The selling of the candidate

Election hopefuls get creative


For territorial election candidates in Nunavut, communicating with the voters isn’t as easy as it might look.

For one thing, all candidates run as independents – that’s how Nunavut voters like it.

It means, though, that candidates can’t rely on the collective strength – and money – of an organized political party.

When it comes to paying for things like brochures, signs, buttons, advertisements, office space, and transportation, Nunavut candidates are mostly on their own.

What’s more, Nunavut’s independent candidates have limited access to advertising time on broadcast media, except for four minutes of free time offered to each of Nunavut’s 81 candidates on CBC North radio.

In the South, on the other hand, political parties can use their combined strength to saturate the airwaves with radio and television ads.

As well, Nunavut’s two weekly newspapers are small, and don’t have the space or the time to give detailed coverage to every candidate. Newspaper election ads aren’t cheap either.

Because of that, may newly arrived southerners often conclude that Nunavut elections are “quiet.”

But in this election, candidates were far from quiet. In Iqaluit, they put a lot of energy into finding creative methods of getting their messages across – usually without the help of the media.

Mary Ellen Thomas, for example, found a unique way of communicating the idea that she’s a candidate with a heart, and a strong social conscience. At a Feb. 14 meet-the-candidate event in Iqaluit’s parish hall sponsored by the Northern Territories Federation of Labour, she baked a heart-shaped Valentine’s Day cake and gave away chocolates.

“I think I was able to effectively communicate the issues that I raised,” Thomas said afterward.

At the same event, Norman Ishulutak, a candidate in Iqaluit East, used a different medium to communicate a similar message. He brought a television set and VCR to show a video made by a group of Iqaluit teens with whom he’s been working.

An advocate for more programs targeted toward young people, Ishulutak used the video to do more than just communicate his obvious concern for youth. A well-known musician with the band Uvagut, Ishulutak also used the opportunity to tell people about how he’s been teaching teens how to sing and play.

On the same day, Mike Courtney made tea and bannock inside a big Nunavut-style canvas tent across the street from the Northmart store, conveying the message that he’s a northern man who understands the traditional land-based life of the North.

Courtney wasn’t successful in his bid to oust Hunter Tootoo from the Iqaluit Centre constituency. But his campaign efforts, which included more conventional methods such as the distribution of signs, buttons and brochures, coupled with the grueling work of going door-to-door in -25 temperatures, have encouraged him to stay involved politically.

“I’ve got the bug now. For sure, I’m going to be back and people will be hearing from me again,” Courtney said.

Meanwhile, the three Iqaluit incumbents found that feeding the voters’ stomachs makes it a lot easier to feed their minds.

Iqaluit West incumbent Paul Okalik, along with Tootoo and Iqaluit East incumbent Ed Picco, participated in a pancake breakfast held inside the Northern Lights Café, an event that was broadcast live on Iqaluit’s private radio station, CKIQ.

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