Dead centre on the map of Nunavut, Aivilik is a new constituency and the race here will be close. Both communities here (Repulse Bay and Coral Harbour) have sent MLAs to the legislature recently. Johnny Ningneongan represented Coral Harbour in Nanulik from 2008 to 2013. Steve Mapsalak represented Repulse Bay in the Akulliq constituency from 2004 to 2008. That year, Mapsalak tied for the seat with John Ningark, then lost the seat narrowly in a by-election held to break the tie.
Now Mapsalak and Ningeongan are facing off in a race of two, but don’t expect a nasty campaign. "I thought it was really nice of Steve to call me last week to say he's put his name forward," Ningeongan told the CBC. "Regardless of what happens, we've always represented our communities in various positions and he's no stranger to me."
Steve Mapsalak, 56, is well-known in Repulse Bay. He spent his whole life there and has served as mayor, president of the HTO, chair of the district education authority, and for the last five years, senior administrative officer for the hamlet. He also runs an outfitting business that takes film crews and adventure tourists out to see polar bears, narwhal and walrus. But Mapsalak says it’s time for something new: “I feel that I'm ready to get back to politics and change my career again.”
If elected, Mapsalak says he’ll focus on improving health care and medical travel, getting more recreation facilities for youth, and building an addictions treatment centre in Nunavut. He also wants to see more infrastructure that could lead to economic development like docks and better runways.
Johnny Ningeongan, 63, says he could do a lot with a second term in office, now that the government won’t be burdened with $110 million in cost overruns from the Nunavut Housing Trust. That overrun led to spending cuts in almost every department in 2010. If re-elected, he hopes to focus on local issues, raised by his constituents: “I leave everything to the voter.”
Before his election in 2008, Ningeongan spent 10 years as mayor of Coral Harbour and two years as president of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities. In all, he spent about 30 years working for the hamlet in some way, and he says constituents are asking him to run again. “It would be quite obvious if they didn’t ask me that they’re looking for somebody else.”