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The voters’ choice


It seems likely now that Conservative leader Stephen Harper will become the next prime minister of Canada, as the head of a shaky, and perhaps short-lived minority government.

Though much can change between now and June 28, opinion polls show that Canadians are turning away in droves from the hapless Paul Martin’s scandal-battered Liberal party. In Quebec, they’re flocking to the Bloc, and in Ontario and the West, they’re flocking to the Tories and the NDP. Some people are even choosing the tiny Green party.

These opinion polls suggest that the Conservatives will win the most seats, but not the 155 they would need to form a majority within the 308-seat House of Commons. But it’s Stephen Harper who will get to choose the cabinet ministers who will run the many federal departments and agencies that are crucial to Nunavut’s welfare, such as the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Department of Finance, the Department of the Environment, Health Canada, Industry Canada, the Department of Canadian Heritage, and HRDC.

All of those departments spend money and wield power in Nunavut – and so will the new Conservative cabinet ministers who Harper will appoint to serve in his government.

This gives Nunavut voters much to think about.

Since 1993, Liberal party supporters in Nunavut have offered one compelling reason for electing a Liberal candidate. Elect a Liberal, they say, and you will have a member with influence in the governing party. Elect a Liberal, they say, and Nunavut will get things that we could not get were we represented by an opposition member.

Now that the Liberals are about to be thrown out, that argument carries no weight – if it ever did.

But does that mean that Nunavut residents should now vote strategically, and cast their ballots in favour of Conservative candidate Duncan Cunningham?

As a former administrator with Inuit organizations and with the Government of Nunavut, Cunningham knows Nunavut’s issues. He’s certainly capable of providing a knowledgeable voice within a Conservative caucus which is anything but knowledgeable.

Cunningham also reminds us that it was the old Progressive Conservative party that negotiated the agreements that brought Nunavut into being, while accusing the Liberal government of failing to carry out the promises that the Tories made on behalf of Canada in 1992 and 1993. So why not vote Tory?

Cunningham, however, does not acknowledge that his Conservative party is now a very different organization, dominated by former Reform and Canadian Alliance activists, some of whom question the very existence of aboriginal rights. Maybe Cunningham can educate his colleagues – or maybe not.

And the Conservative party’s fiscal policies will not win much support in Nunavut. If Stephen Harper becomes prime minister, we can forget about getting an economic development agreement with Ottawa, or more money for social housing.

For Nunavut residents who consider the Tories to be too great a risk for Nunavut, the other two obvious choices are the incumbent, Nancy Karetak-Lindell, and the NDP candidate, Bill Riddell. Those who want to register their displeasure with the Liberal government’s lack of support for social housing and its underfunding of the Nunavut government may find Riddell the best choice for Nunavut.

But despite her party’s misfortunes nationally, Karetak-Lindell is still the likely front-runner in Nunavut. For those who feel that in these uncertain times Nunavut needs a seasoned, Inuktitut-speaking political veteran who knows their way around Parliament Hill, Karetak-Lindell may be the best choice.

As for the two fringe candidates, independent Manitok Thompson and Nedd Kenney of the Greens, any ballots cast for them will be wasted votes – especially if you wish to vote strategically.

Nunavut voters will have a tough decision to make on June 28. But not as tough as the decision that the cash-strapped Nunavut government may have to make if the Harper government survives long enough to bring in its first budget. – JB

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