Iqaluit council candidates field questions at Dec. 7 debate
Format makes comparisons difficult
Candidates for the Dec. 13 Iqaluit municipal election took lots of questions Dec. 7 — and the answer was almost always “yes.”
An all-candidates debate at Iqaluit’s Anglican Parish Hall, sponsored by Nangminiq Angiraliiit Iqaluit Association – a homeowner’s group – drew about 30 spectators.
Four people — Allen Hayward, Paul Kaludjak, Jim Little and Madeleine Redfern — are running for mayor.
And three people — Joanasie Akumalik, Ed DeVries and Stephen Mansell — are contesting one vacant council seat. Akumalik, who was weathered in at Cape Dorset, could not attend the gathering.
Each candidate was given one minute to answer questions read by moderator Lynda Gunn.
But only one candidate could answer any given question, making it difficult to compare their positions on issues.
Most answers consisted of expressions of support for whatever the question proposed.
Hayward, a mayoral candidate and former city councillor earned the first round applause when he criticized the city’s longstanding practice of publishing the names of delinquent property taxpayers and doing little else to collect the money.
“The city has to revisit the issue of garnishing wages and having court action against people that refuse to pay because these are the same people that are a burden on our society and our community,” he said.
The loudest round of applause went to council candidate DeVries for his closing statement, in which he said the homeless of Iqaluit should be a priority, the first time this subject came up.
“What about the guy who’s getting kicked out of the shelter at eight in the morning on a -40 degree day? Why don’t we have a place for them to go? What about the women that are abused in this town?” he said.
DeVries has run for council in the past, but his main source of fame in Iqaluit is his open advocacy of marijuana use.
His next court appearance on charges of marijuana apossession and trafficking is set for Jan. 15, 2011.
While giving his opening statement, DeVries urged voters to look past his reputation and vote for someone who would stand up for them.
First-time council candidate Mansell responded to one of several questions on topics that aren’t within the city’s jurisdiction: a question about drug dealers.
Mansell responded by saying this matter is the responsibility of the RCMP and Crown lawyers.
However, he proposed more cooperation with those agencies, the expansion of emergency services, and the establishment of an anonymous tip line for Iqalummiut who want to report illegal activity but don’t feel they can do that from their homes.
Mansell was the only candidate to bring trilingual pamphlets laying out his platform: fixing the dump, public safety, tax collection and tourism.
Another non-city question went to the sole woman running for mayor, Redfern, on economic development for youth, a domain which is largely the responsibility of the GN.
But she said a priority for youth should be finishing high school, and suggested the city could work with the Iqaluit District Education Authority to try to reduce truancy and dropouts.
With questions from the public randomly drawn, mayoral candidate Little got more than one chance to hammer into a key plank of his platform, that of the council’s accountability to the public.
Despite the absence of any unilingual Inuktitut-speakers in the audience, mayoral candidate Kaludjak answered each question in Inuktitut and English, halving his effective response time.
Asked what he would do to help the increasing number of elders who live in Iqaluit, Kaludjak returned to one of his early campaign priorities, the need for better access roads out of town.
On that and several questions Kaludjak said he would have the city administration review the situation to decide on a course of action: the high cost of buying lots, whether Iqaluit should have sidewalks —he said that was his preference — and building a new city hall.
Hayward answered more than one question related to tourism, and said Iqaluit needs arts and crafts and performing arts centres to draw tourists, as well as more hotel and meeting space for conferences.
“Iqaluit is the Las Vegas of the North,” he said to chuckles from the audience.
Judging by the questions drawn, it was clear that litter and sanitation were recurring concerns.
Redfern said the city should put out more garbage cans, including dumpsters on the beach for hunters returning from trips, while DeVries said the city needs to recycle and continue shipping out scrap metal, and he recommended the city keep using the contaminated land in the West 40 area as a place to store waste.
“It’s a great spot out there right where we dumped that metal,” he said. “The land unfortunately is contaminated and it’s going to take a huge effort to reclaim that land into any kind of green state again. So let’s not contaminate other lands.”
Another recurring issue concerned establishing a bus service in Iqaluit, one of the few issues that more than one candidate got the opportunity to address.
Redfern said there were creative solutions that other small communities in Canada have implemented, such as subsidized taxis.
But Little turned the bus question – as he did with other questions – toward another of his longstanding causes, the safety of non-motorists.
He said a bus route was part of that, as is removing rocks and boulders along city streets.
Mansell said he would find out why the last attempt to establish a bus route in Iqaluit didn’t work, but supported the idea in principle.
A question directed at Hayward asked whether he would support a hotel tax, to which he replied that the last time the city had looked at it they found the matter was under the jurisdiction of the GN.
But he said he supported the idea of user fees like a hotel tax, and promised that as mayor he’d push for it with the revenues split between the city and Nunavut Tourism.
In a response to a later question about youth and recreation, Redfern expressed concerns about the kinds of user fees that Hayward said he supports.
“One of the things we also need to look is that when we do maybe impose user fees that we don’t make it inaccessible to those who cannot pay or who cannot afford,” she said.
Redfern also fielded the night’s only question on the construction of apartment complexes in Iqaluit and whether single-family houses were better for the city to concentrate on.
She said that the city should work with Iqaluit Housing Authority and make sure that high-density housing does not become a focus of social problems.
“It is important to remember these are also members of our community and we have to work as a community to find solutions together,” she said.