Voters will decide in an Oct. 22 plebiscite whether Kugluktuk continues to have an Alcohol Education Committee approve or reject residents’ liquor orders or whether restrictions on booze are removed.
“It’s a challenging one,” Mayor Ryan Nivingalok said of the issue. “Ultimately, it’s going to be up to the people to decide what the outcome of it is.”
A representative from the Nunavut Liquor Commission is scheduled to meet with the mayor and council on Oct. 9 to discuss the plebiscite and its repercussions. Sixty per cent of voters must be in favour of removing alcohol restrictions to bring about change. It took a petition by some residents to prompt the plebiscite, which Elections Nunavut will oversee.
Nivingalok said he doesn’t have a sense which way the vote might go based on his interaction with residents.
“I haven’t heard much from people,” he said.
Asked whether he has any concerns about the liquor plebiscite almost coinciding with the legalization of marijuana, which occurs on Oct. 17, the mayor replied, “I think it wouldn’t matter as long as the people get out and put their vote in, make their vote count.”
Kugluktuk MLA Mila Kamingoak wouldn’t say which way she hopes the plebiscite will turn out.
“Right now I have no position on this. This decision will be made wholly by the community and by their votes,” said Kamingoak. “Obviously I’m going to support what my community decides wholly.”
Edna Elias, a longtime Kugluktuk resident, is opposed to removing alcohol restrictions. She said the limitations protect children and the “health of our community.”
She’s in favour of the existing maximum orders through the Alcohol Education Committee being reduced because binge drinking sometimes occurs under the current regime, she said.
“I fear the impact a ‘yes’ vote might have,” said Elias, who moved to Edmonton late last year for personal reasons. “My bigger worry is the impact of the legalization of marijuana. People tend to mix both drugs and alcohol when consuming, doubling the impact and results of such indulgence.”
She acknowledged that the Alcohol Education Committee has faced challenges in achieving quorum and meeting regularly, and that residents sometimes are critical of the committee and accuse its members of favouritism.
“But again, hardly anyone wants to be on the committee. They don’t want the headache but they complain,” she said, adding that the committee isn’t given enough resources to fulfill its mandate – not even paper for educational posters or stamps for mail campaigns.
An advance poll for the plebiscite is scheduled for Oct. 15.
The question will be phrased: “Are you in favour of ending the current system of liquor restriction in Kugluktuk and having an unrestricted system where only the general liquor laws of Nunavut apply?”
Voters must be 19 or older and must be residents of Kugluktuk for at least the past year.
Existing maximums through the Kugluktuk Alcohol Education Committee, per order, which may be placed every two weeks:
Two 60-ounce bottles and two 40-ounce bottles of spirits
48 cans of beer
Four litres of wine
Source: Hamlet of Kugluktuk