The people have spoken, and they have spoken for change. We’re hoping the new legislative assembly will be able to achieve the changes candidates have identified in their campaign platforms.
Most notable in this move for change is the number of cabinet ministers no longer in the mix. At the top, Premier Peter Taptuna and Finance Minister Keith Peterson retired, and deputy premier Monica Ell-Kanayuk was defeated, as were ministers George Kuksuk and Johnny Mike, and speaker George Qulaut. Former premier Paul Okalik, who started the last term as health and justice minister but stepped down over Iqaluit’s beer and wine store, was also defeated.
Coming into play are several well-known Nunavummiut, so we can expect an interesting selection of options for premier that will establish the tone for the new term.
In addition to experienced returning MLAs – we especially expect Paul Quassa and George Hickes to be favoured – added into the mix are experienced leaders in former Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Cathy Towtongie, former Iqaluit mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik, Cambridge Bay Mayor Jeannie Ehaloak (possibly, pending a judicial recount), and senior GN bureaucrat David Akeeagok. The entire group includes a variety of strengths and reputations that could work for and against each individual leader.
Also notable is the fact six women won a seat this year, with three more placing second. This is a significant improvement over the last assembly, which had three at the start but ended with only Ell-Kanayuk and Pat Angnakak. The lack of representation was an embarrassment, and we hope equal representation can be achieved in the next election or soon after.
We’re also encouraged that, in a territory where more than half the population is under 25, we are seeing young people run and win. It’s good to see Adam Arreak Lightstone, 30, and Mila Adjukak Kamingoak, 31, enter the assembly. We need more young people to follow their lead as they bring with them the concerns of families with young children.
We think – and hope – Nunavut is in good hands for the next few years.
And it’s important that this be true, as the assembly has some critical decisions to make that affect us all.
Will the controversial language and education Bill 37 be revived, and how will it change to pass? Can the government put a plan in place to ensure Inuit languages survive?
Will the new government support or oppose greater resource development in this territory?
Housing, food security, cost-of-living, Inuit employment, mental health supports, infrastructure – roads, ports, the Nunavut-Manitoba Transportation Link and fibre optic internet come to mind – and alcohol and marijuana sales are also consistently mentioned as citizen concerns.
Our new assembly will need our support and supervision. Let’s encourage them to stay focused on Inuit societal values, working together to improve life for all Nunavummiut.