Two new Cambridge Bay candidates seek more spending for their community
Fred Pedersen, Clara Evalik take on incumbent Keith Peterson
A three-way race is on in the Kitikmeot region’s largest community and administrative hub, in an election that could see Cambridge Bay voters either re-elect their long-term incumbent MLA or choose a new member.
Keith Peterson, a former mayor of Cambridge Bay, was first elected to Nunavut’s legislative assembly in 2004, when he took 60 per cent of the vote.
In 2008, Peterson won the seat again by acclamation, and went on to serve as as a cabinet minister under Premier Eva Aariak.
He finished his most recent term as minister of the health and finance portfolios.
But Peterson is competing against some new hopefuls, each of them well-known Cambridge Bay residents: Fred Pedersen and Clara Evalik. Peterson did not return calls seeking an interview for this story.
Pedersen, originally from Kugluktuk, has lived in Cambridge Bay since 1991 and, during this election, has been on leave from his position as director of planning and communications at the Kitikmeot Inuit Association.
Pedersen, who holds a diploma in public and business administration from Nunavut Arctic College, has served on hamlet councils in Kugluktuk and Cambridge Bay.
“I thought I could do a better job of representing the needs of residents by getting more investment into Cambridge Bay,” he told Nunatsiaq News.
Pedersen named a number of local projects that he said are important to the community: paving the airport runway to accommodate newer jet models, relocating the town’s marine infrastructure away from the community, and setting up local training programs to help residents gain access to jobs.
“We’ve got the Canadian High Arctic Research Station project coming here in 2017 along with about 50 jobs, we’ve got promising mining opportunities,” said the father of five, “but we need that investment in education, to get our young people the qualifications they need to fill these positions.”
Pedersen sees those investments flowing into the expansion of the local Arctic College campus.
He also wants to secure ongoing funding for the dozens of programs offered through Cambridge Bay’s wellness centre, which, among other activities, runs a local food bank and counselling programs for elders and youth.
“These groups have to apply for funding every year — the programs aren’t guaranteed,” Pedersen said.
Pedersen said he wants to focus on partnerships to “maximize investment in Cambridge Bay.”
And he provided an example: about 100 local families already rely on the food bank; Pedersen envisions teaming up with the local hunter and trappers’ organization to create a community freezer for clients of the food bank.
Clara Hokayak Evalik was born and raised in a Cambridge Bay, where she’s held a number of senior management positions with the governments of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
Evalik is currently on leave from her position as Kitikmeot regional director of health.
In deciding to run for territorial politics, Evalik said she’s up for a new challenge.
“I think I could be a fresh voice for Cambridge Bay — I have the experience,” she said. “We’re feeling left out, as a community and as a region, and I want to work hard to change that.”
Evalik, a mother of five, stressed that education and training would be her top priority if elected, as a way to engage local youth.
“A lot of us are coming to retirement age, and we have to have to make sure there are people ready to fill those positions,” she said.
Youth also need access to quality recreation programs, Evalik said, saying she hopes to see a new year-round pool built in Cambridge Bay as part of the community’s planned recreational complex.
“Right now we only have a small pool that’s open six to eight weeks of the year,” she said. “There are always huge line-ups of people standing outside waiting to get in.”
From her experience overseeing the regional health department, Evalik says the Kitikmeot needs a cancer screening strategy to help detect and treat cancers early on.
As it stands now, patients must travel to Yellowknife for a procedure like a mammogram to detect breast cancers and for other treatments.
Evalik also wants her community members to have a healthy start in life. If elected, she says she’ll push to see the government of Nunavut subsidize baby formula.
On a recent trip to Argentina, Evalik said she learned that country has seen improvements to infants health after its government began subsidizing infant formula.
In Nunavut, formula can cost upwards of $40 a can, and Evalik said those high costs force many parents to water down their babies’ bottles.
“A lot of people breastfeed, but there are many people who adopt,” she said. “If we subsidize [formula], the baby will get the nutrition it needs. I think we need to provide people with choices.”
Infant nutrition could be considered an issue that touches mothers across Nunavut, but Evalik said she is not running for politics just to highlight women’s issues – even if she’s been called a role model by other young women.
“I want to be able to help everyone,” she said. “I think we have to work with different organizations to maximize benefits for the region, and we have to develop a good working relationship with the federal government.”