Aglukkaq re-elected in Nunavut as Tories sweep to majority government
“I want to get back to work as soon as I can”
(Updated 1:37 p.m., May 3)
In the end, there was no orange crush to rise up and topple Leona Aglukkaq as Nunavut’s member of parliament.
The Conservative incumbent demolished her two main challengers, Liberal Paul Okalik and New Democrat Jack Hicks, taking nearly 50 per cent of the vote with all 56 polls reporting.
Aglukkaq won by a margin of 1,751 votes over Okalik, who took 2,360. Hicks finished third with 1,603 votes and Green candidate Scott MacCallum finished a distant fourth with 173 votes, or 2.1 per cent. Voter turnout was abysmal: 48.5 per cent.
Aglukkaq was part of a blue wave that swept the country, delivering a majority government for Conservative leader Stephen Harper. The Tories won 167 seats nationwide, dominating in Ontario and the West.
“I’m very proud of the results today,” Algukkaq, surrounded by dozens of supporters, told reporters. “I think Nunavummiut recognize the contributions that the Conservative government has delivered in the North, and I want to get back to work as soon as I can.”
Aglukkaq’s supporters cheered as they contemplated life with a Conservative majority government, which she said would make it easier to deliver some of the big-ticket infrastructure, like roads and hydroelectric dams, which she promised during the campaign.
“I’m looking forward to a stable government that can put meaningful time and energy to get results,” Aglukkaq said. “I put out big goals (during the campaign) and I’m committed to doing that.”
She said Nunavummiut re-elected her because she delivered on promises she made in 2008, to bring housing and changes to the Northern food subsidy regime. While Nutrition North Canada has drawn widespread complaints across Nunavut, that anger did not transfer to Aglukkaq at the ballot box.
“I wanted to speak to my record and what I was able to deliver (over) the last two years to Nunavummiut.”
Across town, few supporters remained at Okalik’s campaign headquarters as the Liberals endured a nightmare scenario of an election that saw them decimated across the country, dropping from 77 to 34 seats, their worst showing ever and the first time the party finished a national election in third place.
Okalik held almost all of the 29 per cent the Nunavut Liberals won in the 2008 election, but it wasn’t close to enough, as Aglukkaq grew her share by almost 15 percentage points. Okalik said Aglukkaq’s head start—she entered the race more than a week before he did—likely gave her the edge.
“I did my best and that’s what the people of Nunavut want, so I have to follow their wishes,” Okalik said.
Okalik, Nunavut’s first premier and most recently speaker of the Legislative Assembly, is now out of politics after resigning his Iqaluit West seat to run for the Liberals. A by-election for Iqaluit West is scheduled for Sept. 12, but Okalik said he’s not interested in running there again.
“No thank you,” he said. “I’ve been there, done that.” He said he wants to take some time away from politics before deciding what to do next.
NDP candidate Jack Hicks was disappointed by his own loss but elated by a national breakthrough for his party, which won 102 seats and claimed official opposition status for the first time.
“I’m delighted with our campaign team and the way our issues resonated and we helped make it a real race,” he said. “It wasn’t a coronation.”
He said he’s skeptical Aglukkaq can deliver on some of the promises made during the campaign and added he’s worried what a Conservative majority means for Canada, even if his party posted its best showing ever.
“(It’s) very good news, very bad news,” Hicks said. “I’m really not looking forward to living under a Stephen Harper majority government.”
The NDP also held on to their Western Arctic seat, where incumbent Dennis Bevington beat Conservative challenger Sandy Lee by more than 2,100 votes.
In Yukon, Conservative challenger Ryan Leef edged out Liberal incumbent Larry Bagnell by a little more than 130 votes.