Nunavut repudiates the Liberals

On the questions that matter most, the Liberals had little to offer

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq’s victory on Oct. 21 represents a repudiation of Liberal policy in Nunavut and the Arctic. (File photo)

By Jim Bell

Remember all those Liberal announcements? Announcement after announcement after announcement. More than we or any of you can possibly remember.

And that doesn’t matter, because as most Nunavut voters demonstrated on Oct. 21, they signified nothing.

From 2015 onwards, Justin Trudeau and other members of the Liberal government have showered Nunavut with announcements. A few of those announcements even offered things that were new.

But in the end, the people of Nunavut said “no thanks.” In the end, they turned to the party that, since 1961, Canadians have often turned to when they want to protest the status quo: the New Democrats.

Young Mumilaaq Qaqqaq’s upset victory represents a rejection of Trudeau’s approach to Arctic and northern Canada, which includes a repudiation of the much-talked-about Inuit-Crown partnership.

Since 2015, Trudeau has built relationships with the elite office holders at organizations like Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and others.

But this week’s election result shows that for ordinary Nunavummiut, the Inuit-Crown partnership is so far mostly irrelevant.

And that’s not surprising, because, in the end, on the big questions that matter most to Nunavummiut, the Liberals had little to offer.

It’s well-known that for most people in Nunavut, the top issues are economic and social: the perennial shortage of housing, poverty, the cost of store-bought food and air fares, the prevalence of deadly diseases like tuberculosis, and the everyday reality of suicide.

But on his last visit to Nunavut, this past Oct. 8, Trudeau brought no convincing messages on those issues.

He used the landscape of south Baffin to talk about climate change and conservation. Those are critical issues for all Canadians, but in this election, it’s issues like housing and the cost of living that Nunavut residents wanted answers for.

Instead, Trudeau turned the picturesque valley of the Sylvia Grinnell River into a vast studio for use in a video shoot aimed, not at Nunavut voters, but at southern Canadians.

In doing so, he failed to respond to the suffering of Nunavummiut and he badly failed Nunavut’s highly promising Liberal candidate, Megan Pizzo-Lyall, who deserved better support from her party leader.

On food prices and malnutrition, the Liberals have actually acted, creating a special higher-level subsidy for the Nutrition North Canada program, as well as putting more money, $12.5 million a year, into a fund for Indigenous harvesters in Nunavut and other northern regions.

But the harvesting money has yet to materialize and no one, so far, has been able to explain why.

And this past Aug. 1, Trudeau made a big splash in Iqaluit and in Arctic Bay, when he sealed a deal to create the Tallurutiup Imanga marine protected area and promised the creation of a new protected area called Tuvaijuittuq. In doing so, he showered millions on the communities of north Baffin, for small harbours and conservation-related jobs. He also pushed conservation as a way to achieve reconciliation with Indigenous people.

The problem with that approach is this: when you’re coughing your lungs out with tuberculosis inside a badly overcrowded house, the term “reconciliation” doesn’t mean much.

Speaking of which, remember the Liberal government’s major announcement about TB? That was early in 2018, when Jane Philpott, then the national health minister, promised to eliminate the disease from Inuit Nunangat by 2030.

But Philpott, the federal minister who took personal charge of that file and made that promise, is gone. Disgusted by Trudeau’s treatment of former justice minister Jody Wilson Raybould and by his unethical interference in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, Philpott quit cabinet.

Since then, the Liberals have been mostly silent on the elimination of tuberculosis. Like the harvesting fund, it appears to be stuck somewhere inside the Inuit-Crown partnership. This suggests that their bold anti-TB promise is now in jeopardy.

And as everyone knows, TB is a disease of poverty, related directly to poor nutrition and poor housing. But on housing, Trudeau offered only a re-heated re-announcement this past summer. And his government’s National Inuit Housing Strategy, “co-developed” with ITK, offers little hope for concrete action.

We extend our congratulations to Mumilaaq Qaqqaq for her impressive victory. As a new member of the fourth-largest party in the House of Commons, she’ll need much support to ensure her voice is heard. Nunavummiut should give her the benefit of the doubt and make sure she gets that support.

Qaqqaq defeated two highly talented opponents, Leona Aglukkaq and Megan Pizzo-Lyall. We hope defeat does not deter either of those two women from offering continued service to Nunavut and the Arctic. JB

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(18) Comments:

  1. Posted by Onward on

    Perhaps that endless stream of Liberal announcements in the pre-election period backfired? People know when they’re being manipulated, pandered to, and presented with commitments that have been made previously.
    Either way, some of the final thoughts in this editorial are a necessary reminder: “As a new member of the fourth-largest party in the House of Commons, she’ll need much support to ensure her voice is heard. Nunavummiut should give her the benefit of the doubt and make sure she gets that support.”
    This is a wonderful win for Mumilaaq. I’m in. Considering the unique challenges facing our territory, let’s all be in.

  2. Posted by Woke Olympics on

    Very important to observe that all the woke platitudes and the recitation of rote progressive koans – “reconciliation” – amount to nothing when no real action is taken on what are actual and measurable problems. This has certainly been part the of map of Trudeau governance. It is also the stuff the breeds cynicism, and for that it is a disgrace.

    • Posted by Oh ima on

      Err!! Big words you must be really edugimaked!!

      • Posted by Woke Olympics on

        Yes, and it seems that bothers you and makes you feel insecure. Ask yourself, is mockery of an educated person the example you want to set for young Inuit? If you are unable, or unconcerned to speak in those terms that’s your issue, but don’t contribute to the acceptability that these are somehow lesser qualities worthy of derision, there’s no future in ignorance for any of us.

        • Posted by Oh ima on

          Holy smokes

  3. Posted by Switched my Vote on

    The liberals had my vote, but the constant barrage of emails, announcements, and empty promises made me switch it at the polls. Good luck NDP! and good luck Mumilaaq!

  4. Posted by Klaus Kleinschmidt on

    Mumilaaq Qaqqaq pilluarit sulilluarina 🙂

  5. Posted by Northern Guy on

    This is what happens when a political party engages with the likes of ITK and not the territories and regions directly. Money for TB, money for reconciliation, money for harvesters ends up enriching the coffers of an Ottawa-based organization to the detriment of the people it was designed to help. Shameful really

    • Posted by Ms.Tupak on

      Trudeau think ITK is the Government of Nunavut and ITK makes him believe it. I totally agree with you Northern Guy.

      Great work Jim! I wish it was said in Inuktitut on CBC.

  6. Posted by Piitaqanngi on

    The Inuit-Crown partnership is a way for Trudeau to avoid accountability for Inuit. The Inuit Orgs have shown time and time again they so easily give in to Liberal promises.
    Trudeau will will now have to work with the Nunavut MP not push his agenda to her. Inuit Orgs should get behind the new MP and relinquish the partnership. Voters have shown we don’t agree with that futile attempt at reconciliation.

  7. Posted by They were warned on

    Great editorial.

    A few years back, when this Inuit-Crown Partnership was announced, Natan and (then NTI President) Cathy were warned about buying into the hype.

    They were warned that the Liberals like to rely on pomp, ceremony, committees, and other superfluous contrivances to delay, defer, and deny.

    It took the Inuit-Crown Partnership something like 9 months to “recognize” housing as a priority for Inuit Nunangat. Look it up, it’s in the Nunatsiaq archives. Carolyn Bennett sitting in the NTI Boardroom, acknowledging something every conscious Nunavut resident has known for decades. 9 months.

    They were warned that when they sit at a table with the Liberals, they should take care not to become Liberals.

    I know they were warned because I was one of the few people warning them.

    Maybe now they’ll listen. Better late than never.

  8. Posted by Cynical in Sanikiluaq on

    Long story short: Nunavut once again shirks the blame for our own problems. NU screams for money, Feds send money, nobody here knows what to do with the money. Give the money to the GN = orgs complain that “bureaucrats waste it”. Give it to the orgs = “media complains they are lining the pockets of the rich. The only solution we ever come up with, seems to be: build unlimited housing for us until the end of time and pay for our food. And if you don’t fix all our problems in 4 years, we will tear it all down and vote for someone else.

  9. Posted by Snow Snake on

    Another NS, Algonquin grad with big dreams and likely never participated in municipal politics……Good luck though

    • Posted by OH IMA on

      she’ll do great, she was not afraid to speak on issues that affect most Inuit in Nunavut, such as systemic discrimination towards Inuit within education,, employment and economic opportunities, justice system and issue mental health, loss of language that it really generated discussion. She may not have the southern education system behind her but again lot of transient don’t have any clue or understand of realities of Inuit life. I rather have her represent us as she understands our plight, she lives it every day.

  10. Posted by KeithMC on

    Whom are we kidding here? The majority of people never vote based on party or platform in Nunavut, it goes by individuals. If Jordin Tootoo runs with the Green party he will win!

    • Posted by North Baffiner on

      You show your “liberal” roots… No way no how would Jordin Tootoo win… it is not always about the “candidate” but what triggers your “green ham and eggs” bullshit meter.
      All Inuit elitist organizations have lost every ounce of respect, as all we see are money-grubbing politicians and their Qallunaat money “servants”. An example is QIA; all they want is the almighty dollar and it is now all about hoodwinking the masses into believing they are representing us, while acting like the third-world dictators with their hands in the federal coffers.

  11. Posted by Withheld on

    I agree with the reference that Trudeau has built relationships with elite office holders. I have little regard toward ITK and ICC. It is a handful of elected regional leaders who vote for President level positions within each Inuit organization & don’t get me started on how Pauktuutit’s board is formed. As for KIA, KIA, QIA, NTI, IRC, Makivak, Nunatsiavut, that’s where every community level Inuk is voting directly for representatives (as long as you live in the territory for most land claims).

    As for reference to “the ordinary Nunavummiut” let us remember that Nunavummiut voters are Inuit and non-Inuit alike. My guess is that more non-Inuit voted in the federal election. And quite frankly, all the issues being raised in the editorial affect Inuit more drastically than non-Inuit, who have the luxury of jobs & housing and are able to sealift, Amazon, eat healthy and stay away from poverty stricken diseases like TB.

    Speaking of TB, it may come from poverty conditions, but it certainly is highly contagious, and if the source sufferer isn’t smart about treatment, any contact could affect anyone who doesn’t live in overcrowding conditions etc. I recall a nurse saying she pulled a patron out of a watering hole because s/he knew they had TB.

    Trudeau might have flown here in the party’s jet, and Bennett flew to Iqaluit on her own dime. Did Singh fly to Nunavut? From what is seen on social media, there has been tags since Mumilaaq won, but I don’t see any replies. In fact, I heard Ottawa Morning on CBC Radio One where she was interviewed, saying she doesn’t know how or when she will fly to Ottawa to assume her role as our MP. Does this mean no one in the NDP party called her to give her these details prior to her interview? Embarassing to the NDP party.

    Each political party is just that, a political party. Yes the Liberals have been quiet about the harvesters program, but they announced it, and now that they are back in the seat, they will be able to follow through on it. When someone mentioned the deep sea port, how it was the Conservatives that committed to it, it still remains true that the Liberals are delivering on it. Heck, Iqaluit is reminded of this almost every single day when Iqaluit has open water with the blasts that people post on social media.

    Lastly, I want to thank Jim Bell for NOT mentioning Mumilaaq’s traditional inspired tattoos & for not focusing on her youth. White savior types in the south of Canada, and white media and white institutions are fixated on these aspects of her. She is more than that, or I hope she is. At least we are rid of Hunter. I think the Liberals underestimated and did not focus enough sine he was ousted, on the fact that the Liberal name to Nunavut households needs to be mended badly. I hope she has a chance in Ottawa, of course I do, I want the best for Nunavut and our future.

  12. Posted by Voter on

    I hope we will not be left out now that Nunavut did not vote in a Liberal, Liberals spent more on Nunavut in the last 4 years then what the Cons did in their two terms.

    If we had elected a Liberal that person would have had a easier opportunity to meet with the PM and Ministers to lobby for more funding for Nunavut, now we will have someone on the other side passionately lobbying for Nunavut. I don’t think it will be as effective when you have a opposing party asking for things. Time will tell.

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