Federal parties rush to get ready in North
Political parties in Canada's North are scrambling to line up candidates and get ready for a spring election that could be called in days.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said Wednesday that his party will introduce a motion of non-confidence in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority government on Friday.
Should it pass, and an election is triggered, all three incumbent MPs in Canada's northern territories — Nunavut Conservative MP Leona Aglukkaq, Western Arctic NDP MP Dennis Bevington, and Yukon Liberal MP Larry Bagnell — say they will defend their seats.
Meanwhile, some of the parties that plan to challenge the incumbents have yet to finalize candidates.
Aglukkaq, who is also federal health minister, is the only candidate in Nunavut to have filed her nomination papers to date. She has represented Canada's largest riding since the last election in 2008.
Recent string of announcements
Aglukkaq has made a string of funding announcements in Nunavut in recent months, including money for youth projects, mental health initiatives, and a partnership that will see more medical residents honing their skills in the territory.
But Aglukkaq said she would rather not wage an election campaign at this time.
"My position has always been I don't want an election," Aglukkaq told CBC News. "There's so much more work to be done."
Ranbir Hundal, president of the Nunavut Liberal Association, said the party is the process of confirming a candidate.
"Quite a few people have approached," Hundal said on Wednesday, although he would not say who the contenders are.
No matter who ends up being the Liberal candidate in Nunavut, Hundal conceded it will be an uphill battle against Aglukkaq, who has the distinction of being Canada's first Inuk cabinet minister.
"She has a strong portfolio, so naturally it will be a tough fight for us," he said.
The New Democrats do not have a candidate or riding association in Nunavut at this time, but party spokesperson Sally Housser said someone will be finalized "in the coming days."
N.W.T. ex-premier to challenge Bevington
In the Northwest Territories, Bevington said he is ready seek his third term as the MP for Western Arctic.
Bevington has represented the territory-wide riding since 2006, when he defeated longtime Liberal MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew.
Although this week's federal budget included $150 million for the construction of an all-weather highway between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., Bevington said the budget did not properly address northerners' high costs of living.
"What the Conservatives offered in the budget just wasn't adequate," he said.
"We need to see that we make our communities more sustainable. Yes, roads will help, but also investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency are things that can make a huge difference to people in their lives."
Meanwhile, the Liberals are hoping for a comeback with their candidate, former N.W.T. premier Joe Handley. The longtime MLA, who served as premier from 2003 to 2007, was confirmed as the Liberals' candidate in 2009.
"What we need for many people is training, job opportunities, and in too many cases we need treatment for people to be able to get a healthy lifestyle," Handley said.
"We don't need prisons, we don't need a bunch of untendered F-35s, and we don't need to spend a bunch of money on, you know, subsidizing the large corporations. We need to help the little people."
Both Handley and Bevington said they are in the process of getting their headquarters set up and making other pre-election preparations.
The Green Party will be represented by Eli Purchase, who is expected to make an official announcement later this month.
The Conservatives have yet to say who will represent them in Western Arctic.
Yukon Liberal, Green candidates ready
The Tories are also without a confirmed candidate in Yukon, which has been Liberal territory since Bagnell first won the riding in 2000.
"I have my first ride to the rural communities already arranged, so I'll be heading out as soon as I get home if the budget doesn't pass," Bagnell said Wednesday.
Yukon Green Party candidate John Streicker said he is also ready for an election campaign.
"The Green Party here in the Yukon has been preparing since the new year. We anticipated that an election was close," Streicker said.
Michael Lauer, the Conservatives' official agent in Yukon, told CBC News that party members will select a candidate over the weekend. Ryan Leef and Gerrard Fleming have expressed interest in the party nomination to date, he said.
Rachael Lewis, an election planner for the NDP, said members are meeting on Wednesday night and will have a candidate and a plan soon.