Nunavut votes: Aivilik incumbent seeks to fend off 4 challengers
Patterk Netser up against Johnny Ningeongan, Lucassie Nakoolak, Solomon Malliki and Helena Malliki
In the lead-up to the Oct. 25 territorial elections, Nunatsiaq News is publishing snapshots of the races. Look for articles with “Nunavut votes” in the headline.
MLA incumbent Patterk Netser faces a barrage of contenders looking to nab his seat within the riding of Aivilik.
Aivilik is the riding for Coral Harbour, which has a population of about 970, and Naujaat, which has a population of about 1,270.
Netser, 62, has served as the riding’s MLA since 2017. He previously served as MLA of the old riding of Nanulik from 2004 to 2008.
Netser was minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corp. and Nunavut Arctic College until he was stripped of these duties and removed from cabinet in October 2020 due to controversial comments he made about the Black Lives Matter movement and abortion.
An emailed statement from Netser said he is focused on addressing the housing shortage and aging community infrastructure.
“This is ongoing and unless Nunavut receives a huge influx of sufficient funding from the federal government, we will remain stagnant,” he wrote. “Certainly my riding Aivilik is in need of infrastructure.… We need to be part of the growth.”
Netser said he would also advocate for a new health centre in Coral Harbour and a proper docking facility in Naujaat. He also hopes to be a strong voice on the devolution file, adding that local residents can benefit from jobs and offices turned over to the Government of Nunavut from the federal government.
Former MLA Johnny Ningeongan, 71, said that more housing, culturally appropriate health care and mental health supports and improved care for elders are his top priorities if elected.
He also said he would like to create specific incentives to support hunters, seamstresses and artists.
“I think I have the experience and knowledge to help build a more positive future,” he said. “Most times it seems like we have cloudy days… There’s a way to expect the sun will come out again — with a change of plan.”
Ningeongan was Nanulik’s MLA from 2008 until 2013. He was also mayor of Coral Harbour for 10 years and has served as president of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities.
Lucassie Nakoolak, 70, is also a past mayor of Coral Harbour, for seven years in the 1970s and 1980s. He said he would push for more housing units, paved roads and proper equipment for search and rescue workers on boats.
But better care for elders, he said, is his top priority, so that those who need specialized care don’t need to be sent to southern Canada.
“We cannot send our elders to somewhere else where they don’t know the town or city,” he said. “Nobody in Nunavut agrees with this.… We have to find a way so they don’t have to leave.”
Solomon Malliki, 38, is a former mayor of Naujaat and owner of Arctic Wilderness Guiding and Outfitting. He is also keen to create a better solution for elders and others who have to travel to receive medical care. He said he was asked by a group of elders to run in the election.
“When an elder believes in you and asks that question it’s not something that you argue with,” he said. “I want to make sure the community is heard.”
He said it would be beneficial to have more income supports and translators who accompany elders during medical travel. He’s also concerned about housing shortages and suicide rates. Malliki said he would like to see more culturally appropriate mental health supports that would accommodate unilingual Inuit and help them better navigate their struggles.
Helena Malliki, 56, aunt to Solomon, is Naujaat’s director at the Kivalliq Inuit Association. She said she hopes to be a strong voice for economic development in the territory if elected.
“We have so many opportunities for economic development and tourism, sport hunting, carving, local businesses,” she said. “We are not doing enough to promote the beauty of our land and animals.”
Malliki said she would ask for a review of the rent scale in social housing and current income supports. She would like to see more Inuit workers in health and mental health, including midwives so childbearing women have the choice to stay at home. She said she would push government to take a stronger approach to implement land claim agreements and collaborate with mining companies to ensure the land is preserved for future generations.