This will be one of the most hotly contested races, pitting Premier Eva Aariak against former cabinet minister Patterk Netser. But both of those candidates will also find some serious challengers: the young new politicians in this constituency are all highly ambitious.
Originally a teacher from Arctic Bay, Eva Aariak, 58, moved to Iqaluit in the mid-1980s. She was a long-time civil servant and from 1999 to 2004, Nunavut’s first languages commissioner. She also owned and operated Malikaat, a small retail business, before becoming Nunavut’s second premier in November 2008.
Her first action item as premier was to order a Government of Nunavut report card, which produced a blunt assessment of the government to date. Her administration subsequently focused on education and health, including a public campaign on school attendance, work on a suicide prevention strategy and work on a poverty reduction strategy.
After five years as premier, Aariak announced she wouldn’t seek another term in the top job. However, she does hope to remain in the legislature, continuing to work on her top three priorities: early childhood education, mental health and infrastructure.
Born and raised in Iqaluit, Travis Cooper, 34, is now raising a daughter of his own there. After seven years working with the Nunavut Employees Union, and five with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc, he says he’s ready to enter public life.
His motto is “Family First” and his priorities are creating a higher standard of education, and working to create long-term, multi-year funding arrangements with non-governmental organizations. According to him, education and strong families are the foundation of any successful society.
Cooper also has strong views on the justice system. He’d like to see support for victims of violent crimes and tough sentences for offenders. But he’d also like to see programs in jails to help inmates get an education, and ultimately make the transition back into society.
The son of George Hickes Sr., who served in the Manitoba legislature for 21 years, George Hickes Jr., 44, says he’s been preparing for this election for a long time.
“I’m at the point now that I feel I can justifiably contribute.”
Hickes grew up in Churchill and small-town Manitoba, moving to Iqaluit in 2004. He began his career in finance, then worked in education policy for the Nunavut government and and later in communications with Qulliq Energy Corporation. He also worked as an executive assistant to his cousin, Hunter Tootoo, where he says he got some good insight into the legislative process.
Hickes wants to focus on affordable housing and better education, because he says that’s how Nunavut will work towards greater economic development. Hickes regrets that he lost his Inuktitut as a child, but says he plans to work on it if he’s elected.
Gideonie Joamie, 40, spent eight years with the Department of Culture and Heritage, most recently as the director of policy and planning. He was born and raised in Iqaluit and he thinks that’s important.
“It’s my home community and we haven’t had a lot of original Iqalummiut represent us in the legislature.”
For example, Joamie says the recent decision to liberalize beer and wine sales was the turning point that made him want to get into territorial politics.
“Having lived here all my life, having heard the horror stories of the past, I was disappointed.”
Not that he’s against the idea, he says, but Joamie feels that opening a beer store before establishing an addictions treatment centre is irresponsible.
If elected, Joamie says he’ll look for creative solutions to the exorbitant cost of housing in the capital, and the huge monthly bills that keep working families in public housing. He also wants to see Nunavut get a bigger share of its offshore turbot fishery, and he supports the Arctic Fibre link that could bring faster Internet to the territory.
Patterk Netser, 54, is originally from Coral Harbour, where he ran a gravel company for 13 years. He first moved to Iqaluit as MLA for Nanulik in 2004. After losing a second term in the legislature, he stayed on in the capital to work as a constituency assistant for MP Leona Aglukkaq, winding up as director of her regional office.
Netser says he’s running now to help improve people’s lives in his new home town.
“We have to restore hope back into the people,” he said. “We really haven’t had much from this current assembly in terms of leadership.”
He’s also worried about education in Nunavut.
“If you want to get into Nunavut Arctic College programs, you have to do a foundation year. Why can’t our education system do that for them? It’s a waste of money. It frustrates me, and that’s why I’m running.”