Kivalliq sends new energy to the Nunavut legislature
Four Kivalliq MLAs are new, while incumbent Kusugak awaits recount and Mapsalak returns
RANKIN INLET — Nunavut’s Kivalliq region will send a group of new faces to the territory’s legislative assembly, after voters across the region in all ridings but one elected new MLAs Oct. 28.
Newcomer Tom Sammurtok easily won a four-way race in the Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet election night. Baker Lake voters elected Simeon Mikkungwak while Aivilik traded incumbent Johnny Ningeongan for Steve Mapsalak, who previously served as an MLA from 2004 and 2008.
And for the first time in Arviat, voters elected two MLAs: George Kuksuk in Arviat North-Whale Cove and Joe Savikataaq in Arviat South.
But the one familiar face in the race will have to wait a little longer to learn his fate.
Rankin Inlet South incumbent and cabinet minister Lorne Kusugak finished in a dead heat with competing candidate Alexander Sammurtok. Each received 172 votes.
The returning officer for Rankin Inlet South has already prepared an application for a judicial recount, which was on its way to Iqaluit Oct. 29, said Election Nunavut’s legal counsel, Patrick Orr.
Once that has been received, the court has 10 days to hold the recount, Orr said, when a judge will count the ballots in front of a returning officer.
If that count results in another tie, a by-election would be triggered.
At home in Rankin Inlet election night, Kusugak masked his disappointment.
“I’ve been in elections for so long, you just have to prepare yourself for the worst and for the best,” he said. “It’s not over yet.”
Kusugak said he had hoped for a higher voter turnout; only 57 per cent of voters in Rankin South cast ballots.
It’s not clear what impact the recount might have on Kusugak’s chances of getting into cabinet, or even putting himself forward as a candidate for premier this time around.
“This just means that we have to do it all over again,” he said. “It’ll be interesting.”
In neighbouring Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet, Tom Sammurtok easily defeated three other candidates, with more than double the number of votes won by candidate Donna Adams.
This was a first run for political office for the former Government of Nunavut bureaucrat, who served as assistant deputy minister of Community and Government Services until he retired from the Government of Nunavut in 2006.
“I felt very much like now it’s my time to maybe put forward some things I wanted to see, but haven’t yet,” Sammurtok said.
“When people ask me if I’m interested in being premier or a cabinet minister, I tell them that it will depend on how my constituents feel about it,” he said.
In Arviat, former mayor and outgoing chair of the Keewatin Business Development Corp., George Kuksuk, took 160 votes to win Arviat North-Whale Cove — just 14 votes more than runner-up Elizabeth Copland.
Kuksuk hopes to raise the profile of small communities like Whale Cove, and to help upgrade the water system in growing Arviat, where many would like to see a utilidor system.
Kuksuk said it will be the key to work alongside neighbouring MLA Joe Savikataaq, a local wildlife officer who received 181 votes — 34 votes ahead of runner-up Airo Pameolik.
Savikataaq said he’s “thrilled” the people of Arviat South chose him to represent them in the legislative assembly, and plans to work with Kuksuk to tackle local issues.
“The government has to make education a top priority,” he said. “We have to get our people educated and trained to move into jobs.”
MLAs are set to begin orientation in Iqaluit Nov. 4, while the Nunavut leadership forum is scheduled for Nov. 15.