Methusalah Kunuk quits Nunavut government, runs for assembly
“I kind of feel I was starting to not get support, to the point where I think I had to retire.”
In many respects, the MLA candidate for Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu, Methusalah Kunuk, 63, is very traditional.
Sitting at his kitchen table, his voice rises with excitement when talking about the possibility of caribou hunting on the weekend.
He already has two fresh caribou antlers on his porch overlooking Iqaluit, taking in some sun on a bright autumn day.
However, one thing that isn’t the traditional Inuit way is competition.
“My dad used to tell me never to compete with people. As Inuit, that’s why we’re not competitive people. We were told to be good to other people and help them if they can,” Kunuk said.
Kunuk is breaking that rule for a bit, however, and he’s hopeful he can win a competition for votes against Duncan Cunningham, Anne Crawford, Jack Anawak, Pat Angnakak and Sytukie Joamie in the Oct. 28 territorial election.
Kunuk retired from his Nunavut government job as assistant deputy minister of transportation earlier this year to run in the territorial election.
He also said he retired because he didn’t like how his department had been run.
“I kind of feel I was starting to not get support, to the point where I think I had to retire,” Kunuk said.
“I feel I wasn’t really doing my job for the last four years as well as I should be because of the way it was, the way the department was running,” he said.
Kunuk said there’s “not enough focus on human resources” in government right now.
Kunuk’s campaign manager, Ainiak Quaraq, said they want a major review of the Inuit Employment Plan — and after a review, they want a succession plan in place to “benefit Inuit and long-term Nunavummiut.”
This plan would be for Inuit, starting from entry-level positions, working up to senior management.
“There’s not enough support right now for Inuit working in the government,” Kunuk said.
To that end, Kunuk said the legislative assembly lacks experience — which he has.
Kunuk said his duties as an assistant deputy minister included briefing minister Peter Taptuna before sessions, and appearing before MLAs when budgets came up for review.
Another issue Kunuk said he wants addressed, if elected, is infrastructure in Iqaluit.
A boat launch for Iqaluit would be a priority for Kunuk, who thinks it’s unacceptable that the largest Nunavut community — which lands the most cargo per shipping season — has to wait from six to eight days to unload a cargo vessel.
Problems with public and private housing are also big issues, Kunuk said.
Kunuk said many unilingual people still don’t understand the ins-and-outs of home ownership, and he wants to see more transparency in explaining taxes to his constituents, and letting others know about social programs.
“People who had tax arrears — some of the taxes are higher than what the house is worth,” Quaraq said.
“The Nunavut Housing Corp. has a program where they will pay for someone’s fuel tank. But you have to apply for it. But it’s not something well known to the public. So if it is a program that people have access to, then that ‘s just one example of transparency,” Quaraq said.
Although not opposed to being a cabinet minister, Kunuk said he is leaning towards being a regular member if elected.
But he said he will speak to his constituents to help him decide if he wants to run for cabinet, if elected as an MLA.
Kunuk, who identifies as “a little bit conservative” on the political spectrum, was born in Seorajuk and raised in nearby Igloolik.
Throughout his life he has worked as an ordained priest with the Anglican Diocese of the Arctic, and started work in government 35 years ago as a general hamlet foreman in Igloolik.
Kunuk also holds a Diamond Jubilee medal for work done with search and rescue missions in Nunavut.