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The other side of the House

Kent Driscoll
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Mar 27/06) - She doesn’t know where she will be sitting, but Nunavut MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell is preparing for the other side of the house.

The veteran MP is facing a new challenge - life as an opposition member -- and is looking for new ways to ensure her voice is heard. She has also picked up a title -- the associate critic for public health. She was in Ottawa for a health briefing on March 20.

“We’re preparing to be the ones asking the questions of the government. That’s one big change,” said Karetak-Lindell.

The new Conservative government has combined some cabinet positions, but the Liberals in opposition are keeping their old formation. There will be a Liberal critic for Indian Affairs and another one for Northern Development.

“We’ll (have a critic for each), even though the Conservative government put them back together under one minister,” said Karetak-Lindell.

“I think for the first Question Period, the government will be more nervous than us. They’ve never had to answer questions before,” said Karetak-Lindell. The MP has been spared from trudging her belongings across Ottawa. She has the same office she had before her Liberal party was defeated in the last election.

Protecting Canadian interests in the North has been a priority for the Conservatives. Karetak-Lindell fears a return to the “make decisions, ask questions later” approach to dealing with Nunavut.

“We aren’t on their radar screen the way we were under other prime ministers. What I’m really fearing is the same approach we went through in the 1950s and 1960s. In that conversation, they don’t say ‘Let’s work with the people,’ or ‘What is the role of the land claims organizations.’ This is like relocating people to Grise Fiord or Resolute,” said Karetak-Lindell.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised a deep-water port for Iqaluit, a military facility in Cambridge Bay and other military spending in Nunavut.

Karetak-Lindell wants to know where all these new people will live.

“No one is stopping to think, ‘what do people think about this.’ How are we going to mitigate the social consequences of having that many new personnel who know absolutely nothing about the people in the North? They are a larger group of people than some of the communities - more than Grise Fiord, more than Whale Cove,” said Karetak-Lindell.

She wants to know how these new people will impact education and health care.

“It’s just scary to think that they are not thinking what impact is this going to have on the people,” said Karetak-Lindell about those initiatives.

She has been trying to get a meeting with Jim Prentice, the new minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, since the election in February.

“If the minister of Indian Affairs was to go up to Iqaluit tomorrow, I wouldn’t even know,” said Karetak-Lindell.