Okalik squeaks past mayor in Iqaluit West race

Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik narrowly held onto his seat for a third term in the Iqaluit West constituency Monday, defeating Iqaluit Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik by only 44 votes.

Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik narrowly held onto his seat for a third term in the Iqaluit West constituency Monday, defeating Iqaluit Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik by only 44 votes.

Okalik had 340 votes over Sheutiapik's 296 votes, according to unofficial results from Elections Nunavut. In terms of the popular vote, Okalik had 53 per cent, while Sheutiapik had 47 per cent.

"I'm very proud to be here once again and I want to thank, first and foremost, my good constituents for believing in me once again and trusting me with another term," Okalik told CBC News in an interview Monday night.

Okalik also thanked local elders for supporting him and giving him advice on how to conduct his campaign.

The premier's close victory in Monday's election is in contrast to his 2004 re-election, in which he claimed 77 per cent of the popular vote over Doug Workman.

The contest between Okalik and Sheutiapik was considered one of the races to watch, given the high profile of both candidates.

Okalik, who has been Nunavut's premier since it became a territory in 1999, made no secret of his desire to seek a third term in the top job.

"When I started out on my first term, I said I'm not in it for the short haul," he said.

"I'm here to produce some results, some long-term results."

The premier and cabinet will be chosen by the elected MLAs at a leadership forum that will take place two to three weeks after the election.

Okalik said he would like to focus on social issues such as suicide prevention and poverty.

"I have made it no secret that I want to focus on poverty," he said.

"We have a strong economy; let's use it to bring Inuit in particular up to the same standards as everyone in Nunavut."

Aariak wins in Iqaluit East; Tootoo re-elected

In the Iqaluit East constituency, business owner and former languages commissioner Eva Aariak defeated city Coun. Glenn Williams with 62 per cent of the vote over Williams's 32 per cent. Kakki Peter, 26, rounded out the race with six per cent of the vote.

With Monday's win, Aariak became Nunavut's first and only female MLA so far to be elected in this election.

And in Iqaluit Centre, CBC News projected that incumbent Hunter Tootoo would win a third term in office, as he received 62 per cent of the vote over 28 per cent for his closest rival, Qikiqtani Truth Commission director Madeleine Redfern, with two of three polls reporting as of midnight ET Tuesday.

Joe Sageaktook, a relative newcomer to Nunavut politics, rounded out the Iqaluit Centre contest with 51 votes.

Iqaluit, Nunavut's capital city with a population of 6,184, was home to three must-watch contests in this year's territorial election, with the race between Okalik and Sheutiapik only the biggest ticket.

In Iqaluit East, Aariak, Williams and newcomer Peter ran to succeed Ed Picco, who had held the seat since Nunavut was created.

Picco, who was education minister and house leader in the last assembly, decided not to seek re-election after 13 years in Nunavut and Northwest Territories politics.

The election in Iqaluit Centre was hit by controversy when Okalik Eegeesiak was pulled from the ballot because she was found not to have resided in Nunavut for the 12 consecutive months prior to Monday's election, which is required under Elections Act rules.