October 2019 in review: Trudeau makes promises in Iqaluit; Qaqqaq elected MP; housing minister won’t cap rent increases

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A look back at 2019’s top stories, month by month.

Trudeau promises to eliminate diesel during campaign stop

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits the Elders’ Qammaq in Iqaluit during a campaign stop in Iqaluit, his third visit to the Nunavut capital this year. NNSL file photo

A day after battling party leaders in the one and only English language debate, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau touched down in Iqaluit, Oct 8. He touted his government’s pledge to fight climate change and promised to eliminate diesel from all Indigenous communities by 2030. It was Trudeau’s third visit to Iqaluit this year.

A press conference was held in Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park with his two children – Ella-Grace and Xavier Trudeau – and Megan Pizzo-Lyall, the Liberal candidate for Nunavut in the upcoming federal election.

Pizzo-Lyall had stood quietly by Trudeau at the podium, as he spoke to the media about his plans to fight against climate change and protect the environment.

“We’ll ensure that all Indigenous communities are off diesel and instead powered by clean affordable energy like hydro by the year 2030. We’ll hit net zero emissions by the year 2050,” promised Trudeau. When Nunavut News asked how many homes the Liberal government would promise to build in Nunavut over the next four years, the Liberal leader’s response was vague.

“We put forward a national housing strategy that is focused on building affordable infrastructure right across the country but it’s obviously not a cookie-cutter model that will be the same everywhere,” stated Trudeau.

Following the press conference, Trudeau along with his children and Pizzo-Lyall met and took photos with elders at the Elders’ Qammaq in downtown Iqaluit. After the brief visit, he met with the public outside the Qammaq.

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq elected MP

Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq. photo courtesy of the NDP

The NDP’s Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, 25, became Nunavut’s Member of Parliament with 1,000 votes more than Liberal Megan Pizzo-Lyall in the Oct. 21 federal election. Former MP and cabinet minister Leona Aglukkaq, representing the Conservatives, finished third.

“Now that I have the political status attached to me, that changes a lot of people’s perspective and how they interact or treat me. I’ve found that aspect to be the most challenging,” said Qaqqaq. “I’m a human that wants to help other humans, and it always starts getting complicated when there are certain titles attached to people’s names. I think that’s been one of the more challenging aspects to it.

“I’m not there (in the House of Commons) to fill a seat, I’m there to help 38,000 people in the biggest territory in the nation. Things need to stop going unsaid and undone … I’m going to do my best to ensure that my four years sitting in that seat that there’s actual change, not just apologies but actual action and accountability.”

Housing minister declines to cap rental increases

The minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corporation Patterk Netser
photo courtesy Legislative Assembly

Nunavut should have a cap on annual rental increases, Pat Angnakak, MLA for Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu. said in the legislative assembly. She pressed Housing Minister Patterk Netser to include such a provision in the territory’s Residential Tenancies Act, pointing out that British Columbia has a limit of 2.6 per cent on rental increases in 2020. Angnakak said a constituent recently approached her seeking help with a rent hike of between 15 and 20 per cent.

“I cannot do that,” was Netser’s response to putting a cap in place, but he committed to review the rental scale. He acknowledged that some people remain on income assistance because the rent they pay while unemployed is far cheaper than if they accept a job.

Grandparents survive icy plunge

Annie and Adam Egotik of Cambridge Bay.
photo courtesy of Adam Egotak

A Cambridge Bay grandmother and grandfather survived a fall through the ice into a frigid river while aboard a snowmobile and qamutiq.

Annie and Adam Egotik were near the rear of a family convoy of snowmobiles and qamutiqs heading back to Cambridge Bay on Oct. 26. It was evening and dark. The temperature was around -14 C.

Adam and Annie veered slightly off the trail of the snowmobiles ahead of them and their machine broke through the ice.

Annie Egotik compared the ordeal to a “bad dream” in a Facebook post. She said she and Adam tried not to panic.

“I went under water a few times…we kept talking to each other but slowly started to get stiff,” she wrote, noting that it was emotionally wrenching to hear worried family members shouting and crying nearby. Those family members, firefighters and other residents combined efforts to rescue them.

Quassa presses Savikataaq on Inuit language

Aggu MLA Paul Quassa
photo courtesy of the GN

Aggu MLA Paul Quassa applied pressure on the individual who replaced him as premier – Joe Savikataaq – to do more to make Inuktut the dominant language within the Government of Nunavut.

“Does the premier remember why we got Nunavut or was he just newborn when Nunavut was created?” Quassa said in the legislative assembly. “The government was supposed to run in Inuktitut and people are still expecting it today, but still nothing.”

Savikataaq noted that language training is available and said, “If there is no one available to serve in Inuktitut (residents can) find someone that can communicate in Inuktitut like nurses, teachers, and pilots… if (residents) want service in Inuktitut, they will get service in Inuktitut.”

Environment Canada expects warmer winter for territory

Environment Canada predicted above normal temperatures in Nunavut this winter. All three regions including the Kivalliq, Qikiqtaaluk and Kitikmeot were predicted to be warmer during the winter months of December, January and February. Environment Canada meteorologist Sara Hoffin did not provide specific details as to why her agency believed a warmer than average winter was on the way. She stated, “that’s what our probabilistic and deterministic models are showing at this time.”

“We cannot attribute one expected warmer than normal winter to climate change,” said Hoffin. “We can say that as our climate changes, we will expect more extreme departures from normals for temperature and precipitation. Both warmer and cooler than normal.”

For example, based on past statistics from Environment Canada, the average winter temperature in Iqaluit was -25.2 degrees (1981-2010). Last year, the average temperatures in Iqaluit for December, January and February were -17.7, -25.5 and -23.6 C respectively. All three months were warmer compared to the 1981-2010 average temperatures for these months of -21.3, -26.9 and -27.5 C.

Communities specifically in the Kivalliq were warned to take some necessary precautions, limit their travel, have sufficient food supplies and water and check generators for fuels in case there was a power outage.

North Arctic Comedy Festival returns for second year

The “biggest and best” Arctic comedy fest returned to Iqaluit for its second year Oct. 11 to Oct. 12. After its success in 2018, the North Arctic Comedy Festival expanded its audience by performing in Yellowknife on Oct. 9 and Oct. 10. It was committed to providing opportunities for Arctic-based comedians and bringing some laughs up North. The event aimed to raise awareness and support for mental health issues. Money raised from the comedy fest was given to the Kamatisiaqtut, a Nunavut helpline.

Iqaluit comedians Bibi Bilodeau, Peter Autut, Mary-Lee Aliyak and Wade Thorhaug, along with comedic duo Samasuni Fortin and Bernard Choquette, made up the Nunavut contingent of performers. The program also featured well-known comedians from across Canada, such as Mary Walsh, Howie Miller, Big Daddy Tazz, Derek Seguin and James Mullinger.

John Helmkay, an organizers of Crackup Comedy, encouraged people to help support local talent and celebrate Mental Illness Awareness Week by coming out to the event.

“Laughter is healing and we could all use a break from daily challenges,” said Helmkay.

-with files from Derek Neary