In Quttiktuq, it’s who you know
Election will be won by candidate with most friends, relatives
In the High Arctic riding of Quttiktuq, the candidate who has the most family and friends outside of his or her home community will likely win the Feb. 16 election.
That’s because the local vote will be split in Resolute Bay and Arctic Bay.
In Grise Fiord, there’s Larry Audlaluk, a High Arctic relocatee and long-time figure in Baffin regional organizations such as the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and Kakivak Association.
Audlaluk is also known for his frequent visits to the Holy Land where he’s become Israel’s favourite Inuk and Nunavut’s unofficial ambassador.
But Audlaluk can’t hope to win solely with Grise Fiord’s support.
Resolute Bay has two residents in the race – Lucas Amagoalik, a former hamlet lands officer, born and raised in the community, and Pauloosi Attagootak, a hunter and a more recent arrival from Pond Inlet.
But even if these three candidates carry most of the votes in their respective communities, they won’t win the election without the support of voters in Arctic Bay.
And voters in Arctic Bay, with the largest population in Quttiktuq, usually support one of their own.
Three candidates are from Arctic Bay offer local voters a choice between a former MLA, the current MLA, as well as a newcomer to territorial politics.
Elected in 1999 with a good margin, Levi Barnabas resigned in 2000 as MLA for Quttiktuq after he was found guilty of sexual assault on a woman, following an evening of bar-hopping and house partying in Iqaluit.
Barnabas then ran in the by-election, but was rebuffed in his effort to regain his old seat, coming in third with only 73 votes.
Rebekah Uqi Williams won the by-election with voter support from Arctic Bay as well as Grise Fiord and Resolute. She said voters’ desire for sober, responsible leadership had given her the edge in the by-election.
“My strong point was that I don’t drink, and I think [voters] believe they can rely on me,” she said at that time. “A lot of people talked about how they want somebody who can behave properly…. I feel that I fulfill that.”
Prior to representing Quttiktuq, Barnabas had served in a number of public service roles, as MLA for the High Arctic in the NWT legislature, an assistant Senior Arctic Official in Arctic Bay, as member of the executive of the Baffin Divisional Board of Education and Speaker of Nunavut legislature. Most recently, Barnabas has been a community liaison for the Nunavut Water Board on the Nanisvik mine closing.
Barnabas was hunting this week and unavailable for an interview regarding his platform.
Williams was in Grise Fiord this week, where she’d spent a week reconnecting with her most northerly constituents.
Williams also planned to visit Resolute for a second time during the campaign before heading to Arctic Bay.
“I wouldn’t be up here if I wasn’t campaigning,” Williams said in a telephone interview from Grise Fiord. “It’s too expensive just to be visiting.”
Williams, who is originally from Arctic Bay, now lives in Iqaluit.
“There are three and a half communities [in Quttiktuq] with Nanisivik, and when I’m in Iqaluit, I can focus on legislative meetings 100 per cent. I can focus on these communities equally because I don’t live in one of them … because I go to my family every night,” Williams said.
“There’s faxes, telephones and Internet. If there’s an issue, communications technology is pretty good.”
As MLA, Williams has been an outspoken promoter of her riding’s most pressing concerns in the legislature.
“These communities are not decentralized, so they haven’t felt the effect of Nunavut or jobs. That’s a big issue … that, and infrastructure,” she said.
Better public buildings, arenas, hockey rinks, gymnasiums – “facilities that people need as much as people in Iqaluit” – are what her constituents tell her they want to see.
Williams said she’ll also continue to “badger” the GN on such issues as the High Arctic’s lack of affordable and direct air connections as well as the high cost of living.
“The food is just so expensive [in Grise Fiord]. A package of dried fruit is over $10, a little package! Those kinds of things – and airline linkage,” Williams said. “I don’t know how people live here, for the prices they have to pay.”
Williams, who has lobbied for a child advocate office in Nunavut, said she intends to lobby for action on social issues and changes in Nunavut’s education system.
Williams was one of the MLAs who participated in consultations on the Nunavut Education Act.
“All the communities we visited talked about reinstating religious classes, Bible classes, and bringing the prayer back into the school,” she said. “If the education system can promote Halloween, all these ghosts things that the kids are drawing and painting … all these skeletons, people popping up from graveyards… If they could do that the whole week with their teachers, why not do something that’s positive? Maybe like angels, maybe something that’s good to you.”
Williams spoke out against same-sex marriage during last November’s debate in the territorial legislature.
“Inuit tried to survive on their own and they tried to have morals,” she said at that time. “If the morals break down somewhere, the people might starve.”
Williams said she was simply following her constituents’ wishes in expressing this position.
This week, Williams said she feels confident about receiving their support for her re-election as MLA.
“I’ve got two years in the legislative assembly already, and some of the people are telling me they don’t want to have change right now … so there’s a continuity, and so the issues I’ve been putting to the House can be carried through,” she said. “The Premier made a commitment to start focusing on smaller communities…. I want to make sure the government is going to do it.”
But first-time candidate Anthony Ullikatar, who is a former Arctic Bay council member, Nanisivik mine employee and hamlet SAO, now studying jewelry metalworks at Nunavut Arctic College in Iqaluit, is promoting change as one reason to vote for him.
“If and when I’m elected I have plans to move to Arctic Bay,” said Ullikatar. “I don’t want to work by telephone and fax to deal with problems. I would prefer to move.”
Ullikatar said he’d work toward solving regional needs, by fighting for an improved benefit package for Nunavut employees, but he’d also focus on local concerns.
“Every elected MLA overlooks community needs. They look at the whole of Nunavut and overlook the local needs,” Ullikatar said. “The need for housing is an extreme need. You have a three-bedroom house filled by 13 people, and it’s not just a housing shortage in that sense, it’s a health hazard.”