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Nunakput's election wish list

Nathalie Heiberg-Harrison
Northern News Services
Published Monday, July 25, 2011

Improvements in housing, health care and employment will be at the top of voters' wish lists in Nunakput come October when they vote in the 2011 territorial election, according to community leaders.

"Housing is usually always the first big issue that we have," said Janet Kanayok, mayor of Ulukhaktok. She said residents in her community are facing rental scales that are unrealistic, and based on income before taxes, not after.

Ray Ruben, mayor of Paulatuk, said the story is the same in his community.

"I'm not sure if it's a crackdown or what's been going on, because there's been a lot of evictions happening," he said, adding that in the past week, two families have had to leave their homes.

One called him asking for a tent, and that's where they're sleeping now.

"It's terrible," said Merven Gruben, mayor of Tuktoyaktuk, of housing in his community.

"There's people getting evicted, thrown out. We need more housing. We're in a bad situation."

For residents of Sachs Harbour, it isn't housing in their hamlet that's the biggest problem, but housing in Inuvik.

Donna Keogak, corporate manager of the community corporation, said students who move to Inuvik to continue high school face an uphill battle.

Because there isn't a boarding home, they either live with friends, family or a billet.

Last year, according to Keogak, only two of the eight students who moved to Inuvik stayed in school.

Nunakput's communities of Tuktoyaktuk, Paulatuk, Ulukhaktok and Sachs Harbour are all suffering from a lack of doctors and nurses as well.

Kanayok said a doctor usually visits Ulukhaktok once a month, but this summer she was told they would have to go without. With a shortage of doctors in Inuvik, surrounding communities are getting cut off.

"It's stressful for people that have health issues," she said.

"There's one lady, she's noticed she has a lump, so she's quite scared about what the lump can be."

Ruben said Paulatuk has been cut off as well, and the one nurse in town is only available for emergencies. When they had two nurses, appointments could be made, but now that isn't the case.

"It's kind of startling, you know. We're not able to treat our people," he said.

Creating jobs in Nunakput is another challenge.

Gruben said the government's Yellowknife-centric attitude is part of the problem.

"They concentrate on a lot of stuff that's happening on the south Mackenzie, but they should be focusing farther north - a lot farther north," he said.

Ruben expressed the same frustrations.

"We're remote and we're small, so I guess we've got to scream louder."

Despite their concerns, Kanayok, Gruben and Ruben all had high praise for Jackie Jacobson, Nunakput's MLA since 2007.

"I know when he's working on an issue he just doesn't stop," Ruben said.

"He tries to see it through as much as he can."

Kanayok said Jacobson often calls to check in, ask advice and see if they have any concerns he should bring up in the legislative assembly.

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