Nunavut’s MP schools her colleagues on Nunavut
Nancy Karetak-Lindell, Nunavut’s newly-elected MP, says informing Canada’s 300 MPs about Nunavut is a full-time job.
IQALUIT She’s been on Parliament Hill for only two short months.
But Nancy Karetak-Lindell, Nunavut’s new Liberal MP, is finding that educating her colleagues about Nunavut and the people who live here is already a full-time job.
“I have to give very basic information about how large my riding is, where it extends from… just the geographical information,” she says as she takes a break in an Iqaluit restaurant. “That alone is a learning experience for a lot of them.”
She says her colleagues the other 300 members of Parliament elected last June are nonetheless inquisitive about the North and the developments leading towards division of the NWT and the creation of Nunavut.
“It’s a really big piece of news as far as I’m concerned,” Nunavut’s new MP says. “We’re creating history. We’re creating a new territory and people are excited about it.”
The former Arviat hamlet councillor adds, though, she’s already had to defend her riding, especially when people learn that the Nunavut riding has only about 26,000 residents, yet takes a huge amount of federal money to pay for.
“Right away I have to tell them my riding is so large it has three time zones in it.”
She’ll have to convince any skeptics, because Karetak-Lindell will need the support of those colleagues when the Nunavut Act is opened up for changes that must be made before April 1, 1999.
First Baffin visit
Karetak-Lindell was in Iqaluit last week with Ottawa’s new Indian affairs minister, Jane Stewart. Nunavut’s capital is the first Baffin stop for her since her swearing-in last June.
“As far as real constituency visits, I’ve done about three.”
She attended a meeting in Baker Lake, a high school graduation in Rankin inlet and spent some time in her home community of Arviat. Those communities are in the Keewatin region, the area where Karetak-Lindell showed the strongest results in the June 2 federal election.
She says she’s eager to visit more communities, but doesn’t see that happening for several months, especially since Parliament just opened this week. Governor-General Romeo Leblanc read the new government’s throne speech this Tuesday.
“It will be very difficult to travel while the House is sitting,” Karetak-Lindell said.
In the meantime, she’ll be sending out a constituency newletter to tell people about what’s she’s doing in Ottawa. Information about how to contact her at either her Ottawa or Arviat offices has already been sent out to communities.
“We were faxing it everywhere and anywhere,” she said about the list of her office phone numbers. “We’re trying very hard to make sure anyone who wants to can get a hold of us.”
Karetak-Lindell doesn’t have an office in Iqaluit and she’s not sure whether or not she’ll be able to afford to pay for one in Nunavut’s capital.
“It’s also more a budgetary matter,” she added, “whether I have it within my budget to do that. It’s hard to know whether I’ll need one more person in my Ottawa office.”
Wants communication with constituents
Karetak-Lindell wants her constituents to keep her on the right track about issues that concern them.
“You cannot do the job unless people communicate with you and let you know what they want you to do. It’s like going through school and never getting a report card.”
Karetak-Lindell is a rookie on the Hill and said it will take a while for her to settle in fact, she’s still looking for an Ottawa apartment but she’s ready to fight on behalf of Nunavut residents.
One issue she’s monitoring is the battle between her government’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. over the role and powers of the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board.
“It’s kind of attacking the fundamental part of the land claim,” she said about the on-going court battle over turbot quotas in Davis Strait.
“That has very serious consequences,” she said. “When I get direct requests by NWMB or NTI to pursue certain things then that’s where we’ll take it. Right now, we’re waiting to see what happens.”