Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut February 11, 2014 - 12:23 pm

New Nunavut MLA ready to work “for the people”

"For youth, I want to go forward with training programs"

SARAH ROGERS
Alexander Sammurtok is the new MLA for Rankin Inlet South. (FILE PHOTO)
Alexander Sammurtok is the new MLA for Rankin Inlet South. (FILE PHOTO)

The newly-elected Rankin Inlet South MLA, Alexander Sammurtok, received a congratulatory phone call from Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna Feb. 11, the morning after he took the seat in a byelection.

The premier couldn’t get through on election night, Sammurtok said, because his phone was off the hook for most of the night.

“It was great,” he said in an interview from his home. “There were lots of people here and the phone never stopped ringing.”

Sammurtok has much to celebrate. After what turned out to be a four-month campaign, the retired civil servant beat outgoing MLA and cabinet minister Lorne Kusugak, who represented the old seat of Rankin Inlet South-Whale Cove in the third legislature.

Following the Oct. 28 territorial election, the two Rankin Inlet South candidates finished with exactly 172 votes a piece, triggering a byelection.

On Feb. 10, Sammurtok ended the night with 268 votes; Kusugak with 225.

Sammurtok said he knew his chances were good; he kept up the same campaign he’d run last October, knocking on voters’ doors and sharing his ideas on local radio.

“I’m still going to push for a 24-hour home care facility for our elders, and we really need a transit centre in Rankin, for all the communities that come here for health appointments,” he said. “And for youth, I want [this government] to go forward with training programs.”

Sammurtok also hopes to grab the ear of Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq to put pressure on the federal government to amend the child tax benefit and old age security pension so both reflect the high cost of living in Nunavut.

He wants energy costs to stay down too; Sammurtok says Qulliq Energy Corp. rate hikes have skyrocketed in recent years, with a November application that would raise power bills by an average of 5.1 per cent by April.

“At some point, these increases will have to stop, because that effects everybody,” he said.

Sammurtok knows he’s off to a late start in his new job. Nunavut’s new government has already formed and had a few months to get settled in.

But he won’t waste time getting started. This week, Sammurtok will join his colleagues at full caucus meetings in Kugluktuk.

And he’ll be sworn in as MLA March 6, just ahead of the first full sitting of the fourth legislative assembly.

“I think they’ll be really working for the people,” Sammurtok said of the new territorial government. “They needed to come back.”

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