The layout of Nunavut's electoral map, and the number of MLAs in the territory's legislature, are under review as the Nunavut Electoral Boundaries Commission begins public hearings this week.
The commission has been tasked with deciding whether Nunavut's constituencies should be drawn up differently, and whether there should be more or fewer MLAs in the legislative assembly.
The three-person panel, chaired by N.W.T. Supreme Court Justice Ted Richard, will host its first hearing Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Iqaluit, followed by hearings later this week in Qikiqtarjuaq and Kimmirut. The panel's other members are Kirt Ejesiak of Iqaluit and Gordon Main of Arviat.
Currently there are 19 MLAs in Nunavut, which is the same number from when the territory was created in 1999. It is more MLAs per capita than anywhere in Canada, and two more than what the commission had recommended in 1997.
Richard, who also chaired the 1997 commission, said he expects to hear a variety of feedback from Nunavummiut this time around, including requests from small communities that want their own elected representatives.
"You can't have an MLA for every community because then you'd have a legislature of 30 or 40 MLAs, which is far too many for 33,000 people," Richard told CBC News on Monday.
Population growth spurs review
Richard said while commission members will be open to the public's suggestions, they are also conscious of the fact that their recommendations will come with a price tag.
"You add one more MLA, there's taxpayers' dollars associated with that," he said. "You add two more, there's twice as much money."
Last year, Nunavut's chief electoral officer reported a need to establish the Electoral Boundaries Commission because of population growth in the Amittuq, Iqaluit East and Rankin Inlet North constituencies.
Former Arviat MLA David Alagalak said he opposes the idea of adding a fourth MLA in Iqaluit, unless that new constituency includes a smaller community such as Kimmirut.
"Already in Iqaluit, they have a lot of say in the government system," Alagalak said.
The commission will also have to decide what to do about the Akulliq constituency, which comprises two communities — Kugaaruk and Repulse Bay — that are 269 kilometres apart and in two different regions.
"Those [communities] are very far apart, but the air transportation links aren't very good, and so we know there's going to be some controversy about whether those should continue to be an appropriate pairing," Richard said.
The Nunavut Electoral Boundaries Commission has a budget of about $400,000 and is expected to submit recommendations and a final report to the Nunavut legislature by the end of June.