS why the H would anyone put him in charge on peoples health.

  11. Posted by Paul Murphy on

    Hey Lorne you got stuck with a shitty job this time around. You and the good doctor have the best FACTS available. You both and your health care staff are doing a great job under these conditions. Don’t let a few non-descript naysayers and our current MP get to you. Adam is playing politics for his constituents while you appear to be working for ALL of Nunavut as you should.

    • Posted by Paul on

      “For all of Nunavut” minus Iqaluit, boy you sure change your tune when you left Iqaluit, now its a tune of anti-Iqaluit for everything 🙂

      • Posted by Paul Murphy on

        Perhaps you need a comprehension lesson (yeah I know that’s a big word for you).
        Go back and read my post again. At no place did I say “minus Iqaluit”, but, to the contrary said ALL (seems to include Iqaluit) of Nunavut.
        Wonder if I remained anonymous would your misinformed opinion even been posted.

        • Posted by Paul Murphy on

          btw I HAVE noticed over the years how Iqaluit has become more like Yellowknife pre 1999 in their attitude towards the importance of the rest of the territory. Iqaluit is NOT the centre of Nunavut.

          • Posted by Paul on

            Not it’s not but it is the capital with one fifth of the population of Nunavut in Iqaluit from all three regions and it’s not your typical Nunavut community, there are still needs for Iqaluit just like the smaller communities in proportion to its size, that does not mean having more then other communities. That might be a bit much to grasp for you Paul but I am sure will will continue to fan the flames for your rants about Iqaluit.

            • Posted by Tim on

              Actually it’s a quarter of Nunavut’s population.

              • Posted by Paul Murphy on

                And how many are Inuit from the communities? Play numbers all we want but Iqaluit treats the communities worse than how Yellowknife treated Nunavut pre 1999.

                • Posted by Paul on

                  See Paul, fanning the anti-Iqaluit flames, there are more Inuit in Iqaluit from all three regions then any other community in Nunavut, more elders, more Inuit that are homeless, more elders sent down south because there is not enough long term care here in Iqaluit. The list goes on, but you should know this as you lived here, but once you move oh boy! The anti-Iqaluit chest thumping has been pretty strong with you.

                  • Posted by Yoda on

                    Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you.

  12. Posted by Just stop complaining on

    Adam… just give up acting like your money just took your soother away. All you want to do is complain.
    Take a positive spin on good news for a change. You could have stood in the house and stated the great job all the health care workers are doing and it is great to hear people in Iqaluit that are 45 and older now are able to get vaccinated…. but no, you need to wine about a website and phone line not being updated.
    Take a look around Canada. Most Provinces are just starting with vaccines for people over 80+ . I believe the GN and Department of Health are going a great job. Our Territory will have all those over 18 who want a vaccine completed before some provinces get to the age category of 50+. I call that success. And stop stating… my constituents…. not all of us in your riding agree with you so please reference in the future as “some of my constituents”

    • Posted by I agree with Adam on

      I agree with Adam. As a regular MLA, he is doing his job. It’s not his role to blow warm air up departmental bottoms or do the GN’s PR work.
      He’s my MLA and he’s got my vote at the next election.

  13. Posted by Math on

    This and the prior Assembly has been unproductive, held hostage by a few grandstanding MLAs seeking re-election. This is just an example of a minor oversight that could have easily been resolved via email. Meanwhile, the big and important legislative items that are in the best interest of all of Nunavummiut are being deferred by MLAs. It’s sad when politics prevent doing what’s right for all for the sake of all for personal gain. Please do better MLAs

  14. Posted by ian on

    the mighty iqaluit deserves to be first for everything,keep up the good job lorne,your doing better than the last guy.

    • Posted by Paul on

      Haters gonna hate, equality for all including Iqaluit.


Comments are closed.