Three of Nunavut’s federal candidates face off in debate on food security

Nunavummiut will elect a new MP on Oct. 21

From left to right: Liberal candidate Megan Pizzo-Lyall, NDP candidate Mumilaaq Qaqqaq and Conservative candidate Leona Aglukkaq participate in a debate that focused on food security at Iqaluit’s Qajuqturvik Food Centre on Tuesday, Oct. 15. (Photos by Dustin Patar)

By Emma Tranter

After weeks of criss-crossing Canada’s largest riding, three of Nunavut’s federal candidates found themselves in the same room in Iqaluit on Tuesday, Oct. 15.

Conservative candidate Leona Aglukkaq, Liberal candidate Megan Pizzo-Lyall and NDP candidate Mumilaaq Qaqqaq debated Nunavut-specific issues in front of a packed room at the Qajuqturvik Food Centre.

Green Party candidate Douglas Roy was unable to attend.

The debate, attended by more than 60 people, was hosted by the food centre as part of a series of Eat Think Vote events held by Food Secure Canada across the country to discuss income and food security.

Megan Pizzo-Lyall, Nunavut’s Liberal candidate, said the three candidates are examples of what she calls a “triple threat.”

“Educated, Inuk and women,” Pizzo-Lyall said to cheers and applause from the audience.

Each candidate had the opportunity to respond to six questions related to food security.

The audience then had a chance to put their questions to the three candidates.

Throughout the debate, all three candidates often agreed with each other on topics like housing, climate change and food insecurity.

An audience filled the room at Iqaluit’s Qajuqturvik Food Centre on Tuesday, Oct. 15, to watch Conservative candidate Leona Aglukkaq, Liberal candidate Megan Pizzo-Lyall and NDP candidate Mumilaaq Qaqqaq debate Nunavut-specific issues. (Photo by Emma Tranter)

Wade Thorhaug, Qajuqturvik’s executive director and the debate’s moderator, asked each candidate whether Nutrition North was working.

Pizzo-Lyall said the program needs to be improved.

“We can’t just scrap the program. We definitely need to use what we have with it and make sure that we make it better. So, with that said, my solution to this issue would be to increase the amount of communication, consultation and input from the people that it impacts the most, which is in Nunavut,” Pizzo-Lyall said.

Aglukkaq, who was a sitting MP when Nutrition North was created in 2011, said the program is better than what was in place before.

“The food mail program was not perfect. Absolutely not. Nutrition North program is not perfect, but to eliminate the program is not an option…. We have to come up with solutions that will help us better distribute the subsidy available to Nunavummiut,” Aglukkaq said.

Qaqqaq said the NDP will commit to reforming Nutrition North, focusing on “collaboration, not consultation.”

“NDP is committed, and myself, is committed to reforming the program and also to include country and traditional foods that we know are so important, and so valuable in our territory, to be able to support our hunters, to be able to support our communities at a local level, and really decrease food insecurity,” Qaqqaq said.

“Let’s decolonize food. Let’s make seal hunting as regular as eating a burger,” she added.

Candidates were also asked what solutions they saw to creating affordable and accessible housing in the territory.

For Qaqqaq and the NDP, the first step would be to implement a housing strategy co-developed with Inuit.

“This means sustainable and dedicated funding for our remote communities, ensuring that Inuit communities have resources to make homes greener and more energy efficient, to be able to cut costs,” Qaqqaq said.

Qaqqaq also said she would commit to tackling the mould crisis in Nunavut.

“I stayed at some relatives as I was campaigning and you can smell it, people are living in these every day. It’s unacceptable for Canada. Our housing crisis is so unacceptable for Canada, we have too many Inuit and Nunavummiut living in third-world conditions. It’s unacceptable.”

Pizzo-Lyall agreed, adding that the Liberal government already has a plan in place to build more affordable homes.

“In 2017 we introduced funding to increase the number of public housing units across the territory and I also believe we need more. I’m that right person to make sure in Ottawa they know, we deserve more in Nunavut,” Pizzo-Lyall said.

“It will take approximately 60 years to catch up to 4,900 people on the waiting list in Nunavut with the current funding that is in place. That is absolutely unacceptable,” Aglukkaq said.

Asked how they would address climate change as Nunavut’s federal representative, Pizzo-Lyall cited the Liberals’ climate change plan.

“We have a plan to put a price on pollution. We have a plan to be net zero by 2050 with our emissions. And we want … clean oceans, clean lands and clean energy. I have that vision for Nunavut and I wanted to have that chance to implement it,” Pizzo-Lyall said.

Aglukkaq, former minister of environment under Stephen Harper, said she wants to see more collaborative research on climate change with Inuit using IQ principles.

“I worked on setting the Paris targets that are often referred to by the media today. Those were targets I submitted on behalf of Canada. That’s why I also know that carbon tax is not going to lower emissions.… Shipping tax is what I call that because we depend on the sea lift and the airline to the North,” Aglukkaq said.

That comment from Aglukkaq caused Pizzo-Lyall stand up and address the audience.

“Leona keeps referring to a carbon tax and then she’s calling it a shipping tax. Here in Nunavut we are exempt from the carbon pricing on electricity. We’re exempt from the air transportation carbon pricing. Further to that, Nunavut residents get a 50 per cent rebate on top of that so, whatever she keeps talking about, I’m not sure where that’s coming from.”

Qaqqaq said the NDP knows the world is facing a climate crisis.

“Treat it like it is. It’s a crisis, it’s a climate crisis that we face. We have lost hunters, we have lost people,” she said.

“We will invest in Inuit-led science and support the creation of Inuit-managed protected areas,” she added.

Annabella Piugattuk, who attended the debate and asked a question during the open-question segment, said although she had already made up her mind about who she was voting for, she was glad she came.

“I wanted to see what the turnout was going to be and what the responses were going to be,” she said.

“They answered in a way they wanted us to hear, I guess. But Mumilaaq to me had the most straightforward answers.”

For Duncan MacKay, who grew up in Iqaluit, both Qaqqaq and Pizzo-Lyall stood out to him during the debate.

“They sounded very passionate and progressive,” MacKay said.

“I quite enjoyed the format. I think it gave opportunities for the candidates to shine in their respective ways,” he added.

The federal election is on Monday, Oct. 21.

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(44) Comments:

  1. Posted by Voter on

    Mumilaaq had the best night I think. There was one point where Mumilaaq got thunderous applause and the other candidates looked visibly uncomfortable.

    Leona is has a secret crush on the Carbon tax.

    Meghan did well. I just wish she wasn’t running for the Liberals.

    Mumilaaq was the clear winner though. Looking forward to Thursday.

  2. Posted by Jean-Marc P on

    When the 3 candidates were announced it was like whatever. The NDP who I never vote for went with someone too young. I was wrong to think like that. I didn’t expect Mumilaaq to win last nights debate but she surprised me again. I’m voting NDP for the first time.

  3. Posted by Soothsayer on

    What is Inuit led science?

    • Posted by Betty on

      The term Inuit, in my language means people
      The term Inuk, means person

      • Posted by Soothsayer on

        Yes, I am aware of this. Thanks for your efforts, though.

        • Posted by Just science, then? on

          Guess it’s people-led science then, eh Soothsayer?

          • Posted by Soothsayer on

            I guess so! 😉

        • Posted by Patrick on

          There is science, and then there is corporate science. They are not the same.

  4. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    Mumilaaq was plucking feathers out of the air saying things she thinks people want to hear but have no solid foundation. She has a lot more maturing to do before she’s ready for the Federal stage. I don’t know why people always think it’s good to throw in the IQ/Elders/seal/colonization rhetoric it’s used so often it no longer has any meaning to people.. Leona was dead in the water from the get go and spouting more Conservative misinformation. She seems to lackluster I don’t even know why she is running. I’m sticking with Ms. Pizzo-Lyall. She still makes the most sense to me and I am so glad she called Leona out on her misinformation bs.

  5. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    it’s a shame that Megan decided to run Liberal, even if she ran under the Green Party I think She would have gotten more votes.

    Leona will get some of the old school votes, but I think that is it.

    this Election is a coming out party for Mumilaaq. I am finally excited for a strong NDP Candidate and we could finally see a fresh face representing Nunavut. you got this!

    • Posted by Green Voter on

      It’s sad that the Green Party can’t find any decent candidates in Nunavut, they need to put more work into it.

      • Posted by Green on

        There is a candidate for the Green party, he is living in Kimmirut.

    • Posted by Easy Decision on

      You’re right. I went to both debates, and it’s clear we need all need to go NDP now. Instead of someone who is just going toe the line in the Liberal or Conservative parties that have been in office for like two decades, let’s be courageous and go with an inspiring and articulate young Inuk woman who is clearly not afraid to stand up, speak her mind, and advocate for something new.
      You’re right. The NDP. Maybe it’s a risk? But two decades of the other parties have done pretty much nothing. What do we have to lose.
      Mumilaaq – you’ve got this.

  6. Posted by Voter on

    The Liberals have don’t so much more then the last government and Megan did very well, I’m voting Liberal again and continue to move forward.

  7. Posted by Benoit C on

    I’m voting NDP. She was the strongest on the 2 questions I really wanted to hear and was the only candidate that answered the racism question. She didn’t add the word “carbon tax” to every sentence she said.

  8. Posted by Voter2 on

    I agree Mumilaaq seems nice but is too young and inexperienced to be effective in Ottawa as Nunavut MP. We have lots and big issues to grapple with and need a strong advocate.

    Nunavut needs a good MP and while Leona has experience, it didn’t translated into good representation or outcomes for Nunavut.

    Only real choice is Megan. She’ll learn quickly. She will need to remember to be the voice for Nunavut and not simply toe the party line which I think she is capable of. I’m willing to give her a chance to prove herself.

    • Posted by Inua on

      Thats ageism. Megan is also too young.

      • Posted by Beyond Age on

        It’s not so much age but life experience, work experience etc….. Mumilaaq’s sole credential is giving a speech in a mock parliament situation. By comparison Megan started shining at a very young age, won several awards,has been involved in many committees and councils (some on a national and international scale) is well travelled and educated, a lot of volunteerism and has worked in several environments including businesss, the environment/renewable resources, Inuit associations, human resources etc…… she is a very bright, capable woman. She will represent Nunavut well.

      • Posted by Snow Snake on

        Being from Nunavik, born in Nunavut, I think Qaqqaq has a genuine desire to help the people of Nunavut and the NDP has always focused on ordinary Canadians who too often are pushed aside to make room for the so called “influencial” and rich. We see very young people who still seem to be just out of high school in big titled positions they hold as their jobs on t.v. and that doesn’t mean their fit for the jobs they hold but still the NDP seems to offer a fair chance for all Canadians to build this great country of ours. I don’t agree with all their policies but still they seem to be heading for greater…

  9. Posted by Housing on

    Mould is an issue but no new housing has mould. To solve the housing issue you have to hand over housing to people. Maybe with home ownership more care would be taken of ones house. Also its not PC to say but if you have 10 times the national birth rate and most people needing public housing when is family planning going to be identified as a cause to the problem

    • Posted by Real or satire? on

      I agree with this 100%. The mould issue is often and almost certainly related to the lack of care people put into maintaining and caring for their homes (often, though not always I know). If you expect someone else to come fix everything for you all the time then your mindset is part of the problem. Ownership is needed. Also, that there is no talk about birth control or family planning here is a bit surreal. How colonial to question my right to have 6 children, even though I have no stable housing or job! Someone really needs to write a satire about Nunavut.

      • Posted by Housing on

        I know the family planning becomes a colonial issue but it is really a math issue. If you have no house and have 4 kids thats 4 times as many houses needed in 18 years. There are many issues with housing but the sheer numbers mean you will never catch up if the birth rate keeps up. The rent system isn’t working as it is discouraging employment instead of encouraging home ownership. All these are not federal issues. We have to start having real honest conversations (sometimes that means some people will be offended) but to say we need more housing is a simple statement to a complex problem.

        • Posted by iThink on

          I don’t think family planning is a colonial issue, actually. I was making fun of the fact that any critique of the status quo (having an endless string of children without the means is arguably the status quo) is met with fury and the usual response that such opinions are either entirely embedded in privilege or the result of colonialism. This of course mutes any serious discussion about the real issues. It’s a grand farce and needs to be addressed in a good satire. I hope someone writes it and I hope that one day, if no one else does, I do it.

  10. Posted by liberals with the statistical edge on

    Liberals have a slight edge over NDP and Conservatives according to Canada338. Qaqqaq is doing well but if you want to block out a Scheer Government, Pizzo Lyall seems like the smartest pick at the moment.

    Leona is so tone deaf right now with all the carbon tax BS. Every sentence is carbon tax this carbon tax that. The conservatives think this will eventually sway Canadians to think it’s bad but they say it so much that it sounds insane.

    • Posted by Orange Crush on

      Setting up the Liberal party as a savior over the Conservatives got us weak representation the last time. Remember?
      Voting Liberal to block a Scheer government is a stupid idea and if that’s the only reason you can think of to vote for Megan, then you should reconsider your options and stop giving out dumb advice, because that’s a pretty weak argument to vote for her.
      Leona is old news. She’ll go back to Ontario where she lives after she loses the election.
      Qaqqaq and the NDP have my vote.

      • Posted by liberals with the statistical edge on

        I’d gladly the NDP if Qaqqaq was ahead in the polls, but she’s not.

        Here’s a little tip for NDP teamster like yourself: be more inclusive like your candidate to try and lure liberal voters and get off your high horse. Stop calling people dumb and stupid. Like many I’m open to voting NDP if the momentum swings that way. I just want Leona to lose. But so far it hasn’t and people like you aren’t helping because you’re behaving nasty just like every other damn party in this horrible election. NDP has a good image at the moment, but comments like yours are a good reminder that partisan politics are toxic across the board.

        • Posted by Gobble Gobble on

          “Strategic voting”, which is what you’re suggesting you’re going to do, is the way towards more status quo. You vote Liberal this time, as will many others who prefer the NDP platform but are voting strategically. Maybe the Libs win and get 4 more years before the Cons win next time around. Maybe the Cons win and get 1-2 terms before the Libs take over again, and so on, and so on.
          And each election around, there are many people who vote for the Liberals in order not to see a Conservative government, or because the NDP is not a “real competitor” and “your vote won’t count”, but if so many people continue to do this, then we’ll never see the NDP rise to the level of the Libs or Cons as they’ll never be “ahead in the polls” as you say.
          I’m going to vote strategically and vote for the NDP. Because of people like me, we may see a Conservative government for the next 4 years, but if more people vote strategically in the way I do, looking at the long run, we’ll see NDP popularity rise to become a real competitor for leadership in the future.

          • Posted by liberals with the statistical edge on

            Strategic voting at the riding level, not the federal level. I vote for the candidate that’s most likely to block Leona from winning. If I think the NDP are ahead of the Liberals on voting day, then I vote for them. A liberal minority with NDP representation in Nunavut would be fine with me.

            But as it stands I don’t think that will happen. Pizzo Lyall appears to have the inside edge.

            • Posted by Orange Crush on

              You called Leona a bunch of names. You are voting for Megan because you don’t want Leona to win and you’re calling me toxic. Innaresting.
              The poll that you are claiming shows that Megan is statistically more likely to beat Leona is actually showing that the candidates are virtually neck and neck and the riding is a toss up. Meaning that Qaqqasiq is equally as likely to beat your foe. But you already know that, don’t you?


        • Posted by Hmmm on

          Ah, I was wondering when these desperate Liberal scare tactics would surface. Every election, right? Campaign like the NDP (promise electoral reform, etc.), and govern like the Conservatives (pipelines, take Indigenous kids to court, totally useless climate plans, etc.).
          Hard no, pal.

          • Posted by liberals with the statistical edge on

            I align much closer to the NDP’s policies, pal. But the differences in policies between NDP and Liberal are secondary to me. Climate change denial is the main reason why I will vote strategically to stop the Conservatives from forming a government. Are the liberals doing enough to fight climate change? No. But they’re moving in the right direction and I hope to see them work with the NDP and Greens in order to for Canada to be a leader in clean energy.

            • Posted by Hmmm on

              Pal, while I’m on board with your hopes for collaboration, you’re giving the Liberals way too much credit. On climate they’re really not that different than the Conservatives. Their targets (from the Harper days) are exactly the same. They both support the Paris accords. They both buy and promote pipelines. Their climate plans are ineffective, and they still won’t even meet those.
              This is a time-tested Liberal move: during the election scream about how backward the Tories are (climate change deniers! ) and but then essentially deliver a conservative government.

  11. Posted by Easy Choice on

    The back-and-forth between the Liberals and Conservatives has brought us to the situation in which we are. It’s pretty rich to read about Leona and Megan’s thoughts regarding housing, food insecurity, etc. as it THEIR GOVERNMENTS that are responsible for where we are right now. Those parties have had decades to fix the situation but they have not. They have had multiple opportunities to make things better, but they have not. Most of the things people were saying about Nunavut twenty years ago can still be said today.
    Voting Liberal/Conservative is essentially a conservative position that embraces the status quo we’ve been experiencing for way too long.
    Vote NDP. Let’s shake things up!

    • Posted by Reality Bites on

      I hope the NDP candidate wins just so you can see that they will make no difference to these issues either.

  12. Posted by Undecided Voter on

    As an undecided voter, after watching the Candidates forum last night I noticed that 1 of the 4 candidates stood out to me. They stood out because they spoke with passion. In contrast to the other candidates they also didn’t seem to be reading from a script most of the time and they spoke with confidence. This got me to thinking, maybe we don’t need a seasoned veteran (Leona), maybe we need someone who can speak powerfully enough with passion and confidence, one who has the ability to voice our concerns in a way that moves people. They may not need to be experienced, they may be young and naïve, but if they can use their passion and public speaking abilities to voice our concerns to the country in a way that touches the hearts and minds of Canadians maybe they can actually be more effective in sparking change.

    What we don’t need is another politician who tows the party line and sits silent in Ottawa after they become elected, that’s all Nunavut’s ever really had. I think it time for change.

    • Posted by iThink on

      Dear undecided voter, they all tow the party line, eventually… or they lose standing among their peers. The ability to speak with passion, combined with naivete (both qualities you have assigned here, not me) is nothing to be desired. In fact its the stuff of tyrants, fools, and demagogues.

      • Posted by Knockout Ned on

        Like Obama?

        • Posted by Undecided Voter on

          While your assessment of my comment could be correct in some instances it also could be false in many other instances. Like almost anything Passion can be an energy used for positive change or negative change. If you look at successful people in business, sports, etc. one thing they usually have in common is passion. The attitude of discounting passion and assuming that it is solely a trait of tyrants, fools, and demagogues, and is not something to be desired is a foolish statement to begin with.

          iThink you should think again! 🙂

          • Posted by iThink on

            You’d be correct if passion was the only variable under consideration, don’t forget we’re including naivete in this mix (you picked these qualities, remember). Think again, indeed.

            • Posted by Undecided Voter on

              iThink you misread my comment and jumped the gun. I did not say that they are definitively naïve, I said they may be naïve. And if they are indeed naïve, it does not mean they lack the skills or attributes to overcome that lack of experience, judgement, or wisdom, in order to become a successful leader. After all everybody starts somewhere and we learn as we experience. We have all been naïve in one way or another during our lifetime. For you to conclude that someone who is passionate, possibly naïve, and lacking experience is nothing to be desired and is a tyrant, fool, and/or demagogue just goes to show that you are close minded, ignorant, and unable to accept that your comment may be wrong.

              • Posted by iThink on

                Allow me to clarify my thoughts on this, as I have probably been insufficiently clear. You seem to suggest that passion and good public speaking skills are fundamentally good and sufficient qualities for an agent of political change. You also hint that despite a lack of experience and some added naivete, passion alone may be more the more effective tools to get things done. To that I would urge a lot of caution, and even throw up a red flag. Passion is a good quality to have and it is desirable in a politician, but it is not only insufficient, on its own it and without the guidance of knowledge and experience it very often has deleterious effects.

                Also, your suggestion that an elected individual can just learn on the go, and that will be normal and fine is partly true. We all learn and make progress in life through our work or studies. But it seems fair to ask, why should we settle for a beginner to represent us in such an important position? I would rather vote for someone who has more accumulated knowledge of the world, who has worked in government or in a large corporation, who has served on boards or councils, who has proven themselves effective in those environments. Why should we be satisfied to consider the Member of Parliament position as an entry level one? Youth and lack experience aren’t flaws, but their passion alone can be a rudderless ship, easily manipulated.

                As to your comments about my ignorance and closed mindedness, I must confess I find these unfortunate and disappointing coming from a person of such insight and towering intellect as yourself. I really did expect more. #BeBetter

    • Posted by Doh! on

      If you don’t want to represent the party platform then you need to run as an independent.

  13. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    Poll aggregates show the Liberals likely to pull through with at least a minority government. It would be wise for Nunavut to go with the Liberals because not only is Pizzo-Lyall a great candidate for Nunavut, electoral history has demonstrated that Nunavut benefits far more greatly when the MP is a member of the governing party.

  14. Posted by James R on

    After going to both debates and watching the same candidate win both debates and last night the other 2 weren’t even half as good. I’ve decided to vote for the young lady that’s in a league of her own. Well done Mumilaaq! You hit a homerun with your campaign and delivered every chance you got. Can’t believe I’m voting for the NDP and someone my age.

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