Incumbent MLA contests Aivilik with opponent in neighbouring community
Johnny Ningeongan seeks re-election in rejigged Aivilik seat
Although his constituency has changed, Johnny Ningeongan says his priorities for re-election as a Nunavut MLA in the Kivalliq region have not.
Ningeongan’s community of Coral Harbour and its neighbour, Repulse Bay, are now together in the same constituency, Aivilik, for the Oct. 28 territorial election.
This marks a return to a similar arrangement before 1999, under the Northwest Territories.
“We’re quite familiar with being under the same umbrella,” Ningeongan told Nunatsiaq News, adding that both communities share similar goals and long-term projects.
The MLA, who won his seat for the constituency of Nanulik in the 2008 election by just 32 votes, said he is taking nothing for given in this election.
Ningeongan’s only opponent is Repulse Bay’s Steve Mapsalak. Mapsalak did not return calls for an interview for this story.
Like Ningeongan, Mapsalak has served as mayor of his community for several years, and one term as MLA for the neighbouring Akulliq constituency between 2004 and 2008.
The two communities are roughly equal in size, at about 900 residents each. Their high youth populations have made the need for new schools a priority.
“There’s a new school pending for Repulse Bay for 2014-2015, and a preliminary design plan for a new school in Coral [Harbour],” Ningoengan said.
Both are included in a five-year plan by the territorial government, he said, “and I for one will be a strong advocate to make sure these things come through,” he added.
Design plans for a new school for Coral Harbour, achieved during his mandate, has given Ningeongan “more assurance” that a new one can be built in the community over the next five years, he said.
On health care, the candidate has cited the need for a permanent mental health worker in Coral Harbour as priority.
“We’ve never had one before, and we always rely on personnel coming in from the government to assist in that regard,” he said.
Asked about the need for a full-time physician in Coral Harbour, which the community lacks, Ningeongan said this has been an ongoing issue.
“We rely heavily on going either to Rankin Inlet or Winnipeg for check-ups and for any medical reason,” he said, adding that this is typical of small communities throughout he territory.
The best MLAs can do to improve service in small communities, he said, is to expand patient relations at regional offices in Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit, and “advocate for better service” at larger health facilities in Winnipeg.
“This is where I believe regular MLAs and ministers can make a difference,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ningeongan pointed to the creation of a patient-relations office in Iqaluit this year as “one area that will make a difference down the road.”
Born and raised in Coral Harbour, Ningoengan, 63, worked for the hamlet of Coral Harbour as a secretary-manager and as a public works foreman before his first election to the municipal council in the 1990s.
He served as hamlet mayor for 10 years, until 2007, and won the Nanulik seat in the 2008 territorial election.
Ningeongan has served with several Inuit organizations, including the Kivalliq Inuit Association and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., and said he prides himself as “an advocate for small communities.”
He and his opponent Steve Mapsalak of Repulse Bay “have known each other for a number of years now, as mayors, and in other areas as well,” Ningeongan said.
“Communities have different priorities, and that is exactly what I’ll have to hear out from the leadership as well as the ordinary folks in Repulse Bay.”