Hometown vote-split decides Nunavut byelection

Pauloosie Keyootak takes Uqqummiut seat


Pauloosie Keyootak is the new MLA for Uqqummiut. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)

Pauloosie Keyootak is the new MLA for Uqqummiut. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)

Updated at 11:50 a.m., Feb. 12

Pauloosie Keyootak, 62, a former president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, will become the next member of the legislative assembly for Uqqummiut.

Keyootak won the seat with 220 votes in the Feb. 9 by-election.

He gained 204 of those votes from Qikiqtarjuaq, his home community, and only 16 from Clyde River, the other community in the constituency.

He defeated two Clyde River candidates who split the vote inside their hometown: Niore Iqalukjuak, who finished second with 195 votes, and ex-MLA James Arreak, who finished third with 105.

Iqalukjuak took only 12 votes in Qikiqtarjuaq and Arreak took only nine.

For Keyootak, this marks a return to political prominence in the Baffin region and a highly paid political job.

Reached at home in Qikiqtarjuaq Feb.10, Keyootak said he decided to re-enter regional and territorial politics, after a 15-year break, with the encouragement of people in his community.

Keyootak served as president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association in the 1990s, with his final term beginning in December 1998.

Keyootak never finished that last term in office. In the fall of 2000, QIA’s board removed Keyootak from the president’s job, saying he violated QIA bylaws and the organization’s code of conduct.

In the last presidential election for QIA, held this past fall, Keyootak finished fourth.

“There are a lot of people who’ve been asking me to run for MLA,” said Keyootak. “These people know that I’ve been their representative, and they think I can do the same thing again.”

Since 2000, Keyootak said he’s been focused on working in his community, as a hamlet councillor and a member of Arctic Co-op’s board of directors.

His first step as MLA will be consulting the hamlet offices in Clyde River and Qikiqtarjuaq, Keyootak said.

“I want to find out from each community what they’ve been working on and what they want to see,” he said.

Keyootak said he expects to hear concerns about the impacts of mining in the region and seismic testing scheduled to take place in Baffin Bay and the Davis Strait this summer.

The Uqqummiut seat opened up last fall when Samuel Nuqingaq, elected in the Oct. 28, 2013 territorial election, was booted out of the legislature on Oct. 24, 2014.

Of 738 eligible voters in the riding, 520 cast ballots, producing a 65 per cent voter turnout in Clyde River and a 79 per cent turnout in Qikiqtarjuaq.

“I want to say thanks to the people who voted for me, and I’ll try to work the best I can for the people of Clyde River and Qikiqtarjuaq,” Keyootak said.

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