Nearly half as many Nunavummiut are running in this year's territorial election as the last one, prompting two MLAs to wonder if interest in Nunavut politics is declining.
A total of 46 candidates are registered to run in the Oct. 27 election. They include Keith Peterson and Tagak Curley, who have been acclaimed to their second terms as MLAs for Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet North, respectively.
By comparison, 82 Nunavummiut put their names forward in the 2004 election, and 71 candidates ran in Nunavut's first territorial election in 1999.
"There's a lot of difficulties being a politician — particularly from this region, Kitikmeot — because we have to basically live in Iqaluit a great part of the year," Peterson told CBC News on Monday from Cambridge Bay, located in western Nunavut.
"You're away from your family and from your friends, so it's a lot of stress and strain on people from this part of Nunavut."
The declining interest in running for office may be most evident in the South Baffin constituency, where no one declared candidacy.
Elections Nunavut has scheduled a byelection on Nov. 3 for South Baffin. Outgoing MLA Olayak Akesuk, who had not wanted to seek re-election, told CBC News he may run if nobody else is interested.
In Rankin Inlet North, Curley told CBC News he is humbled to be acclaimed a second time — he won the seat without contest in 2004 — by he believes the low number of candidates this year is due to a lack of information for people thinking of running.
Curley said he also believes Elections Nunavut's declaration period — "The very short five days for nominations to be put in and recorded," he said — is not long enough, although the same five-day period was in effect in 2004.
Peterson said he was surprised to have no competition in Cambridge Bay, but both he and Curley said they plan to spend the rest of the election campaign period meeting with constituents.
As for why fewer people are running this time, Peterson noted that about 66 people are barred from being candidates because they did not file their financial paperwork from the 2004 election.
From those 66 people, "there could have been several candidates who would have been interested in running in this election and can't," he said. "So you may see them again in the next election."
As for their hopes in the upcoming legislative assembly, Peterson and Curley both said they will be seeking a cabinet seat. Neither of them ruled out the option of running for premier.