Most Nunavik MP candidates not registered yet

“It’s very strange. Maybe they’re out shopping”


By the end of today, Pierre Potvin, the chief returning officer for the federal riding of Abitibi-James Bay-Nunavik-Eeyou, expects to have only one set of nomination papers from candidates contesting the riding in the Jan. 23 federal election.

Candidates must hand over proof of eligibility, a $1,000 deposit and a list of 50 names supporting their candidacy.

“I have been involved in elections for a long time and I’ve never seen a similar situation,” Potvin said in an interview from the Elections Canada office in Val d’Or on Tuesday. “I don’t think the candidates were expecting Paul Martin to actually call an election. They weren’t ready for elections before the holidays, and they thought it wouldn’t be called until January. It’s very strange. Maybe they’re out shopping.”

Potvin was expecting to meet this afternoon, Dec. 16, with the incumbent member of Parliament, Yvon Lévesque of the Bloc Québécois.

Potvin said the Elections Canada office has been unusually quiet, despite the start two weeks ago of a 56-day election. He’s expecting a major rush after Jan. 10.

The remaining candidates have until Jan. 2 at 2 p.m. to file their nomination papers, and Potvin is waiting for their calls.

Apart from Lévesque, the other candidates expected to register include Armand Caoutte of the Liberals, Gilles Gagnon of the Conservatives, and Dominique Vaillancourt of the New Democratic Party.

But until they’re registered no one can be sure. One candidate, Fernand Trahan, the recently-elected mayor of Val d’Or, announced he would resign and run as an independent, only to retract the announcement a few days later.

Lévesque’s main competition in this election will likely be from Liberal Armand Caouette — an experienced politician who is well-known and well-connected in the region.

“The Gomery Commission exonerated Paul Martin and the other MPs in Quebec. I wouldn’t run if I didn’t think I had a chance to win. I weighed the pros and the cons and I think my chances are good,” Caouette said in a recent interview with Radio-Canada.

Gilles Gagnon, who intends to run for the Conservatives, plans to advance a platform based on economic reform.

“We must stop the multinational companies from emptying this country of jobs,” his statement says.

Gagnon sounds as if he has a lot in common with the sovereigntist party, the Bloc Québécois.

“We need a new federal structure and we must govern in a coalition with the provinces.”

In his statement, Gagnon also says he is grateful to the “Block” for having defended the rights of all Quebecers so well.

“I assure you I am also of the same mold as “blockistes” and will do as good a job as they do and moreover I have more chance of being elected and being in power.

First Nations and Inuit, who comprise one-fifth of the 58,000 eligilbe voters in the sprawling riding, can have a determining say in who wins the election — if they vote: even a few hundred votes may decide the election.

In the last federal election, only about 40 per cent of registered voters cast ballots in Nunavik, while in the southern centres of Val d’Or and Chibougamou, the turn-out was heavier and both went for the Bloc candidate Lévesque.

Lévesque received 12,503 votes or 45.01 per cent of the vote, while Liberal Guy St-Julien received 12,067 votes or 43.44 per cent of the vote.

In Nunavik, St-Julien received 1,720 votes or about 71 per cent of votes cast; Lévesque, nine per cent. The Green Party won about seven per cent of the vote, while the NDP received about eight per cent of the vote. The Conservatives received about five per cent of the vote.

Voters in Nunavik — or at least those in Kuujjuaq, as was the case in the last election — should be able to vote early, in an advance poll date that will be announced shortly but which will likely be either Jan. 13, 14 or 16. If there is a blizzard on Jan. 23 that prevents voters from casting their ballots, another date will be set for the election in Nunavik.

Elections Canada’s electoral office is in Val d’Or. Polls will be set up in every Nunavik community on Jan, 23. Voters may also request absentee ballots by mail, by calling 1-866-216-5311.

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