Pangnirtung candidate adds new priorities to long-standing ones
“Now we’re in the same predicament, where we see Iqaluit’s getting everything”
It’s time for the Government of Nunavut to move on old priorities for Pangnirtung and recognize some new ones, says Harry J. Dialla, who is running for the his community’s seat in the Oct. 28 territorial election.
Dialla, 54, who has had a career working for territorial and federal government departments in Pangnirtung, said he has seen a lot of infrastructure funding go to Iqaluit at the expense of other communities.
“One thing we’ve been seeing more and more, especially since we were with the old Northwest Territories, is that everybody used to complain about Yellowknife [the former capital] getting everything,” he said.
“Now we’re in the same predicament where we see Iqaluit’s getting everything.”
For starters, Pangnirtung urgently needs to relocate its airstrip at the airport, which the community has requested “for a very long time,” he told Nunatsiaq News.
Iqaluit’s $300 million airport improvement project, half-funded by the territorial government, overlooks the need to replace airstrips in Pangnirtung and Kimmirut, “which are both dangerous,” he said.
Pangnirtung’s airstrip “is smack-dab in the middle of town, and just a few 100 feet further on is the fuel depot. We could easily have an aircraft disaster here,” Dialla said. “A lot of the town could be affected.”
The growing community’s poor air quality also needs improvement. Excessive dust from the hamlet’s roads and smoke from garbage incineration at the dump have become health hazards, he said.
“A lot of people complain about having shortness of breath from the dust, and also same thing from our dump, which is located right inside the community, where it has a fishbowl-effect.”
The hamlet’s location in a fiord surrounded by mountains leaves few options to relocate the dump, and traps poor air within the community.
A first solution would be to pave the hamlet’s main roads, Dialla said. The dump requires a plan that needs support from the territorial government.
“A lot of these are old priorities that have been put on the backburner, that MLAs have worked on,” he said. “I figure we need bigger funding from the federal government to be able to pull those off.”
Besides infrastructure, Dialla said he has many other priorities that Pangnirtung shares with other communities of Nunavut.
The Nutrition North Canada program has not brought food prices down to affordable levels, he said.
“Prices are still unreasonable,” particularly for residents on income support, he said.
Social issues are also high on the candidate’s priorities, starting with Nunavut’s high suicide rate.
“That’s still out of control, and we can’t seem to get a handle on that,” said Dialla.
“I’ve lost a son when he committed suicide six years ago,” he said, adding that Nunavut has too few resources to deal with the issue, “which is happening at an unbelievable scale compared to the rest of Canada.”
Social work programs are scarce in the territory and hard to access, he said, pointing out that a two-year program offered by Nunavut Arctic College is only given in Cambridge Bay. Yet Nunavut needs more social workers educated and rooted in the territory.
“I know a lot of people that wanted to take that program, but they didn’t because it’s in Cambridge Bay,” he said. “It’s just too far to go.”
Education policy for schoolchildren falls short, he said, because grade schools are letting too many teens advance with peers of the same age without having to pass their grades.
“Eventually this guy passes when he hasn’t even done his grade, he’s going to be stuck with the short end of the stick,” and not be able to pass final high school examination, the candidate said.
A father of four daughters, with 12 grandchildren, Dialla is a lifelong Pangnirtung resident.
He worked for the Government of Nunavut from 2001, starting as a social worker, until August of this year, when he resigned from a position as regional manager for income support with the department of family services, he said.
Work as a human resources officer and regional manager for income assistance under the department of education are also among his professional experiences.
Before joining the territorial government, Dialla worked for 12 years as a park warden and visitor service officer for Parks Canada.
“I feel the time is now, and that I can contribute to the community,” Dialla said of his first-time run in the election.
“I’m running against three people with a lot of political background, but I feel I have enough years of experience with the territorial government.”
Also running for election in Pangnirtung are the hamlet’s mayor, Sakiasie Sowdlooapik, deputy mayor Johnny Mike, and incumbent Hezakiah Oshutapik, who has served as MLA since 2011.