Salluit candidate hopes to bring Inuk voice to Quebec’s National Assembly
"I want to represent everyone in the region"
Although he’s served both municipally and regionally, Salluit’s Michael Cameron had never before considered provincial politics.
That’s until he got a call from the Coalition Avenir Québec earlier this winter, looking for a candidate to run for them in the next provincial election.
Cameron took some time to read up on the party, deciding that the CAQ’s ideals fell in line with his own, before resigning as chair of the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau last month.
Cameron said he was drawn to the CAQ’s focus on building a stronger Quebec, culturally and economically, calling the opportunity to represent the region “a privilege.”
“I want to work with and for everyone, to make a better life for our children,” Cameron said.
“For our region, it’s really important that Inuit and First Nations have a voice at the National Assembly,” he added. “We need someone that understands the region, has been to the communities. I want to represent everyone in the region.”
Cameron has served as a councillor and mayor of Salluit, as local landholding president and an executive member of the Kativik Regional Government council.
Cameron currently works as a technician with Bell Aliant, but also volunteers as a firefighter, first responder, rescue boat captain, and with the Canadian Rangers.
But it’s time for a new challenge, he said.
Cameron spent last weekend at a CAQ rally in Repentigny, where he sat down with CAQ leader François Legault and talked about different objectives for the vast Ungava riding, now held by the Parti Québécois.
Legault, a former businessman who co-founded Air Transat in the 1980s, was first elected to Quebec’s National Assembly in 1998 as part of the PQ government of that era.
He served as the PQ’s minister of education and health through the early 2000s, finally resigning his seat in 2009.
But that was far from the end of Legault’s political career; he returned in 2011 to found the CAQ, which picked up 19 seats in the 2012 election.
In line with the party’s plans, Cameron said he’s focused on bringing more training opportunities to the region, whether by beefing up the programming offered through Inukjuak’s vocational school or offering more online content to students in the region.
The goal, Cameron said, is to move more Nunavimmiut into the trades to produce more local plumbers, electricians and carpenters.
Cameron is also promoting the CAQ’s economic plan, called “A Focus on Families,” which pledges to fix Quebec’s “laggard” GDP growth and produce zero-deficit budgets by putting a freeze on the government’s 2013 staffing levels.
The CAQ has also promised to do away with Quebec’s health and school board taxes — the CAQ wants to abolish school boards in Quebec — and save Quebec families $1,000 in taxes every year.
“That can go a long way in the Ungava region, where we’re always looking for ways to alleviate the cost of living,” Cameron said.
But Cameron has had to distance himself from some of the CAQ’s platform in order to stand up for what he believes most Nunavimmiut want.
The CAQ advocates for “a common culture” and the neutrality of the state, which would prohibit school teachers and other public employees from wearing religious symbols in the workplace, in line with the PQ’s proposed charter of values.
“In my opinion, we shouldn’t mix religion with politics,” Cameron said. “But we should be able to wear what we want, [such as] a cross on a necklace… as long as it’s not a security threat.
“We should be able to show that Quebec is a diverse province, and that all these multi-ethnic cultures can work together.”
While the CAQ in 2012 declared a 10-year moratorium on any question of Quebec’s sovereignty, some Quebec federalists are still uncomfortable with a party that has left the door open to that debate.
Cameron insists the party is nationalist in its leanings — and not separatist.
“I told Legault flat out — if Quebec ever separated, Nunavik would hold a referendum to decide if we wanted to stay in Canada,” he said. “That was a message I told him directly because many [Nunavimmiut] wanted to make sure this was clear.”
Now, Cameron, who speaks English and Inuktitut, faces the challenge of getting the word out in other parts of the Ungava riding that are predominantly French-speaking.
But he’s hoping the presence of an Inuk candidate — the first in a Quebec election — will encourage Nunavimmiut and even Cree voters to get out to a polling station April 7.
Fewer thanone in three Nunavimmiut cast a ballot in the 2012 election — less than the 31.3 per cent turn-out throughout the Ungava riding, the lowest in Quebec.
‘We all have to get out and vote to show that we care,” Cameron said. “But I have a good feeling that Inuit and First Nations will let their voices be heard.”