Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut July 25, 2012 - 6:37 am

I won’t run for Iqaluit mayor this fall, Redfern says

Iqaluit voters will choose new mayor in Oct. 15 election

JIM BELL
Madeleine Redfern, the mayor of Iqaluit, at swearing-in ceremonies held October 2010. This week she said she will not run in Iqaluit’s Oct. 15 municipal election. (FILE PHOTO)
Madeleine Redfern, the mayor of Iqaluit, at swearing-in ceremonies held October 2010. This week she said she will not run in Iqaluit’s Oct. 15 municipal election. (FILE PHOTO)

When Iqaluit voters go the polls this Oct. 15 to choose a mayor and eight-member city council, the name of at least one potential candidate will not appear on the ballot: incumbent mayor Madeleine Redfern.

Redfern, elected Dec. 13, 2010 in a by-election, said July 24 that in this fall’s municipal election, she will not contest the mayor’s job.

“I’ve decided, with much deliberation and discussions with my family, not to run in the election for mayor,” Redfern said.

Redfern said she’ll serve until voters choose a new mayor this fall.

But she said she wants the people of Iqaluit to know her intentions now, so that potential candidates for mayor can start making plans. The nomination period will likely start in less than five weeks — around Sept. 1.

She took the decision, she said, for two reasons. One: she didn’t, at first, really aspire to become mayor of Iqaluit. Two: she now finds herself contemplating other “opportunities.”

It was more or less by accident that Redfern, a graduate of the Akitsiraq law school who at the time was finishing work as executive director of the Qikiqtani Truth Commission, ended up running for mayor of Iqaluit in 2010.

That was when the former mayor, Elisapee Sheutiapik, announced her departure only a year after winning re-election in 2009.

“I never planned to run as mayor. When the previous mayor announced she was stepping down, there was an opportunity and I thought I would take up the challenge,” Redfern said.

In that by-election, Redfern won the mayor’s job with 30 per cent of ballots cast, defeating Al Hayward, Paul Kaludjak and Jim Little.

After winning that contest, Redfern said one of her objectives was to become more accessible and approachable than many other Nunavut politicians.

“That was one of my primary goals. I think I’ve done that. I’m accessible in a variety of different mediums, in person, on the phone, via email, on Facebook, on Twitter.”

And even during her stint as mayor, Redfern said no to other career opportunities — because she felt obliged to serve out her term on Iqaluit City Council.

“I’ve turned down offers because I felt that once I made the commitment, I had to stick it out for the full term.”

As for the 2013 territorial election, Redfern said she’s keeping the door open.

In 2008, she contested the Iqaluit Centre constituency, losing to Hunter Tootoo.

“I haven’t, at this time, made a decision to run in the next territorial election. It’s an option. I’m not discounting it, but I haven’t made a decision. A lot depends on what I’m doing after I become mayor,” she said.

For whoever ends up succeeding her as Iqaluit mayor, Redfern advises them to maintain good communication with the public and city council.

“It’s a full-time job, without a doubt. It’s really important to be accessible and to be responsive and to be held accountable,” she said.

Good communication is essential during times of crisis, she said. She learned this during emergencies like last winter’s water main flood, the satellite communication meltdown of 2011, two big apartment fires, the tank farm fire, and the numerous standoffs and homicides that have afflicted the community.

“I think it’s really important that the mayor or elected officials provide accurate and timely information during those difficult times to avoid panic and misinformation… You’re effectively on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I have had the calls at two in the morning, or the visit at four in the morning because there’s been an incident.”

Another requirement is that the mayor and city directors make regular reports to city council on their activities, Redfern said.

If city council passes a bylaw that received first reading this past June 26, the salary for Iqaluit’s mayor will likely rise to $109,010.22 per year.

Her successor will also inherit a big to-do list, much of which consists of working on Iqaluit’s continuing infrastructure shortfall.

For this, she advises patience, because the City of Iqaluit can’t move on many of those big-ticket items without financial help from the territorial and federal governments.

“Some of the priorities of the city are pre-set, by the realities of the infrastructure issues or the service issues,” she said.

To that end, she said the municipality has done an infrastructure inventory and infrastructure assessment for use in justifying the financial demands the city will make on other levels of government.

That would include Iqaluit’s next five-year capital funding agreement with the Government of Nunavut.

And besides work on bridge repairs, the Apex garage, water booster stations, funding for a new recreation centre and utilidor issues revealed by last winter’s big water main break, Redfern said there are two big outstanding needs: a new landfill site and a new cemetery.

However, to carry out the wishes of council, said the municipality can count on the services of a stable work force, much of which is comprised of long-term residents.

“We have a lot of really good employees, many of whom have been with the city for a long time… I’ve been extremely impressed by the level of commitment and service, especially during times of crisis and emergency.”

Another continuing issue is the GN’s opaque system for calculating funding for municipalities.

That’s important for Iqaluit, Redfern said, because as the city’s population grows at a rate of about 300 new residents a year, city officials can’t plan properly for the future without knowing the GN’s funding formula for municipalities.

“There is a policy, but there is no way to generate numbers from it. We need to understand how the GN and CGS calculates the City of Iqaluit’s funding,” Redfern said.

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