Wearing Liberal red and a relaxed smile, Nunavut’s long-serving member of Parliament, Nancy Karetak-Lindell, announced this past Friday that this term will be her last.
”It’s been nine-and-a-half years, eight of those years as a single parent, and it’s taken its toll on me. It was a very difficult decision,” she said.
Karetak-Lindell, 49, said she’s now suffering from stress and fatigue, and that it’s not fair to the people of Nunavut if she can’t give 100 per cent of her energy to her job.
In addition, she said her parents are now in their seventies and she wants to spend more time with them, as well as with her four sons and two grand-daughters.
But between now and the next federal election Karetak-Lindell says she will continue to work “to the best of my ability.”
She will not seek the Liberal nomination in that election and is declaring her intentions now to give the Liberal party enough time to find a new candidate for Nunavut.
“I know I am not irreplaceable. I know there are good people out there who can and will take the challenge up,” Karetak-Lindell said.
Many observers believe Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government will likely fall this February or March in a non-confidence vote, which would plunge the country into another federal election by April.
Alain Carrière, the president of the Nunavut Liberal Association, said his group will look as soon as practically possible for new candidates to contest the Liberal nomination in Nunavut.
“It will be a very big task to fill Nancy’s shoes,” Carrière said.
He said that in her career as MP, Karetak-Lindell inspired the “next generation of people up here” to take a positive view of government, a suggestion that Nunavut’s next Liberal candidate could be a younger person.
Karetak-Lindell won her first election to the House of Commons in 1997, when, with 45.9 per cent of the vote, she defeated three other candidates.
Then, in December of 1998, Karetak-Lindell suffered a devastating personal loss. Her husband, respected Arviat businessman Jon Lindell, died suddenly at age 41, leaving her with four children to raise on her own.
“My four sons, Jackson, Amauyaq, KV and Nooks, have been the rock and foundation of my life along with my late husband, Jon. Their love, support and understanding has sustained me,” she said.
She overcame that blow and kept her seat through three federal elections, winning by large pluralities. In 2000, Karetak-Lindell faced a weak and poorly funded field of opposition party candidates and took Nunavut in a landslide, winning 69 per cent of votes cast.
In 2004, Karetak-Lindell fended off a challenge from former Nunavut cabinet minister Manitok Thompson, who failed in a bid to take the Liberal nomination away from her.
Thompson then quit the Nunavut Liberal Association to run as an independent. Karetak-Lindell still won 51.3 per cent of the vote that year, with Thompson finishing a distant second, at 15.7 per cent.
In January of 2006, Karetak-Lindell faced her strongest challenge ever, from David Aglukark Sr. of the Conservative party. Her vote dropped to 40 per cent, but even after a strong campaign, Aglukark Sr. fell about 1,000 votes short, finishing second with 29.9 per cent.
Jack Anawak, the Liberal MP who Karetak-Lindell replaced in 1997, is the only person to win re-election to the Nunavut seat – and he did it only once.
Asked why she thinks she was so successful, Karetak-Lindell says it’s because she was true to herself, and because she avoided making personal attacks on others.
“No can ever pinpoint where I’ve badmouthed someone else in public. I don’t think I’ve ever been quoted saying anything negative about any other elected person or any person, because I don’t believe that’s my style of politics.”
Her biggest piece of advice for Nunavut’s next MP is that he or she must be willing to move to Ottawa. That’s because it’s impossible for a Nunavut MP to travel among Nunavut’s far-flung communities, attend meetings in Ottawa, and also find time to spend with family.“That’s the reality of representing Nunavut, if you have a family especially,” Karetak-Lindell said.