I’m confident and qualified, Iqaluit mayor candidate John Graham says
“I honestly felt I could make a contribution”
Long-time Iqaluit resident John Graham says he wants to become mayor of Iqaluit for two reasons: to move stalled projects forward and to get more community members involved in council decisions.
To that end, Graham says he has the leadership capabilities to do the job right.
“I honestly felt I could make a contribution in terms of leading this community in the next three years,” Graham told Nunatsiaq News, in describing why he chose to run for mayor.
Graham, who managed the Iqaluit airport for 16 years before retiring this past January, said he has already demonstrated that he can run the city.
“I’ve never served in municipal politics before. But the Iqaluit airport operation, which is a huge operation, is kind of akin to a city within a city. It has its own fire department, its own maintenance department; it’s own commercial development. It’s got a huge stakeholder interest, and has a huge clientele,” Graham said.
While serving as airport manager, Graham saw 25,000 aircraft movements and 150,000 passengers pass through the airport each year.
The self-described “true blue conservative” stresses he wasn’t afraid of making tough decisions then, and won’t be afraid now if elected.
“The hardest [decisions] that I made out there was the safety call due to runway surface conditions. Driven by weather, you had to close the operations,” Graham said.
“When you have a terminal full of people trying to get away for Christmas, it’s not a hard call to make because safety has to be the priority.”
And working with others, such as eight city council members, to make important decisions does not pose a problem, Graham says. He’s confident he can “lay all the points out on the table and come to some sort of resolution by consensus, and make a decision.”
Decisions he wants to get to the bottom of include a resolution for the overflowing West 40 landfill site, and to finally find a capable spot to build a community cemetery. But he also has a passion to move ahead with the creation of the proposed aquatic centre.
As an ongoing member of the Royal Canadian Legion and having worked with the Iqaluit air cadets squadron for almost 30 years, he said children in Iqaluit are “crying out for something like this” and urges people to come out to the ratepayers annual general meeting Sept. 18.
“That’s something I really want to stir — get people more involved, have more of those kind of meetings,” Graham said.
“There’s an element of complacency out here, and it’s been that way for 36 years that I’ve been here. And when a decision has to be made, there’s a great big flurry. Big debate,” he added.
Although Graham is restricted in campaigning until his contract with the Canadian Forces as an cadet advisor winds up at the end of September, he still believes he can pull off a win in the limited campaign time between then and Oct. 15.
“That’s just the type of confident chap I am,” he said.
Graham was born in Selkirk, Scotland and raised on a farm until he moved to Iqaluit as a clerk with the Hudson’s Bay Co.
He said Iqaluit is the “only town he’s ever lived in” and said he’s had a hand in a number of economic development projects over the years.
As president of the Royal Canadian Legion, he said he played a part in seeking funding to build the Arctic Winter Games Arena, which led to Iqaluit co-hosting the 2002 Arctic Winter Games.
Also, he brought in the Airbus A-380 to conduct cold weather testing at Iqaluit airport, something he says brought about half-a-million dollars into local economy.
Graham has five children and two grandchildren, and has been in a common-law relationship with his spouse since 1988.
Under a bylaw amendment passed earlier this year, the total pay package for the mayor of Iqaluit will rise from $70,000 to $109,010.22 after the Oct. 15 election.