For the first time in history following a territorial election for the Government of Nunavut (GN), I am expecting — and actually cheering for — the next premier to come from the Kivalliq.
I would be equally happy to see either Rankin Inlet’s Lorne Kusugak or Cathy Towtongie have the premier’s plaque on their office desk.
There is another MLA from the Kivalliq region, Arviat’s John Main, I would also fully support in that position, but his time is not yet here.
On the other side of the coin, I hope every Kivalliq MLA stays as far away from ministerial portfolios as they possibly can.
At least, that is, if they want to be re-elected.
Over the past 10-15 years, Kivalliq MLAs who accepted ministerial positions suddenly acquired eight new words I came to loathe: “I have to look at the big picture.”
I support Towtongie and Kusugak because of their leadership abilities, even though they often approach issues in different ways.
Towtongie favours a no-nonsense approach and has shown little patience in the past for unnecessary or expensive perks for people in power.
She did a fine job during her tenure with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the odds are she would excel in the premier’s chair.
Towtongie asks tough questions and expects genuine answers. She does not suffer fools lightly and she rarely tolerates practiced rhetoric, off-the-cuff replies or double talk.
She would prefer to work in harmony with those who can help further her agenda – always to the betterment of life in Nunavut – but is not the person you want to make an enemy of in the political landscape.
And that is exactly the type of leadership Nunavut requires right now.
The same can be said of Kusugak, but only if he remembers his roots and rediscovers the strengths that made him one of the best mayors I have seen during my career in municipalities small, large and huge.
I still remember, vividly, a moment during a hamlet council meeting in Rankin Inlet when Kusugak was pushing to have a project started in his community.
After roughly an hour of mostly negative debate, during which the councillors discussed a number of reasons they were hesitant about the project, Kusugak grew frustrated.
He then told the council members he was tired of hearing reasons why they couldn’t take on the project and was ready to hear them talk about ways they could make it work. Then he asked those at the table, “If you’re telling me we can’t make things work for the betterment of our community because they’re difficult, what are we doing here?”
Within minutes, the discussion turned. Classic Mayor Kusugak.
Kusugak sees the half-full glass and works tirelessly to come up with ways to fill it to the brim.
That, as well, is the type of leadership Nunavut needs right now.
Away from the premier’s chair, Kivalliq needs GN representation that focuses entirely on the ridings in our region.
The Kivalliq’s voice, once strong and united, has become soft and divided by too many elected officials trying to ‘play the game’ once they arrive in Iqaluit.
Some are fortunate to have the voters give them another chance, but most are never heard from at that level again.
Two banners need to be flown in this territory during the next few years. One reads Kivalliq Led! and should fly over the premier’s office.
The other reads Kivalliq First! It should fly over every elected Kivalliq member who does not have the word premier on his or her business card.