Canada

2 Nunavut candidates kick off federal election campaign

Two out of the four political parties vying for the Nunavut riding in the Oct. 14 federal election began their campaigns on Monday, while the other two parties have yet to reveal their candidates officially.

Conservatives mum on whether Nunavut cabinet minister will run

Two out of the four political parties vying for the Nunavut riding in the Oct. 14 federal election began their campaigns on  Monday, while the other two parties have yet to reveal their candidates officially.

NDP candidate Paul Irngaut set up his campaign office Monday. ((CBC))
Liberal candidate Kirt Ejesiak and New Democrat Paul Irngaut both set up their campaign offices in Iqaluit on Monday. Irngaut also served hot dogs and corn in the afternoon to a steady stream of people downtown.

Their campaigns began amid widespread speculation that Nunavut Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq has been tapped to run for the Conservatives. But neither Aglukkaq nor the Tories returned calls from CBC News on Monday.

The race in Nunavut is wide open, after Liberal MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell announced in 2006 that she would not be seeking another term in office. She had held the riding since 1997 and is now moving back to Nunavut.

"I know I will miss some of those experiences, but I really feel that it's time for me to move on and time for someone fresh and with more energy to go in there," Karetak-Lindell said in an interview over the weekend, as she packed up her Ottawa home.

"I think every politician has to know when the time to go is, and I feel that it's that time for me."

First public appearance for NDP candidate

Monday marked Irngaut's first public appearance as Nunavut's NDP candidate. Although he was declared a candidate in February, Irngaut was working at the land-claims organization Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. as a wildlife adviser before the election writ was issued on Sunday.

Irngaut took aim at Prime Minister Stephen Harper's emphasis on Arctic sovereignty as an issue in Canada's North.

"It's only when the issue of sovereignty comes up that he says something," he said.

"The thing he said [that] really irked me was he said, with the Arctic sovereignty, 'Either we use it or lose it.' I'm sorry, Mr. Harper, we've been using this North for the longest time, and we can't lose it. That is why I'm running."

Irngaut's supporters have praised him as a talented communicator in both English and Inuktitut — an essential skill in Nunavut, where 84 per cent of the territory's population is Inuit.

Liberal candidate Kirt Ejesiak said housing and other issues important to Nunavummit will be central to his platform. ((CBC))
Harvard-educated Ejesiak, 38, fielded a reporter's questions in Inuktitut at his campaign office Monday, but admitted that his mastery of the language could still use some work.

"Being away, I guess, for the last, I think, 10 or 12 years has certainly impacted on my ability to speak Inuktitut," he said.

"I take pride in the fact that I understand well, I could speak to the elders, and I will continue to improve my Inuktitut over the course of the campaign and after."

Ejesiak said issues that matter most to Nunavut residents, such as a severe lack of housing, are central to his platform.

"We know that housing is in short supply; we need 3,000 units right now to solve the crisis we have in Nunavut," he said, adding that Arctic sovereignty-related announcements made recently by Harper haven't made much of an impact on people in the territory.

"We still have a lot of poverty," he said.

"Nunavut is the place where we have the highest unemployment rate. Poverty is such a big issue, it needs to be addressed immediately."

Along with the Conservatives, the Green Party also has yet to announce its candidate in Nunavut.

"We do have a very, very strong high-profile candidate for Nunavut, and we look forward to making that announcement a bit later on this week," Green Party spokeswoman Camille Labchuk said.

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