Nunavut election candidate Jack Anawak calls for debate in Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu
“So that people would know how the candidates are in a public speaking setting”
Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu candidate Jack Anawak is calling for a debate to help voters choose from among the six people seeking election in Nunavut’s most crowded constituency race.
Those six candidates amount to “six different positions” on issues, Anawak said, and their positions on any given issue “may be in six different shades of white.”
“But people should know what shade of white they like.”
Anawak served as MLA in Nunavut’s first legislative assembly between1999 and 2004, and two terms as a federal MP for what would become Nunavut.
He said much of the city’s population is very new, particularly in Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu, which means residents are short on information about their candidates.
Some residents “have only been here about two or three years,” he said.
“They might not know who Jack Anawak is, or Methusalah Kunuk or Pat [Angnakak],” he said, pointing to the candidates.
“It would be a good time to have a debate so that people would know how the candidates are in a public speaking setting, and what their positions are that they have no problem airing.”
Some issues seem to be little known or understood by voters, he said, and “a public forum would be good to make people understand those.”
Anawak pointed to the legislative assembly’s amendment to the Integrity Act, passed in the spring with little debate, as an example.
“In my case I would like to repeal the amendment,” he said, but “do the people really know what the amendment is?”
Anawak put out his call for a debate in a news release Oct. 16, which he sent to other candidates Oct. 17. The note is an invitation to “help organize a candidates debate,” without specifics.
Candidates reached by phone Oct. 17 were guarded about the proposal, until details about how to conduct such an event would be set.
“If it’s something that the voters really want, then it’s something we should be doing,” said candidate Pat Angnakak, but many particulars, especially interpreting, would have to be arranged first.
“When you start having two languages, and everybody has to get their turn, it could become kind of long, but it could be useful,” she said.
“We’ve got to figure out first how we can organize such a thing and how we can make it as fair as possible.”
Like most candidates, Angnakak is campaigning door to door, and has crossed paths with other candidates while doing so.
The door-to-door visits have allowed her to learn more about voters’ issues “that I didn’t know about,” she said, “but a lot of the time we’re on the same page.”
Most voter confusion, she said, stems from voters not knowing who their candidates are — so educating residents seems to be part of the task.
“I often find myself going through, telling people this is the Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu riding, and these are the six of us,” she said.
“People don’t always know.”
Candidate Methusalah Kunuk, who said he has covered the Niaqunnguu (Apex) section of the riding and Tundra Valley so far, questioned whether a debate would do much to influence voters’ choices.
“People are sort of decided who they will be voting for anyways,” he said. “But it would be good for them to see how we handle questions.”
Sytukie Joamie, the only candidate who is not actively campaigning door-to-door, said he welcomes a debate and any other chance to attend a public forum, as long as candidates can agree to common terms.
“It has to be bilingual, there have to be translation services,” he said.
Candidate Anne Crawford said in an email that she would participate if costs to run the debate were divided among the candidates.
Duncan Cunningham said Oct. 17 that he’s in the thick of the campaign, and isn’t ready to comment.
“We still have a bit more door-to-door to do every day,” he said. “So we’re not ready to go there yet.”