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Meet your candidates

Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 29, 2011

Nunavummiut in Pangnirtung, Pond Inlet and Iqaluit West will choose who will represent them in the legislative assembly in a byelection on Sept. 12.

Nunavut News/North asked each candidate why they are running, what they are hoping to achieve and what they think would be their biggest challenge.


Johnny Mike

Johnny Mike, a former chair of the Baffin Fisheries Coalition and former president of Niqitaq Fisheries Ltd., said he's running because the vacant position has to be filled.

"Every riding should have an MLA at all times and I feel that's the main reason why I'm running for Pang riding," he said.

The small business operator, born and raised in Pangnirtung, said if elected, this would be his first time in public office.

"Even though it's kind of a short term to fill in, I feel I have enough experience and knowledge in Nunavut on the land claims agreement and the government operations," he said. "I think it's time for me to get involved at the political level."

Mike has four children and one adopted grandson. His wife is a reverend. He started his career as a heavy-duty mechanic and has worked for the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, Qulliq Energy Corporation and the Nunavut Construction Corporation.

"I will try my best to go back to where Pang's MLA resigned and take on from there. It will be a challenge, I know," he said. "Also, the challenge will be that I will be a new boy on the block."

He added he would also look at wildlife issues and "look at some options to see how commercial harvesting, such as narwhal and others, can be economically viable within Canada and also within the territory."

Hezakiah Oshutapik

Hezakiah Oshutapik said he is running because he wants to help and support the community.

He said his priorities are health care, issues in the community, and getting ice in the arena for the youth.

A former two-term mayor of Pangnirtung, he said he hopes to represent the community as well in the territorial legislature if elected MLA.

His biggest challenge will be to get rid of the dust problem in the summer through dust control or pavement, said Oshutapik.

"It's really very dusty during the summer. (The problem) has been around for a long time and nobody seems to be doing anything about it," he said.

Joe Enook and Sam Omik Sr. could not be reached by press time.

TUNUNIQ (Pond Inlet)

Brandy Kanayuk

Brandy Kanayuk said her biggest challenge in her bid to become the next MLA for Tununiq (Pond Inlet) in the Sept. 12 byelection is that she is an underdog given her younger age compared to her rivals.

But at 34, Kanayuk said she knows she can overcome this.

"I have a passion for Nunavut. I have a passion for wanting to make communities better," she said.

Kanayuk's campaign platform focuses on four main areas - education, poverty reduction, community improvement and supporting elders and youth. In terms of education, what needs to be changed is the habit of passing students on to the next grade when they are not prepared, creating "illiterate high school students."

Her other priorities are working with retailers to reduce prices for people on social assistance and increasing funding to daycares.

"If there's more daycare space, more people can work; and therefore, more people can pay taxes for social programs that we desperately need here."

Kanayuk added improvements are needed to infrastructure and social housing, better protection of elders from mental and physical abuse, as well as improving children's access to recreational activities.

"When kids don't have any recreational things to do, they tend to resort to violence and to making trouble," she said. "If we want to make Nunavut better, we have to plant a seed with kids so they'll be able to do better in school and in life in general."

Kanayuk is employed with the Nunavut Department of Justice in Iqaluit. With her spouse Kent, she has three sons, Ian, Joseph and Noah.

David Qajaakuttuk Qamaniq

In 2003, David Qajaakuttuk Qamaniq lost his bid to become the MLA for Tununiq (Pond Inlet) by only five votes. Now, the 50-year-old is on leave from his position as a community liaison officer for the Qikiqtani Inuit Association to run again.

"Tununiq riding was not represented at the legislative assembly for a number of months. We need to catch up to the rest of Nunavut," he said in a press release.

Qamaniq was born at an outpost camp 110 km northwest of Pond Inlet (Low Point), but has lived in Mittimatalik/Pond Inlet since moving there with his family when he was three.

He lists several items on his campaign platform he will lobby for, including a breakwater and docking facilities for the hamlet, expansion of the airport, and ensuring the territorial government maintains talks with the Government of Canada on royalty sharing. In addition, he said access roads need to be built to nearby traditional hunting places and the Salmon River. He also wants to reintroduce the home ownership program to deal with the high cost of public housing rentals.

Qamaniq said he is also concerned with environmental issues.

"Inuit hunters are concerned about exploration companies wanting to conduct seismic testing in the Baffin Bay area. This would have a negative impact on wildlife and I want to ensure that Inuit concerns are addressed and reach a compromise with these companies."

A final issue on his platform is the need for an elders and youth facility in the community.

Besides his work at QIA, Qamaniq is an Inuit impact benefits agreement negotiator and has held various positions with the hamlet, including as a planning and land administrator, a sewage truck driver and a community lands administrator. He was also a member of the Tununiq Theatre Group from 1986 to 1990.

Qamaniq, who attended Takijualuk School and completed Grade 9, is married to Leah Qamaniq and has four children.


Tuutalik Boychuk

Tuutalik Boychuk, 34, was born in Rankin Inlet, raised in Yellowknife and has three university degrees. Moving back to Iqaluit from the south in 2009, Boychuk worked at Nunavut's office of the legislative assembly before accepting a senior policy position at the territorial Department of Education.

Her platform focuses on children and education.

"I would like to see where I can make improvements for the lives of children in Nunavut because for all the problems that Nunavut has, they all start from the children," she said.

"If they all get a very good start in life, everything else follows from there more easily. I would like to put a little more emphasis and focus on early childhood and K-to-12 education."

Getting ideas realized will probably be her biggest challenge, said Boychuk.

"It can be hard in a government when you have to follow certain bureaucratic steps. I mean that's all necessary but it's also sometimes a bit tricky to get all your ideas followed through in concrete examples," she said, adding it boils down to the whole system.

"It's just the challenges to get beyond the day-to-day procedures and all of the little things that need to be done on a daily basis," she said.

Kirt Ejesiak

Kirt Ejesiak said he decided to seek a seat in the legislative assembly because he feels a calling for public service.

The 41-year-old, born and raised in Iqaluit, is the vice-president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada and a former commissioner of the Nunavut Electoral Boundaries Commission.

"I feel a calling to serve the public to improve the lives of the people I represent," he said.

He added he is realistic in terms of what he can achieve as he is seeking a seat through a byelection.

"I am advocating for issues that are important to people in the Iqaluit West riding, that's clearly housing, poverty reduction," he said.

"I'd also be advocating for a mental health and addictions facility. I think that's critical to ensure the residents are prepared for the jobs and the opportunities that will be coming over the next little while."

Ejesiak has two sons and one daughter with his partner Madeleine, a family doctor in Iqaluit. He is a former Iqaluit city councillor, deputy mayor and has worked with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. He is currently working at Uqsiq Communications as a creative director and CEO.

Making the most of what money is available in the territorial budget will likely be his biggest challenge, said Ejesiak.

"I think that will be the biggest challenge, to improve the lives of Nunavummiut with the limited resources that we have," he said.

Monica Ell

Monica Ell, the director of network programming at the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation, said she is running to bring hope and to serve the community.

"I am not a professional politician but I am a member of this community and I want to give back, make a difference," she said.

Her priorities include improving housing, health care, day care and reviewing GN hiring practices with a focus on increasing full-time positions, she added.

"If elected, my top priority will be to deliver better government for the people of Iqaluit West," said Ell.

"The government of Nunavut has to focus on delivering better services and programs for our people."

Ell worked eight years at Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. as director of economic development. She also owned and operated Arctic Creations in Iqaluit for eight years. She is also a past president of the Baffin Chamber of Commerce.

"The biggest challenge is to get people to focus on what we can accomplish working together. We need to shift away from negative views on what we can't do and begin to focus on what we can accomplish working together," she said.

Ell is married to hunter Eeneasie Kanayuk and they have six children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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