5 things to watch in the Nunavut election

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Voters in Nunavut head to the polls today in the fifth general election since the territory was created in 1999.

There are no political parties at the territorial level and no polling, so there is no forecasting winners and losers in the 22 constituencies across the territory. One winner is already known: Mila Adjukak Kamingoak was acclaimed as MLA for Kugluktuk, Nunavut’s most western community, after Premier Peter Taptuna announced he would not stand for reelection.

All 72 candidates stand as independents.

1. Who will be premier?

After serving one term as premier, Peter Taptuna is not running again in Kugluktuk. Nunavummiut won’t know who the next premier will be after today’s election. That will be decided in a few weeks. Nunavut is a consensus government, meaning MLAs will meet and vote for a premier from among themselves.

But some candidates have already thrown their name in the ring. Okalik Eegeesiak’s term as chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council ends in July. She says if she wins in Iqaluit-Manirajak she will put her name forward for premier.

Nunavut’s first premier Paul Okalik is running for re-election in Iqaluit-Sinaa. He vied for premier in 2013 but lost to Taptuna.

In the Igloolik constituency of Aggu, Paul Quassa is also seeking re-election. He has also strived for the top job, so it would not be a surprise if he tried again.

2. Nunavut: the next generation

There could be a youth surge across the territory with this election. Nearly a quarter of candidates in this election are 40 years old or younger. That’s up from just eight per cent in 2013.

The younger candidates represent a change from the old guard of Nunavut politics. Leaders who negotiated the land claim that created Nunavut and long-time political players in the territory are now in their late 60s.

There are a number of familiar faces including former MLA and MP Jack Anawak and former Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated President Cathy Towtongie.

3. Will incumbents rule?

There are only two open races in the election. Finance Minister and three-time MLA for Cambridge Bay Keith Peterson is not running again, and neither is Steve Mapsalak, the MLA for Aivilik (representing the communities of Coral Harbour and Naujaat).

That’s a big change from 2013 when only nine incumbents ran, and five of those lost their seats. But 2013 saw boundaries redrawn and three new constituencies created.

4. Races to watch

The races in three of Iqaluit’s four constituencies will be close with Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu at the top of the list. There are strong challengers to the incumbents in Iqaluit-Manirajak, Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu and Iqaluit-Sinaa.

In 2013, only 20 votes separated winner Pat Angnakak from Anne Crawford. They are both back on the ballot and joined by an equally capable contender, Franco Buscemi.

It is a rematch in Rankin Inlet South between Lorne Kusugak and Alexander Sammurtok. Election Night 2013 ended in a tie. Sammurtok beat Kusugak in a byelection, after a judicial recount still found a tie.

Residents of the High Arctic can not be accused of not being engaged in the political process. There are nine candidates running in Quttiktuq to represent the communities of Arctic Bay, Grise Fiord and Resolute. That means it is possible someone could win with as little as 12 per cent of the vote.

In a close second, residents in the Igloolik and Hall Beach constituency of Amittuq have seven candidates.

5. Issues

Nunavummiut face a lot of challenges. The territory continues to struggle to build enough public housing, Inuit employment in government and private business is always lagging and in 2015, suicide was declared a crisis.

But other issues have also cropped up throughout the campaign, like the need for more in-territory elder care. The lack of long-term care beds means elders who only speak Inuktitut are sent to Ottawa for care.

With no parties, many candidates say these issues are their priorities. It will be up to voters to decide who they think will tackle them the best.

How does Nunavut’s consensus government work? (English)1:57

How does Nunavut’s consensus government work? (Inuktitut)2:48

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5 things to watch in the Nunavut election

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