Pangnirtung incumbent now wants full term as MLA
Hezakiah Oshutapik hopes to follow through on priorities
The incumbent MLA for Pangnirtung, Hezakiah Oshutapik, says he’s looking forward to following through on work which he started over the past two years, even though he says he is in for a tight race to keep his seat in the Oct. 28 territorial election.
Since taking office after a by-election in September 2011, Oshutapik counts funding for arena upgrades in the community as a fulfilled accomplishment, while two other priorities are in suspension until the next government is chosen by MLAs.
Oshutapik won his request for arena upgrades this year, when the Government of Nunavut announced funding in May for a project that renews the building and prolongs use of the skating rink.
A request to review rent scales for public housing was set to follow through this fall, Oshutiapik said, but is now interrupted by the election.
“I talked to the minister [Peter Taptuna, responsible for housing] again just before we dissolved, and he said the rent is going to be looked at, and hopefully reduced down to more affordable levels,” Oshutapik told Nunatsiaq News.
Another concern for Pangnirtung: the community’s airstrip, which Oshutapik says needs to be relocated for safety reasons.
“It’s in the middle of town, and if anything was to happen, like planes skidding off the runway, for sure it could be running in to houses, either way,” he said.
Funding for a new airport in the community — a longstanding issue — is yet to be resolved.
In response to questions from Oshutapik in the final sitting of the last assembly, Nunavut’s minister for economic development and transportation said that planning and design work for a new facility are under way, including extension of the 900-metre-long airstrip.
“Relocation of that airstrip is one goal to accomplish in the next five years, if I do get elected,” Oshutapik said.
Paved roads in Pangnirtung is another.
“Pavement will be the answer to eliminate the dust that’s flying around the community for the whole summer, into fall before the snow comes in.”
Oshutapik also sees a need for assistance for fishermen and hunters in the community, to help them get an early start on harvests.
Earlier ice-melt at the mouth of the fiord from the community to Cumberland Sound creates greater opportunities for hunters, he said.
“I’m looking for assistance to get a small ferry service down in the mouth of the fiord, for fishermen and hunters to access their grounds easier, for coming in and out,” he said.
“The ice rots really fast, it’s getting earlier and earlier every year, now.”
This allows for an extended fishing season — but fishers need help to haul their catch over rough areas to the shoreline to make it pay, he said.
Finally, Oshutapik looks forward to pushing for housing expense assistance to help homeowners, as well as reforming the way social housing construction is allocated to each of Nunavut’s 26 communities.
“I’d look to work on [helping] private homeowners to have better access to get funding for renovations, and whatever they need,” he said.
Help to pay for furnace maintenance, for example, is not easily available in the community, he said, and this means improvements to housing assistance programs.
Public housing shortages throughout Nunavut are not well addressed by the government either, he said.
A “point system” used to allocate housing for each community “is not a solution to our housing needs in Nunavut,” he said.
Oshutapik faces three contenders for the Pangnirtung seat.
They include the mayor, Sakiasie Sowdlooapik, deputy mayor Johnny Mike, who lost to Oshutapik in a close two-way race in the 2011 byelection, and Harry J. Dialla.