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Low key campaigning in Nunavut

No balloons or painted campaign buses, and barely any door-to-door soliciting. Unlike the noisy campaigns to the south, the first election in Nunavut was informal and low-key. Residents in small communities already knew the candidates running — and their families. When people went to the polls in 1999, they did it on their own terms, electing a consensus government and making special provisions for voting in a vast territory. They were looking for candidates to tackle the region's toughest obstacles: poor access to health care and high suicide and unemployment rates.

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There are very few placards, buttons or pamphlets in Nunavut's first election race. The 71 independent candidates vying for a position in the territory's new legislature don't advertise much. In the smaller communities, door-to-door soliciting is unnecessary because voters already personally know their candidates.

In this CBC Radio clip a candidate in Iqaluit, the territory's soon-to-be capital, visits some of her constituents -- but she doesn't need to knock before entering.

Many of the candidates don't have previous political experience. But they definitely know the issues: improving access to health care and education and lowering the territory's high unemployment and suicide rates. 
• Candidates for the new Nunavut legislature were nominated by eastern Arctic residents. By the Jan. 11, 1999 deadline 71 hopefuls had submitted papers. There were 11 women and 60 men in the running.
• The employment backgrounds of the MLAs hopefuls included: businessmen, councillors, hunters, carvers, fishermen, government officers and a fuel truck driver.
• Some of the candidates recorded their occupation as "unemployed."

• Iqaluit is Nunavut's largest community with a population of 5,236. Bathurst Inlet and Umingmaktok are tied as the smallest communities, both with a population of 5. (2001 Census.)
• Between 1996 and 2001 Iqaluit was the second fastest-growing Canadian city. It increased in size by 24.1 per cent; Barrie, Ont. was first with 25 per cent.
• In 1995, voters chose Nunavut's capital city as Iqaluit (60 per cent) over Rankin Inlet (40 per cent).

• In 1999, Nunavut's per capita income was $11,000.
• In 2001, 10 per cent of Nunavut's population had a high school education.
• In 2001, Nunavut's unemployment rate was 17.4 per cent. The new government provided 2,200 jobs, becoming the region's largest employer.
• The government had 10 departments in three communities, with branches in nearly all of Nunavut's communities.
• In 2001, 43 per cent of government jobs were filled by Inuit.

• The federal government funded 90 per cent of Nunavut's first budget of $600 million.
• In 2001, Nunavut asked the federal government for an additional $12 million. A reason cited was the costly expense of hiring southerners to fill government jobs. Few residents had the skills for public jobs.
• In 2003, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien set aside an extra $60 million to help Nunavut and the Northwest Territories improve their health care systems.
Medium: Radio
Program: The World At Six
Broadcast Date: Feb. 12, 1999
Guest(s): Natsiq Kango, Ed Picco
Host: Bernie McNamee
Reporter: Curt Petrovich
Duration: 2:45

Last updated: January 30, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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