Clyde River mayor Jerry Natanine disqualified from hamlet election

Clyde River mayor Jerry Natanine has been disqualified from seeking re-election for not following Community and Government Services regulations, but the department may not have followed its own regulations in disqualifying him.

Not clear if Community and Government Services followed election rules in barring mayor from running

Jerry Natanine has been disqualified from running for re-election as mayor of Clyde River, Nunavut, because he owes the hamlet money due to a council error in disbursing retroactive pay raises. It's unclear if election regulations were followed in regards to the disqualification as the local returning officer says he didn't disqualify Natanine. (Elyse Skura/CBC)

Clyde River mayor Jerry Natanine has been disqualified from seeking re-election for not following Community and Government Services regulations but the department may not have followed its own regulations in disqualifying him.

Natanine inadvertently owed thousands of dollars to the hamlet at the time of the nominations for the hamlet election, thus making him ineligible to run for mayor.

In April, the hamlet council applied to the Minister of Community and Government Services to give itself pay raises for the first time in 10 years. They didn't get approval for the raise until September, at which point they retroactively paid themselves the raise for the period from April to September.

Unbeknownst to the council, the Nunavut Hamlet Act doesn't allow for retroactive ­pay and Natanine and the council had to pay it back. 

Under the Local Authorities Elections Act, candidates who owe more than $500 to a hamlet aren't eligible to run for mayor or councillor.

As of now, Natanine owes the hamlet close to $2,000.

"It's embarrassing on my part. I should have seen it in the hamlet's act," Natanine said.

To help him meet the eligibility requirements, the council voted to advance Natanine's salary so he could pay off the debt. But again, unbeknownst to them, hamlets can't issue loans and thus they couldn't legally advance Natanine his salary.

Returning officer surprised by decision

In response to a request for an interview, Community and Government Services sent CBC a statement from Darren Flynn, the department's acting deputy minister, referencing the Elections Act and explaining why Joasie Iqalukjuak, Clyde River's returning officer, declared Natanine ineligible.

But when contacted by CBC, Iqalukjuak said he had never declared Natanine ineligible and said he was surprised the department wouldn't let Natanine run.

According to the Local Authorities Elections Act, if the returning officer has reasonable grounds to question the eligibility of a candidate, he or she is to notify the candidate in writing and have them make a declaration of their eligibility. It's unclear if that process was followed in Natanine's disqualification.

Natanine said he would have been able to pay off the debt next week – before the Dec. 14 election day – and had asked CGS if there was any way to appeal the ruling.

"I wanted to appeal but they wouldn't even give me any way to appeal it," Natanine said.

"They knew it would be paid off before election day, but they have a very heavy hand, and they use it. 

"I'm very disappointed. It makes me really angry that a community, Clyde River and its hamlet council, wanted me to get nominated ... and as communities, we don't have power. Community self­-government is the answer to our problems. We have to run our own lives, fail at our own failures and succeed with our own successes."

The Department of Community and Government Services has not yet responded to CBC's request for clarification.

Since Natanine's disqualification, James Qillaq is the only candidate for mayor and will run uncontested.

Seismic testing fight continues

Natanine has been the face of Clyde River's fight against seismic testing in the area. The hamlet's bid for a judicial review from the Federal Court of Appeal was denied in August, but they have applied for their case to be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Natanine says even if he's not the mayor, he still wants stay involved in the case.

"That's one thing I'm going to approach the council about, to see if they want to name me as a representative to deal with this case," Natanine said.

"We're going to have to work that out with our lawyer and see if anything needs to change or not."


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