Nunavut health minister Aglukkaq running for Tories

Leona Aglukkaq is leaving her post as Nunavut's health minister to be the Conservative candidate in the Oct. 14 federal election.

Leona Aglukkaq is leaving her post as Nunavut's health minister to be the Conservative candidate in the Oct. 14 federal election.

Aglukkaq announced in Nunavut's legislative assembly on Wednesday that she will resign as minister so she can run for the federal Tories in the Nunavut riding.

"It is with mixed emotion today that I announce … I will be resigning from executive council, effective end of today," Aglukkaq told the assembly Wednesday afternoon.

"My desire to serve the people of Nunavut will continue as I embark on my campaign to become the Conservative member of Parliament … for Nunavut."

Aglukkaq remains the MLA for Nattilik until her federal nomination papers have been filed. She said that process would be finalized within the next couple of days, after which time her constituency will be vacant.

Premier Paul Okalik has asked Environment Minister Olayuk Akesuk to take over as health minister for the rest of the session.

One of two women in Nunavut assembly

Aglukkaq said it has been an honour for her to serve constituents in Gjoa Haven and Taloyoak, which make up the Nattilik constituency.

A longtime Nunavut civil servant from Gjoa Haven, Aglukkaq was elected as MLA for Nattilik in the 2004 territorial election, making her one of two women elected to the 19-person assembly that year.

She was named health and social services minister shortly thereafter, a position she held until Wednesday's announcement, which ended days of speculation in Nunavut over her political future.

The Conservatives have not officially revealed their candidate in the Nunavut riding, but the party's website shows a biography of Aglukkaq as of Wednesday afternoon.

"The eyes of Canada and the world are fixed on the North, and it is essential that we are properly represented during this important time," the biography reads in part.

"As your Conservative candidate, I am ready to bring my experience and understanding of our region’s unique culture and needs to Ottawa and to work as part of the Conservative team during this important time in our region’s history."

She will be running against Paul Irngaut of the NDP and Liberal candidate Kirt Ejesiak, who will try to hold onto the riding that Liberal Nancy Karetak-Lindell has represented since 1997. Karetak-Lindell is not seeking re-election.

Earlier this week, the Green party told CBC News that it hopes to announce its candidate there soon.

Iqaluit mayor sets sights on premier's seat

Aglukkaq's bid to enter federal politics comes as Nunavut's MLAs convene for the last time before a territorial election campaign launches later this month. That election will be on Oct. 27, less than two weeks after the Oct. 14 federal vote.

On Tuesday, Iqaluit Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik told council that she would be taking a leave of absence to run in the territorial election.

"I will be on personal leave effective Sept. 20 until Oct. 28 … to throw my hat in the territorial elections," Sheutiapik said.

Sheutiapik said she will run in the Iqaluit West constituency, which is currently held by Premier Paul Okalik. The constituency is also home to the coffee shop that she owns.

Okalik has represented Iqaluit West since 1999. He handily won his second term in 2004 with 77 per cent of the popular vote.

Sheutiapik has been mayor of Nunavut's capital city since 2003, and was acclaimed to a second term in 2006.