Nunavut’s political system needs reform: Iqaluit- Niaqunnguu candidate
Sytukie Joamie advocates change, but won’t campaign
After decades of work for candidates in federal, territorial, and regional elections, Sytukie Joamie of Iqaluit decided the time was right to run for a seat himself.
Joamie is running in Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu, where his family and childhood roots lie, in the Oct. 28 territorial election.
“Niaqunnguu is in my heart, it’s my hometown,” said Joamie, 55, who has never ventured far from the community, otherwise known as Apex.
Even though he has helped run several campaigns, Joamie is not taking the usual approach in his own run.
“I have worked in every shape and form of electoral machine. And now that I’m running, I don’t have one,” he told Nunatsiaq News.
Joamie said he will let voters choose as they like, without going door-to-door or producing “regular campaign material,” he said, “which will all end up in the city dump on Oct. 29, anyways.”
“I’ve seen too many campaigns, and too many candidates basically making promises that are all forgotten the day after the election,” he said. “Voters are too intelligent for that sort of thing.”
Even so, Joamie is ready to recommend key changes to Nunavut’s political system.
Voters are more sceptical than ever, and the territory’s method of forming the government is at the root of the problem, he said.
The only way to restore faith in the system is to allow voters to make more direct choices about their leaders and representatives, he said, and that starts right at the top.
“When the 22 MLAs are elected, they go into a little back room, and come out with a premier, much like the cardinals sending up the white smoke after they had elected the pope,” he said. “In secrecy, they appoint somebody.”
The choice of premier should be put directly to the people of Nunavut, he said, in a separate election held two years after elections for the legislative assembly. The premier would serve a term of five years, but be elected halfway through the MLAs’ mandate.
“A clearly-mandated premier would have more clout than an appointee,” said Joamie.
Government ministers should be selected by the premier, drawn from a choice of candidates nominated by the MLAs, he said.
In the current system, the premier “does not select his or her own team,” said Joamie, and is “handcuffed from the beginning.”
Under Joamie’s proposal, the premier’s election halfway through the assembly’s mandate would allow cabinet to be reviewed and changed every two years.
Direct election of a premier could serve as a good example to the rest of Canada, Joamie said.
He pointed out that almost 60 per cent of the country did not vote for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party, yet they managed to form a majority government.
“In Nunavut, without partisan politics, we could all vote for the premier, instead of [getting] a back-room deal,” Joamie said.
“We go through the expense of a democratic process, and poof — 22 MLAs come out with a premier? In secrecy? Where’s the sense of democracy?”
Nunavut’s political system remains a copy of the Northwest Territories’ from 14 years ago and he said it’s time it matured.
“Why should we create Nunavut dressed up in the same uniform as other jurisdictions?” he asked. “If we don’t build Nunavut for Nunavummiut, what’s the point?”
Democracy could also be improved at the local level in Iqaluit, he said.
Joamie disagrees that residents in Iqaluit, where there are four constituencies, should be limited to voting for a candidate in the constituency they live in.
“I would propose to abolish the election boundaries in Iqaluit,” he said, as is the case in municipal elections.
“The mayor and city council are elected by all voters of Iqaluit. They are clearly mandated by the people for their office.”
As in elections for city council, Joamie said he believes the top four candidates with the greatest number of votes should earn seats.
Joamie has worked for Iqaluit’s Amarok Hunters and Trappers Association as office manager and in other capacities since 1999, he said.
He counts his contribution to Iqaluit’s successful bowhead whale hunt of 2011, and his administrative work for the HTA among his greatest achievements.
Many Nunavummiut still recognize him from his work for the Inuit Broadcasting Corp. in the 1990s, he said, where he worked as a producer and director of programming.
Joamie also did communications work for Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. in the 1990s.
Also running for election in Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu’s crowded race are Pat Angnakak, Anne Crawford, Duncan Cunningham, Methusalah Kunuk, and former federal MP and one-time Nunavut MLA Jack Anawak.