New government in Nunavut, Canada sees even split of newcomers and returning MLAs

Residents of the Iqaluit-Manirajak constituency voted at the Cadet Hall on Monday. (Mario de Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

Iqaluit MLAs all have political experience

Nunavummiut will see as many familiar faces as new ones in its new territorial government, despite six incumbents losing their seats.

The territory’s 22 constituencies, which had already acclaimed five MLAs, re-elected six more and sent 11 newcomers to the territory’s sixth Legislative Assembly Monday.

Results in two constituencies are tentative because the vote margin between the winners and the runners up were so small. They will require judicial recounts, which are automatically required when the margin is less than two per cent.

In Amittuq, which encompasses southern Igloolik and the community of Sanirajak, Joelie Kaernerk was re-elected, but only by three votes.

And in Cambridge Bay, Pamela Hakongak Gross ousted incumbent Jeannie Hakongak Ehaloak by only nine votes.

If her election stands, Gross will be one of six women in the new government, five of whom are new to the assembly.

In 2017, six women were elected to the assembly — a record at the time — but there were only four by the end of the last government’s term. One resigned for family reasons and another left to run in the recent federal election.

Six women could be heading to Nunavut’s legislative assembly this fall. Clockwise from top left: Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster in Iqaluit-Sinaa, Joanna Quassa in Aggu, Pamela Gross in Cambridge Bay, whose election is subject to a judicial recount, Margaret Nakashuk in Pangnirtung, Mary Killiktee in Uqqummiut and Karen Nutarak in Tununiq. (Elections Nunavut/CBC)
New faces
  • Joanna Quassa in Aggu
  • Solomon Malliki in Aivilik
  • Inagayuk Joseph Quqqiaq in Netsilik
  • Karen Nutarak in Tununiq
  • Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster in Iqaluit-Sinaa
  • Mary Killiktee in Uqqummiut
  • Alexander Sammurtok in Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet
  • P.J. Akeeagok in Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu
  • Bobby Anavilok in Kugluktuk
  • Pamela Hakongak Gross in Cambridge Bay
  • Daniel Qavvik in Hudson’s Bay
Familiar faces
  • Joelie Kaernerk in Amittuq
  • Craig Simailak in Baker Lake
  • Lorne Kusugak in Rankin Inlet South
  • George Hickes in Iqaluit-Tasiluk
  • David Akeeagok in Quttiktuq
  • John Main in Arviat North-Whale Cove
  • Joe Savikataaq in Arviat South
  • Tony Akoak in Gjoa Haven
  • Adam Arreak Lightstone in Iqaluit-Manirajak
  • Margaret Nakashuk in Pangnirtung
  • David Joanasie in South Baffin

Ehaloak was one of six incumbents to lose their seat on election night.

Patterk Netser was defeated in Aivilik, which includes the communities of Naujaat and Coral Harbour. Solomon Malliki will replace him.

Also losing their seats were Cathy Towtongie for Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet, Emiliano Qirngnuq in Netsilik, David Qamaniq in Tununiq and Calvin Pederson in Kugluktuk.

Former president of QIA, PJ Akeeagok’s election signs posted in the Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu constituency. Akeeagok won his constituency with the largest margin of the night. (Mario de Ciccio/Radio-Canada)
Iqaluit MLAs all have political experience

In the last of the Iqaluit ridings to be called, P.J. Akeeagok won Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu with the largest margin of the night. Akeeagok resigned as president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association to run in this election.

“I’m really humbled and I’m really lost for words,” he told CBC.

Akeeagok said he heard about multiple issues on the campaign trail, from access to childcare to mental health supports to concerns about bringing elders back to the territory for long-term care.

He also heard about the city’s water crisis, but said the response of people in his constituency pointed to a strength in the community.

“I have seen them pull together and everybody has contributed to the betterment of this amazing city we call home.”

Another newcomer to the territorial scene, but not to politics, is Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster, who won the constituency of Iqaluit-Sinaa by seven votes. She took a leave of absence from her position as deputy mayor of Iqaluit to run for MLA.

“I’ve put a lot of time and effort into supporting my community,” Brewster told CBC. “And then, of course, my time as deputy mayor has given me the opportunity to show people what I can do. I think that’s why they have confidence [in me]. They’re my neighbours, they’re my friends.”

Adam Arreak Lightstone was re-elected in Iqaluit-Manirajak and George Hickes will keep his seat representing Iqaluit-Tasiluk.

Hickes said that old-fashioned campaigning, and not social media, was the ticket for connecting with voters.

“Over the past four, four plus weeks, I’ve knocked on over 600 doors twice with my team, and the feedback that we got is what kept us going every day,” Hickes said.

His name recognition probably didn’t hurt.

“I like to think going into my third term… I definitely would be considered one of the veterans and I think I have a lot to offer to the cabinet,” Hickes said.

Adam Arreak Lightstone’s election signage pictured in front of the Qamutiq building in Iqaluit’s downtown. (Mario de Ciccio/Radio-Canada)
Record number of acclamations

Five MLAs were acclaimed to Nunavut’s sixth Legislative Assembly, a record for the territory, which had previously only seen two acclamations in an election.

The acclaimed members include the most recent premier, Joe Savikataaq, who will represent the constituency of Arviat South again in this assembly.

Also acclaimed was fellow Arviatmuit John Main, who will represent the residents of Arviat North-Whale Cove. He served as chair of the regular members’ caucus in the fifth assembly, a role in consensus government that serves a similar function to leader of the opposition in the party system.

In Pangnirtung, Margaret Nakashuk was acclaimed, as was David Akeeagok in the High Arctic riding of Quttiktuq and David Joanasie in South Baffin.

All the acclaimed MLAs, aside from Main, held cabinet positions in the previous government.

What happens next

Because the territory is run by a consensus-style government — one without political parties — the Speaker, premier and cabinet are selected by secret ballot by the elected members as a whole.

During the Nunavut leadership forum, which will take place on Nov. 17, members are nominated for cabinet positions and MLAs are given a chance to question them before they vote.

Once the premier is selected, it is up to them to assign portfolios to members of cabinet.

-WIth files from The Canadian Press, Nick Murray, Toby Otak and Sara Minogue

Sara Frizzell, CBC News

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