Brown, Netser, Simailak all defeated; Shewchuk easily wins vacant Arviat seat
RANKIN INLET – Voters in the Kivalliq region swept away three political heavyweights in the territorial election Monday, opting for new voices in the legislative assembly.
Cabinet ministers Levinia Brown and Patterk Netser, and David Simailak, the former finance minister who had to resign after a pair of conflict of interest scandals, all lost their seats.
In Rankin Inlet South-Whale Cove, Lorne Kusugak, Rankin’s mayor, trounced Levinia Brown, the community and government services minister, taking 61 per cent of the vote, and winning both Rankin and Whale Cove.
“Whale Cove and Rankin, they wanted a voice that will be a little bit more aggressive, and a roll-up-the-sleeves kind of politics,” Kusugak said during a hopping victory party at his home, where dozens of family and friends, and their children, gathered to watch the returns.
Kusugak said he wants to meet with his fellow MLAs before deciding what he thinks the assembly’s first order of business should be, but he said he wants to work equally as hard for both Whale Cove and Rankin Inlet.
He also faces a preliminary inquiry next month on charges stemming from an alleged sexual assault. Kusugak has adamantly said the charges are false, and said Monday they won’t have any impact on how he does his job.
“It didn’t even come into my mind,” he said. “The people have spoken. They’re the voice and I’m now their voice.”
Calls to Brown’s home and cell phone weren’t returned by press-time.
In Baker Lake, Moses Aupaluktuq edged David Simailak by 30 votes, while Elijah Amarook finished a respectable third.
Baker was one of the last ridings to report, at around 10:30 p.m. central time. When Elections Nunavut workers finally posted results, several dozen people gathered at the Siniktarvik Hotel crowded around and oohed as the numbers revealed a narrow win for Aupaluktuq.
Aupaluktuq, a Nunavut Sivuniksavut graduate, volunteer firefighter and substitute teacher, said he wants to educate Inuit about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and human rights legislation to encourage action on Nunavut’s social conditions.
Canada sends foreign aid to poor countries, yet Nunavummiut still face overcrowded housing, shorter life expectancy and higher crime rates than most other Canadians, Aupaluktuq said.
“We are like the forgotten little brother” of confederation, he said in an interview. Aupaluktuq said he wants to improve education and protect Inuit culture while bringing better health care and more daycare spaces to Baker Lake.
And he said he’d accept a cabinet seat if fellow MLAs select him. But he said he won’t forget who put him into office.
“This is all for Baker Lake,” he said. “It’s ours.”
In Nanulik, Johnny Ningeongan, a former five-term mayor and current Kivalliq Inuit Association representative for Coral Harbour, beat Patterk Netser, the minister of economic development and transportation, by 32 votes.
Ningeongan said he wants to try to find ways to reduce high fuel and electricity costs, which he said are discouraging private home ownership in the territory. He said he won‘t seek a cabinet seat, because he feels he can better represent his constituents as a regular MLA.
“I need to be their servant instead of sitting on the throne,” he said.
Successive MLAs in Nanulik haven’t spent enough time in the riding and his pledge to bring local issues to Iqaluit is what allowed him to win the seat, Ningeongan said.
“People have been looking for a change for a long time and weren’t getting the attention they deserve,” he said.
Voter turnout in the Kivalliq was mostly low, with about two-thirds of eligible voters showing up in Rankin, Arviat and Baker Lake. The exception was Nanulik, which contains Coral Harbour and Chesterfield Inlet, where 86.3 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots.
Arviat will also have a new MLA after 2004’s winner, David Alagalak, didn’t run again. Daniel Shewchuk, the Government of Nunavut’s wildlife manager for Kivalliq, took 48 per cent of the vote and easily beat Sheila Napayok and Peter Kritaqliluk.
One seat was already decided going into election day. Tagak Curley was acclaimed in Rankin Inlet North after no one came forward to run against him.
And voters in Akulliq, which includes the Kivalliq hamlet of Repulse Bay, still don’t know when they’ll vote. The ballot there was delayed after former MP and MLA Jack Anawak challenged a ruling by Sandy Kusugak, the chief electoral officer, that he had not lived in Nunavut long enough to be eligible to run.
Anawak’s lawyer is arguing that his client has been stripped of his right to vote and says the Nunavut Elections Act violates Anawak’s charter rights.
A judge upheld Kusugak’s ruling on Anawak’s eligibility earlier this month. But a byelection can’t be called until Justice Earl Johnson makes a decision on the wider constitutional issues.
By law, an election campaign must be 35 days long, and Kusugak said this past Friday the latest she’ll hold a by-election before Christmas is Dec. 15. So it’s possible Akulliq voters won’t know their MLA until the new year.