Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo to call it quits this fall

Former Liberal MP says he’s leaving public life

Independent Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo at a news conference in Iqaluit in July 2016, held after he returned from a treatment centre in Ontario. He announced today he won’t seek re-election to the House of Commons this fall. (File photo)

By Emma Tranter

Nunavut’s Independent MP, Hunter Tootoo, will not run in the Oct. 21 federal election and will leave public life, his office announced in a statement Tuesday.

“I appreciate very much the encouragement and support I have received from Nunavummiut all across the territory over the past months. But after much consideration, I have made the decision to leave public life,” Tootoo said in the statement.

First elected to the House of Commons in Oct. 19, 2015 as a Liberal, Tootoo was appointed minister of fisheries and oceans by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

He held that position until May 2016, when he resigned, saying that he was leaving to seek treatment for alcohol addiction. He returned to his job in July 2016, but departed the Liberal caucus to sit as an Independent.

Following his departure from the Liberals, Tootoo admitted to what he called a “consensual but inappropriate” relationship with a junior female staffer.

That prompted some Nunavut residents to call for Tootoo’s resignation. But he stayed on.

Tootoo also represented Iqaluit Centre as a member of Nunavut’s legislative assembly from 1993 to 2013.

In his statement, Tootoo thanked his family, friends and parliamentary colleagues who helped him through “a difficult period in my life.”

“With their support I have grown and healed, and I believe I am a better person for it. I encourage anyone who suffers from addiction, mental illness, or trauma to seek the help they need to heal,” his statement said.

Tootoo also praised Nunavut’s consensus government system, an experience that allowed him to work with “members of all stripes” during his time in Parliament.

“To all Nunavummiut, I think you know how much I love our territory. My commitment to Nunavut will never waver. Wherever the next path in my life leads, I will continue to work for a sustainable economy that will secure a prosperous future for Nunavut.”

Leona Aglukkaq, the former Conservative MP, has already declared that she will contest the Nunavut seat for her party this Oct. 21.

The Elections Canada nomination contest database says that Peter Scholz of Arviat was chosen as the People’s Party of Canada candidate for Nunavut in a nomination contest held this past June 6, but the PPC website now says “announcement pending employer approval.”

However, Scholz, in an email to Nunatsiaq News said, “I am not and have never been declared a candidate.” As of the morning of July 31, he had not explained why Elections Canada still lists him as a nominated candidate for Nunavut.

Megan Pizzo Lyall, a former Iqaluit city councillor who works for Atuqtuarvik Corp. in Rankin Inlet, has announced that she’ll seek the Liberal nomination in Nunavut, but the party has yet to announced a nomination meeting in the territory.

The Nunavut New Democratic Party electoral district association has not yet announced a candidate.

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(25) Comments:

  1. Posted by YFBYXP on

    We need a party specifically to represent Inuit Nunagat. Well meaning northern politicians get drowned out by members of their southern political parties who often have policies at odds with life up north. We have small vote margins needed to win, why don’t we take control of our own destiny with our own party?

    • Posted by No win all lose on

      What advantage do you see there being for a party that could only ever achieve one seat in the House of Commons? I don’t see any. On the down side we would never have an MP in cabinet again or in the governing part caucus again.

      • Posted by YFBYXP on

        So we won’t have token cabinet ministers kept around as pets for prime ministerial photo-ops, big deal.

        Ultimately Canada’s north is rapidly becoming the most important region of the country, and people will have to work with us in one way or another. 1 seat representing a party that doesn’t lose northern voices by mixing them with exploitative southern party politics is better than 1 seat being lost in a sea of southern party demands which drown out a genuine voice of the north.

        And Nunagat is more than just Nunavut, a representative is necessary and possible to be found in Nunavik as well, potentially in other territories too.

        Overall an indigenous people’s party, or coalition of parties which represent southern native groups can grow from this effort to have full voices for our peoples, not just tokens there to improve a southern party’s image.

        We have low vote margins needed to win, and many people who don’t vote because they see no value in the way politics are structured in this country at the moment. Your solution is to not even dare to dream of a better way, and to accept that we will only ever be 1 seat with no power but smiling along in cabinets that, to quote Saganash, “don’t give a F**** about us” and what we need, or with worse PMs like Harper and the Conservatives.

        If Quebec can do it, and have their interests protected for decades in doing so, why is it impossible for Inuit or for natives? We’re a sleeping political power, and it’s time we all woke up and started to ask for something more, to do something more than just continue with business as usual according to the rules of the south, which has only ever and will only ever use us for their own benefits…

        • Posted by iThink on

          I read in your comment a politics of anger and dissatisfaction. There’s nothing in your solution that will empower Nunavut at all, in fact the opposite is true. Quebec did it, yes, but they also had enough seats to form an official opposition, which makes for a huge strategic difference. Nunavut on the other hand would end up with no possible seat at the Cabinet table and no seat in caucus. Who will have influence and the ear of government with regards to the interests and affairs of Nunavut then? A single member of a lone party? Nunavut would relegate itself to a virtual desert of influence. Your comment reminds me of Trumpism in a way to be honest with you – the politics of grievance.

          • Posted by Activism on

            Yes! Gotta start somewhere. And yes we’re darn angry! Our pacifist nature has been taken advantage of.
            It’s time to be active, be an an activist. Rise up and protest!

            • Posted by iThink on

              I get that, but all emotion and no logic isn’t going to help.

          • Posted by YFBYXP on

            You act as if dissatisfaction at politics as usual is inherently bad. You act as if there is no legitimate reason for a colonised people to be dissatisfied and wish for something different. You act as if people could only ever contest for a single seat in this matter. You act as if this would be guaranteed to fail. you act as if anyone who criticises the political process as it stands now is exactly the same as Trump’s violent and hateful style of personal enrichment, and you ignore that change for the betterment of a forgotten and tokenized people is the opposite of Trump’s rise of open white supremacist looting of his country.

            You want to pretend you have all the answers, perhaps just because you are afraid to dream of or act to ensure the betterment of others. This is what Fanon means when he discusses “the colonised mind” – you have internalised the system imposed on us recently and can imagine no other way forward.

            Some of us are dissatisfied, and more and more of us are realising that the path to satisfaction is not to continue to be taken advantage of by colonial southern forces.

            Any seats representing Nunagat will represent militarily strategic and economically important regions that can’t be ignored, just because we stopped voting for the red tie or the blue tie…

            A different world is possible, but not by accepting the inevitability of a rather recently imposed political situation on our people. Canada and Nunagat are new to the colonial enterprise we find in our democracy, and change is still possible to better the lives of all Inuit and all indigenous people in this country.

            To compare a desire for something like that to the rise of Trump shows how little you understand about politics.

            • Posted by Bemused Observer on

              Psst. Tapping your shoulder, gently. Franz Fanon was discredited decades ago. He was a big deal back in the 1950s and 1960s, but he’s irrelevant now. Stop quoting Fanon. He was a notorious homophobe and misogynist, which is kind of a problem in the me too era.

              As for Indigenous MPs, there were 10 Indigenous MPs elected in 2015 to the House of Commons, 8 Liberals and 2 New Democrats. That’s not bad and overall Indigenous people made many gains since the last election, especially in infrastructure, water and sewer, action on Jordan’s Principle, the national Indigenous language act, self-determination. Not perfect, but not bad.

              The rest of your post is just made up of sweeping, evidence free generalizations and some of it is just incomprehensible, not really worth a response.

            • Posted by iThink on

              YFBYXP – Your comment is a classic strawman. None of the things you suggest I am “acting like” or represent are to be found in my comments. My argument is this: the solutions you offer would only make things worse. Your solutions are poorly thought out and appear to be reactive and grounded in emotion. Prove that wrong, and know that misrepresenting a position you fail to grasp ultimately betrays a flaccid intellect.

        • Posted by Gobble Gobble on

          OK, so Nunangat is more than just Nunavut… it’s Inuvialuit, Nunavut, Nunavik, and Nunatsiavut. Maximum 1 MP for NWT, 1 MP for Nunavut, 1 for Nunavik, and 1 for Nunatsiavut. There’s no guarantee you’ll get all 4, although all 4 MPs in those region now are Indigenous, I think (McLeod-Dene?, Tootoo-Inuit, Saganash-Cree, Jones-Inuit).
          .
          And while growing this into some larger Indigenous People’s Party with MPs from southern regions is admirable, the fact remains that the Indigenous population is Canada is less than 5% of the total population. Winning seats in Nunangat may be possible, but winning seats down south is highly unlikely. We’d really have to examine if there are any Southern ridings with a signficant enough amount of Indigenous population representation to win a seat.
          .
          Still, 4 MPs would be twice as many MPs as the Green Party has right now.

  2. Posted by Tommy on

    Mr. Hunter Tootoo, you have represented the Territory of Nunavut from its very beginning, and that calls for an appreciation and recognition for your public service to Nunavummiut. Your public and personal life in Nunavut politics was observed at territorial, national, and international settings.The Legislative Assembly of Nunavut and the Parliament of Canada certainly have established policies from your lobbying. The Hansards of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut and the Parliament of Canada have your name for the history books. Qujannamiik Hunter Tootoo.

  3. Posted by Nunavuummiuut.. on

    Good :), Hunter, I have to give you credit, you did awesome!

    Now to find a good suitable candidate for Nunavut MP, I certainly hope Leona gets in, she should consider being a Liberal, Megan who is trying to be a MP for liberal should drop out alrighty…

    good luck, lets go Liberals!

    • Posted by Ken on

      Some people sure have short term memory, Leona had her time, even with the Cans in power for a decade she did very little but cut programs and too steps backwards for Nunavut, how soon people forget, Next!
      We need these younger generation who work hard not party hard, there has been some very good younger politicians moving up and they ask the real tough questions, look for the real solutions not blow smoke and mirrors.

      I’m interested to hear this Megan and see what she has to say. No way I’m voting for Leona again!

  4. Posted by Good decision on

    Good to hear Hunter Tootoo finally decided to step down, something that he should have done after the scandal of his boozing and womanizing hit the news in June 2016. Nunavut has not had effective representation since he left Liberal caucus.

    Leona Aglukark did her 8 years in Ottawa and was unfortunately a big disappointment, being more a Harper puppet than bringing our issues to the Conservative Government to really help Nunavut. She hasn’t lived in Nunavut for over 12 years.

    It’s time for someone new and ideally someone who will be with the party that wins, which looks like a Liberal minority government.

    • Posted by about time on

      Good thing all he managed to do was collect $716000 in salary, and for that he pulled his zipper back up. He sat on a back bench accomplished nothing really visited communities for photo ops and then the tax payer was on the hook for those pictures. He should’ve stepped down right away, Fake MP

      • Posted by No MP pension on

        At least he doesn’t qualify for MP pension, which only kicks in after someone serves 6 years. Maybe the only good thing out of the total disaster and embarrassment of a MP.

  5. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    Hunter should have resigned immediately upon being booted out of the Liberal caucus after having his inappropriate relationship with a staffer come to light.

    He has proven that he thinks only about himself and not about the people that he was paid to represent. This has been a disaster for Nunavut as we have been without real representation for over 3 years.

    Does anything think that he had a chance of getting re-elected as an independent candidate? I doubt that even half of his extended family would have voted for him.

    Goodbye, good riddance, hopefully the door will give you a good smack on the ass on the way out!

  6. Posted by never good enough on

    To all those who feel no one is ever good enough, no mater what party, or political level, municipal, provincial, territorial, federal. There is always more room on the ballot for those who appear to have greater knowledge or skills than any elected past, present or future. Why do you not put your name forward to demonstrate your superiority to everyone. Try walking your talk. Reality, you will find, is quite an eye opener. This would be refreshing since your eyes like your mind is closed.

  7. Posted by Vote Early, Vote Often on

    The next federal election will not give any party a majority. The party with the most seats will likely be asked to try to form a government. But the government will eventually consist of those who are able to form a majority coalition. That means Independent MPs will likely be in a position to determine who the next Prime Minister will be.
    Jody and Jane will almost certainly be among them. Maybe Nunavut should elect the best person possible, rather than trying to pick the winning party.

  8. Posted by Northern Dude on

    Hunter is the biggest disappointment to hit Nunavut in many years. He was Minister of Fisheries in a new Liberal Majority government. One of the few sectors that is booming in the territory. But no he just couldn’t help himself and got kicked out. The shame and embarrassment. He could have done something honorable for once but it is not in his nature. He took his salary and did nothing. Much like his time in Leg. Glad he is out of public life and sure hope that is the last we see of him. I hope he is ashamed on himself, we are.

  9. Posted by Jeff on

    Tootoo will land on his feet in Iqaluit. Ledge will make him a DM of some GN dept. Count on it. As for Leona & MPL…. is that the best NU & the Fed parties can trot out for candidates? F’n sad.

    • Posted by John on

      Jeff you can put your name in the mix if you think you could do better.

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