Iqaluit candidates forum kicks off with long menu of voter questions
First two constituency sessions feature airport, finances, social issues, daycares, Integrity Act
The first two riding sessions at an all-afternoon candidates forum held Oct.26 at the francophone centre in Iqaluit were dominated by questions about social issues, the Iqaluit airport, infrastructure and daycare.
The four candidates contesting Iqaluit-Manirajak took to the microphones first, answering questions submitted anonymously by Iqaluit voters and put to them by forum moderators, who selected the questions randomly.
Mikidjuk Akavak, Monica Ell, Lewis Lehman and Paul Sammurtok used English throughout most of their session, which started with a question asking candidates how they intend to pay for the promises listed in their campaign materials.
Lehman, who played up his experience in business, listed the areas where the Government of Nunavut spends its money, giving precise numbers, before turning his attention to the need for more infrastructure and better social programming in Nunavut.
Sammurtok said there should be fewer government studies and more action, and emphasized the need to include the private sector in planning infrastructure projects.
Akavak cited promises that the federal government made in its throne speech last week and said Nunavut should take advantage of federal money to build infrastructure.
And Ell said the government “cannot do things alone” in meeting the “enormous” infrastructure needs of Nunavut and Iqaluit, and listed off the infrastructure projects she wants completed.
But the four candidates took different positions on the Government of Nunavut’s recently-completed $300-million P3 deal for a new Iqaluit airport.
Sammurtok said “overspending” on the new airport is not right, and said there’s “lots of other needs in Iqaluit.”
Akavak mostly agreed, saying some of the money could be spent elsewhere.
Ell and Lehman took different positions.
Lehman said the airport will “increase business and trade and therefore contribute positively to the economy.”
Ell also said she supports the airport project — but she “would not support it if there’s an overspending on a facility like that,” saying it’s important to build a “hub” in Iqaluit.
During the Iqaluit-Sinaa riding, the four candidates contesting that seat spoke mostly in Inuktitut.
When a question about recent amendments to the Integrity Act arose, Awa, the first to speak on the subject, said he didn’t understand the question after moderator Abraham Tagalik asked him repeatedly.
This past May, MLAs passed a bill amending the Integrity Act that bars senior Nunavut government officials — and all staff at the legislative assembly — from asking the Integrity Commissioner to investigate MLAs.
The other three candidates showed their displeasure for those amendments and said they want a review.
And Awa, then answering last, said MLAs need to consult with voters but agreed that something is awry with Integrity Act.
Other questions raised during the debate covered the fishery, including the desirability of a fish processing plant in Iqaluit, the high cost of rents in Iqaluit, and the need for marine infrastructure and more daycares.
To that end, Papatsie proposed the introduction of a system similar to Quebec’s $7-a-day daycare centres, or locating daycares inside government office buildings like the daycare at Inuksuk High School.
Okalik stressed the need to train more daycare workers at college, and said this could lead to the creation of daycares in homes across the territory — therefore eliminating the need to build new facilities.