'A lot more to be done': Three women vie for Nunavut's single seat in Parliament

·3 min read

IQALUIT, Nunavut — For the second federal election in a row, three women will face off for Nunavut's only seat in Parliament.

The riding is up for grabs Sept. 20 after New Democratic Party MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq announced earlier this year that she would not seek a second term. She said in a powerful farewell speech in June that the institution was created off the "backs, trauma and displacement of Indigenous people" and people like her "don't belong" there.

Nunavut is the largest federal electoral district in Canada. It spans three time zones and is home to about 40,000 people, about 85 per cent of them Inuit.

Since it was established in 1999, the territory has sent Liberal, Conservative and NDP members to the House of Commons. In 2019, Qaqqaq, 25 years old at the time, beat out former Conservative MP Leona Aglukkaq and Liberal candidate Megan Pizzo-Lyall with roughly 41 per cent of the vote.

Elections Canada says 39.6 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot in the 2019, the lowest turnout since 2004.

Iqaluit-based lawyer Lori Idlout is running for the NDP and says she wants to keep Nunavut's seat orange following Qaqqaq's win last time. She says she believes Nunavut's relationship with the federal government "needs to be redefined."

"The way it works right now is to beg for services, for resources. I want to shift that dynamic to look at what our strengths are as Nunavummiut, as Inuit, and using more of our strengths to say here are the ways we can make changes."

Idlout says she also wants to help more Canadians understand Nunavut's needs.

"It's shifting the conversation so we're actually negotiating on how we can work together."

Pat Angnakak, originally from Kinngait, is Nunavut's Liberal candidate. Angnakak represented a part of Iqaluit in the territory's legislative assembly for the last eight years.

She says she chose to run for the Liberals because she thinks the party is "Nunavut's best chance."

"There's a lot more to be done. I realize that. But with them we wouldn't be starting at square one."

Angnakak was Nunavut's minister for health and later housing from 2013 until 2018, when Premier Joe Savikataaq stripped her of her duties, accusing her of breaching cabinet confidentiality when answering questions in the House. She said the premier's staff had told her she could share the information publicly and she resigned from cabinet one day later.

She says she wants to see a national housing strategy for Nunavut and wants to overhaul Nutrition North, the highly criticized federal program meant to subsidize food prices in the territory.

"I really want to bring this to the prime minister and say, 'This is not working. We need to do something about this,'" she says.

Laura MacKenzie, an Inuk from Rankin Inlet who has worked in the public service for 17 years, is running for the Conservatives. She says her experience working for the Nunavut government made her feel ready to put her name forward for the federal job.

"I work in the system, so I know how the system works," MacKenzie says.

If elected, she wants mental-health services in every Nunavut community, housing for elders and a wage subsidy for business owners and artist organizations. She also wants to review the Nutrition North program, she says.

All three candidates are bilingual in Inuktitut and English and say they plan to campaign throughout Nunavut's communities over the next few weeks.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 30, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Emma Tranter, The Canadian Press

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