Iqaluit by-election overshadowed by territorial campaign
Meet the four candidates seeking a seat on Iqaluit City Council
Holding a municipal by-election on the same day as the territorial vote, Oct. 28, seemed like a good idea to Iqaluit City Council, but candidates campaigning for the vacant council seat say they have come up against some confusion among voters.
“I had some buttons made for the campaign, and some people thought I was running for MLA,” said Douglas Cox, one of four Iqalummiut in the running for a vacant council seat.
“Not too many people seem to know there’s a municipal by-election happening at the same time.”
Candidate Stephen Mansell, who has served on city council before, agreed.
“Some people that I’ve approached to give my little information pamphlets and talk to weren’t even aware,” he told Nunatsiaq News.
“So it is a struggle to get people concerned about the municipal issues and aware of the municipal election, but I feel it’s a struggle worth fighting, because for a lot of people the municipal issues are the ones that affect them on a day-to-day basis.”
Both agreed voter turnout should be greater than usual, provided residents know what’s going on.
“I’m doing my best to get the word out,” said Mansell.
Candidate Noah Papatsie, who ran for mayor in the October 2012 municipal election, said the territorial campaign has absorbed the attention of residents, making it hard to find added help and financing for his campaign.
“Oh yeah, there’s a lot of confusion now,” Papatsie said.
City residents in general are more focused on MLAs, he said, “because there’s been not too much accomplished in the GN. So I guess a lot of new people are trying to run for MLA.”
Candidate Lewis Falkiner MacKay sees the crowded campaign field from a different point of view — more as a good chance for municipal candidates to “engage with the territorial candidates.”
“I think it really gives us an opportunity to strengthen the territorial and municipal relationship,” he said. “I think we’re all working toward similar goals.”
For the territorial election, 19 candidates are contesting four Iqaluit seats. In each of them, between four and six candidates are seeking election.
Iqaluit’s four municipal byelection candidates, on the other hand, are running city-wide, and all city residents have a chance to vote for one of them.
Population-wise, the city candidates have “the biggest constituency of anyone running in Nunavut right now,” Mansell said.
“We have to try and get the word out to all Iqalummiut, rather than just one riding in Iqaluit. So we have a pretty big task ahead of us.”
Cox is the only first-time candidate among the municipal contenders. They’re running to fill a seat left vacant by Jimmy Kilabuk, who was re-elected to council in October 2012 but died earlier this year.
Mansell served on council for about a year and a half after being appointed to fill a vacant spot in April 2011. Before that he finished second in a by-election held in 2010.
The arrival of his first child “pretty much the same day” as the last municipal election kept him from running in 2012.
“I wanted to devote as much time as possible to our new family, so I chose not to run,” he told Nunatsiaq News. “Now I think is the time to throw my feet back in.”
Mansell, 31, works as a lawyer for the Government of Nunavut in civil litigation.
Mansell said he looks forward to pushing for causes that have not advanced since 2012, such as “a proposed neighbourhood watch program and a community clean-up.”
Even though he’s glad to see the city’s responsible pet-owner and sled dog bylaw approach final approval, he said the lack of an animal-control officer in the municipal enforcement department must be resolved.
Another project that Mansell said he looks forward to seeing through: the city’s $40 million swimming pool. He said he believes his expertise will help.
“As a lawyer, I think I’m good at reading dense material and going over numbers,” Mansell said of the project, which some councillors continue to criticize as overly expensive.
“I think there need to be councillors who are really willing to go over the books, and make sure that there are no overages, and that there’s savings where available.”
Mansell is president of the Law Society of Nunavut. Born in British Columbia, he has called Iqaluit home since childhood.
Lewis Falkiner MacKay
MacKay, 21, started his involvement with municipal politics last year, when he first ran for a seat on council.
He’s been involved since then as a member-at-large on the city’s public safety committee, where he has worked on reviews of the pet-owner and dog bylaw.
“I’m very interested and engaged in that one,” MacKay said. “I’m hoping to see that go into public consultation soon.”
A policy officer with the Government of Nunavut’s department of Economic Development and Transportation, where he has worked for the past three years, MacKay has lived in Iqaluit for most of his life. He attends council meetings regularly.
“I’ve stayed engaged and want to expand my ability to give back to the community,” he said.
Mackay said he sees a need to upgrade the city’s road network, which has changed little in the 16 years he has lived in Iqaluit.
“We’re experimenting with traffic devices, but it’s not guided by an overarching plan,” he said. “We need more long-term planning for our transportation infrastructure.”
From what he has witnessed in council meetings, MacKay said there is a need for better collaboration between the city and the territorial government.
“There’s a discouraging amount of disparity between the municipal and territorial government,” he said. “I would like to see a more cooperative approach. When it comes to dealing with partner organizations, be it territorial or federal, we need a recognition of shared responsibility.”
Papatsie, 44, is a lifelong Iqalummiut who was executive producer with the Inuit Broadcasting Corp. before he lost his vision in a work-related accident. Most recently, he has been treasurer of the Nunavut Disabilities Makinnasuaqtiit Society as a volunteer for the past six years.
Papatsie said he probably overreached himself when he ran for mayor last year.
“I think it’s best to learn something more before step on something huge,” he laughed. “Also I thought of Jimmy Kilabuk, and wanted to go on with what he did. I totally supported what he supported.”
That includes Iqaluit’s sustainable community plan, the pet-owner and dog bylaw, and efforts to relieve poverty in Iqaluit, he said.
From his own perspective, Papatsie said he is committed to providing greater access for disabled and handicapped citizens, which calls for accessible roads and walkways for wheelchair-bound and physically impaired residents.
This need extends to all residents, he said, noting that the city needs clearly marked sidewalks, improved roads, and clearer traffic signals.
“I use a lot of my hearing,” he said. “It’s all about safety, not only for me, but all other people too.”
Cox, 53, said his priority is simply “to represent the people in the council chambers.”
“I have no real platform, I just think we need more voice of the people in council meetings,” he said.
An 11-year resident of Iqaluit, Cox is executive director of the Uquutaq Society’s mens’ shelter. He is heavily involved in volunteer roles with many community organizations. These include work as treasurer for community’s soup kitchen, and volunteer work with the adult group home and the Iqaluit Community Greenhouse Society.
Cox’s wife and family of two children and two grandchildren live in Iqaluit.
“A councillor should be someone who listens to the people and does what they want in council,” he said. “I’m glad to be able to run.”