Who’s in — and out — as election looms
At least three MLAs decide to stay out of race
With its, darkened offices, and its morgue-like silence broken only by the ringing of unanswered phones, Nunavut’s legislative building is not a happening place at this time of year.
Most cabinet ministers and MLAs flew out of Iqaluit as fast they could after the sixth session of the legislative assembly ended two weeks ago, to grab some Christmas vacation time with their families and neighbours.
With a writ of election due to be issued in less than four weeks, political activity in Nunavut is moving back to the grassroots — to the coffee shops, community halls, local radio stations and households all over Nunavut.
Nominations will be accepted from Jan. 12 until 2 p.m. on Jan 16. The vote will be held Feb. 16.
Here’s a survey of who’s running, who’s not, and which MLAs have yet to declare their intentions.
So far, no candidates have stepped forward in Nunavut’s only cross-regional constituency, Akulliq, which takes in the Kitikmeot community of Kuugaruk and the Kivalliq community of Repulse Bay.
The incumbent, Ovide Alakannuark, won the seat by a 25-vote margin over Steve Mapsalak, the mayor of Repulse Bay.
Alakannuark has yet to announce if he will seek re-election, but there is widespread speculation that he might decide to retire.
However, in the last week of the legislative assembly he raised a longstanding issue for the people of Repulse Bay — the lack of a community centre for youth.
“The youth are the ones suffering due to the lack of a community centre and it is my wish to ensure this is provided for by the next government,” Alakannuark said.
Enoki Irqittuq of Hall Beach is expected to run again in Ammituq, despite widespread dissatisfaction with his work in Igloolik, the other community that he represents.
Igloolik residents have complained that Irqittuq holds few constituency meetings in their community and doesn’t communicate with them.
Irqittuq was the beneficiary of a classic Nunavut vote-split when he won in 1999. The only candidate from Hall Beach, Irqittuq defeated four Igloolik candidates who split the Igloolik vote among themselves.
No other candidates have stepped forward yet to announce their candidacy in Ammituq, but it’s expected that at least one or two Igloolik-based candidates will challenge Irqittuq for the seat.
The veteran MLA Kevin O’Brien has yet to announce whether he will seek re-election in Arviat next February.
O’Brien, who represented Arviat and Baker Lake in the Northwest Territories legislature between 1995 and 1999, defeated Kono Tattuinee in the last election.
No other candidates have stepped forward yet in Arviat.
The people of Baker Lake, who are preparing for the development of the $250-million Meadowbank gold mine 70 km north of their community, will be represented by a new MLA in the next assembly.
The incumbent, Glenn McLean, says he’s leaving politics to spend more time with his family, and to look for a job in the private sector.
No other candidates have stepped forward.
Keith Peterson, the former president of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities, will run for the Cambridge Bay seat in February.
Keith Peterson, Cambridge Bay’s well-known ex-mayor, will make a bid this February to succeed Kelvin Ng as the community’s MLA.
Peterson, a former president of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities, announced this fall he would not contest the mayoral election in Cambridge Bay, to leave himself free to run for the assembly seat.
Ng, who easily defeated Mike O’Gorman, Wilf Wilcox and Beatrice Bernhardt in 1999, will leave politics to spend more time with his family in Yellowknife.
No one else in Cambridge Bay has declared an intention to challenge Peterson for the MLA’s job.
Peter Kattuk, the incumbent MLA for Hudson Bay, has made no public announcements yet, and has not returned phone messages left by Nunatsiaq News.
In 1999, Kattuk, a former mayor of Sanikiluaq, defeated Moses Appaqaq Jr. to win the seat, which is Nunavut’s smallest by population.
Peter Kattuk, a former mayor of Sanikiluaq, has made no public announcements about his re-election plans.
The incumbent, Hunter Tootoo, will seek re-election this February in Iqaluit Centre, a seat that he won easily in 1999.
Tootoo is known for his persistent questioning of cabinet ministers on issues like financial management, daycare, education, contracting policies, and labour relations.
A one-time employee of Arctic Cooperatives Ltd. and an NDP candidate for Nunatsiaq in 1997, Tootoo is likely to win the support of Iqaluit’s public service unions.
No other candidates have announced plans to challenge Tootoo.
Hunter Tootoo won Iqaluit Centre in 1999.
Ed Picco says there still much work to do, and he hopes to return for another term in Iqaluit East.
After talking with his family, Ed Picco decided just last week that he will seek re-election in Iqaluit East, a seat that he won by defeating Natsiq Kango in 1999.
“Over the past four years I’ve had the opportunity to be at the forefront of a lot of the initiatives that have occurred in government, and a lot of good things, such as the new hospital facilities, and the nursing program…. There has been a huge amount of stuff done, but I think there is a lot of other work to be done in the future.”
Though Picco said he doesn’t want to give away his entire campaign, he said he wants to talk about education issues, and the new opportunities for Nunavut created by the presence of a new prime minister and new DIAND minister in Ottawa.
The Iqaluit East seat takes in Apex, Tundra Valley, Happy Valley, and the subdivisions off the Road to Nowhere. No other candidates have stepped forward yet to challenge Picco for the seat.
Incumbent MLA Paul Okalik, who represents one of the most socially diverse constituencies in Nunavut, has said for the past year that he will seek re-election this February.
“It has been a wonderful four years,” Okalik said.
If elected, Okalik will once again seek the premier’s job, saying he wants to continue the work he started in his first term. Nunavut’s only Inuk lawyer, Okalik may also be a shoo-in again for the justice portfolio in the next government.
Iqaluit West takes in Lower Base and a section of downtown Iqaluit. No one else has announced plans to run against Okalik.
Donald Havioyak, who won Kugluktuk in 1999 by a margin of only six votes over Ida Ayalik-McWilliams, said last week that he will seek re-election in February.
Havioyak, the only Inuinnaqtun-speaking member of the first assembly, briefly served as minister of culture, language, elders and youth in 1999, but resigned from cabinet to spend more time in his constituency.
Patterk Netser won the September by-election in Nanulik by just seven votes.
Nanulik’s incumbent MLA, Patterk Netser of Coral Harbour, will seek re-election in February after being on the job for only three months.
Netser took the seat by a paper-thin, seven-vote decision over George Tanuyak of Chesterfield Inlet, in a by-election held Sept. 2, 2003.
The result became official only after a judicial recount. The by-election was held to replace James Arvaluk, who resigned after being convicted of assaulting his ex-girlfriend.
Incumbent Uriash Puqiqnaq, a former mayor of Gjoa Haven, has yet to announce if he will seek re-election, but there is speculation that he might step down to spend more time with his family.
“I have left my wife and my children for long lengths of time,” he told fellow MLAs during the assembly’s last sitting. “I have had no choice but to come to the meetings to here, to Iqaluit, and to other places as a member of the legislature.”
In 1999, Puqiqnaq defeated five other candidates to win Nattilik, which is made up of the eastern Kitikmeot communities of Taloyoak and Gjoa Haven.
Peter Kilabuk of Pangnirtung has yet to announce his election plans.
The incumbent MLA for Pangnirtung, Peter Kilabuk, has not said what he plans to do in February, and he has not returned telephone messages left by Nunatsiaq News.
Kilabuk defeated five other people to win the Pangnirtung seat in 1999.
Rebecca Williams said she’s still deciding whether to run.
The incumbent MLA for Quttiktuq, Rebecca Williams, said this month that she’s not ready to announce if she’ll run this February.
Williams defeated seven other candidates to take the seat in a by-election held in December 2000 to replace Levi Barnabas, who won the seat in 1999.
Barnabas, who was elected Speaker in 1999, resigned the seat after he pleaded guilty to a charge of sexually assaulting an Iqaluit woman in March 2000.
Barnabas, who ran and finished third in the by-election with a strong showing in the Arctic Bay poll despite his criminal conviction, may consider another run at the job, but has yet to make a public announcement.
Quttiktuq takes in the communities of Arctic Bay, Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord.
Tagak Curley may be in the running for the Rankin Inlet North seat vacated by Jack Anawak.
Rankin Inlet North
With incumbent MLA Jack Anawak’s recent appointment as Canada’s circumpolar ambassador, the residents of Rankin Inlet North will get a new MLA after the Feb. 16 election.
Potential candidates include Tagak Curley, who said this fall that he is seriously considering a run for the legislative assembly. If elected, Curley would seek the premier’s job and try to amend Nunavut’s human rights law to remove the words referring to sexual orientation as a ground for discrimination.
Curley has recently cooperated with the socially conservative lobby group Real Women in opposing gay rights and same-sex marriage.
Another candidate to watch in Rankin Inlet North is the current mayor, Lorne Kusugak, who finished a strong third in the 1999 election.
During a cabinet shuffle this year, Manitok Thompson, MLA for Rankin Inlet South-Whale Cove, said she’ll always run, as long as she’s able.
Rankin Inlet South-Whale Cove
Manitok Thompson, another strong opponent of gay rights and same-sex marriage, will seek re-election in Rankin Inlet South-Whale Cove.
Thompson won the seat in 1999 by a slim 13-vote margin over a former mayor of Rankin Inlet, Lavinia Brown. Brown is another potential candidate to watch for in Rankin Inlet.
Olayuk Akesuk rose to victory in South Baffin in 1999, over the late Goo Arlooktoo.
Olayuk Akesuk of Cape Dorset will seek re-election in South Baffin, after telling his fellow MLAs that he’s learned a lot over the past four years.
“It was very hard at first for me in the beginning, but now I can confidently stand up and be more prepared to what I am going to say. I am still learning, it is a learning process,” he said in the assembly during its final days.
“I thank my constituents for their ongoing support. I will be running in the next election if I am able to.”
In the 1999 election, Akesuk, of Cape Dorset was a giant-killer, defeating the late Goo Arlooktoo, a prominent NWT cabinet minister, in a surprising upset victory.
South Baffin takes in Cape Dorset and Kimmirut. No other candidates there have stepped forward yet.
Jobie Nutarak, who defeated four other people to win the Tununiq seat in 1999, has announced that he will run again next February.
“As soon as someone signs nominations forms for me, I have made up my mind to run again. Yes, I definitely want to run again,” Nutarak told Nunatsiaq News.
The Tununiq constituency takes in the community of Pond Inlet.
The incumbent MLA for Uqqummiut, David Iqaqrialu, won his seat in 1999 by defeating two former MLAs, Tommy Enuraraq and Pauloosie Paniloo.
Iqaqrialu said that after consulting his wife and children, he will seek re-election in February.
“In my campaign I will voice what Inuit want. There are plenty of issues that need addressing, and there are others that have to be brought up yet too. I want to stand up for what Inuit need and I’m willing to work hard for them,” he said.
The Uqqummiut seat takes in Clyde River and Qikiqtarjuaq. Other candidates have yet to announce plans to run against Iqaqrialu.