Summary of the CBC Nunavut Federal Candidates Forum


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Last night, I attended the CBC Nunavut Federal Candidates Forum, hosted at the Parish Hall here in Iqaluit and broadcast across Nunavut on CBC Radio. Present were Leona Aglukkaq, Jack Anawak, and Hunter Tootoo to take on CBC, audience, and social media questions. 

It wasn't the first Nunavut federal candidates forum this election season - one was hosted by the BRCC and another by Qanak - but it was definitely the most comprehensive and the most intense. The forum lasted three hours and elicited the strongest responses from both the audience and the candidates; not so surprising as the election is just days away.

Before getting into a summary of the evening's discussions, I'd love to give a huge shout out to the CBC Nunavut team organizing the event. Special mention has to go to Kevin Kablutsiak for moderating, Pauline Pemik for fielding audience questions, Jane Sponagle for running the live blog, and Sima Zerehi for live-tweeting. We live in a big territory and it's hard to get information to every corner, so these efforts are greatly appreciated and necessary.

And now, on to the summary of the CBC Nunavut Federal Candidates Forum. Note that the first half of the evening was conducted in Inuktitut, and so my notes are based on what I heard from the interpreter and not direct quotes from Leona or Jack. Hunter spoke English in both halves of the debate. Questions and answers are paraphrased for length.

Since 1999, 480 Inuit in Nunavut have died by suicide. What will your party do to address this issue?

LEONA

  • Conservative government has introduced initiatives to increase mental health assistance.
  • If elected, will implement more anti-suicide programs.

JACK

  • Need to provide support and assistance to those that have lost loved ones already.
  • Funding for programs to help survivors and those with mental health issues will be increased.
  • Need to take drastic actions, need to push NTI and the GN to treat this as a priority.
  • If you need support, don't be embarrassed to ask for it; the Help Line is open 24 hours a day.

HUNTER

  • Liberal Party will invest in developing a National Mental Health Strategy and a National Suicide Prevention Strategy with provincial, territorial governments and Aboriginal, Inuit organizations.
  • Liberals will implement all recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
  • Issues Inuit are facing come from multiple sources; Liberals committed to addressing all those issues (education, housing, etc.), not just mental health.

How will your party address the housing crisis?

JACK

  • The NDP have committed 2.4 billion dollars over four years to address this issue.
  • Emphasis on addressing Elders' housing issues with Elders' housing facilities.

HUNTER

  • As former Housing Minister, number one ask to Federal Government was money for housing.
  • Liberals have pledged 125 billion dollars over 10 years for infrastructure development.
  • If territorial and hamlet governments see housing as a priority, they can access that long-term stable funding for that.

LEONA

  • Conservatives provided 650 million dollars strictly for housing by 2008.
  • Another 2.3 billion dollars every year for four years has been allocated to address the housing issue in the territory.

Inuit are not required to have a gun license according to the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA). If the long-gun registry is reinstated, will that contravene the NLCA? How will your party address that issue?

HUNTER

  • In response to Leona's contention that the Liberal Party will bring back the long-gun registry, Hunter responded, "for the record, that's completely false...the long-gun registry is not coming back."
  • Liberal Party is committed to honouring the NLCA; if Inuit are not required to have a license, then he will lobby and push for that change.

LEONA

  • Re-stated that if the Liberals are elected, they will reintroduce the long-gun registry.
  • Referred to page 54 of the Liberal action plan.

JACK

  • NDP is on record saying we shouldn't even think about the long-gun registry; this shouldn't be an election issue.

How will your party address the issue of food insecurity?

LEONA

  • Assistance to lower the cost of food needs to be assessed and evaluated.
  • Stores and co-ops will have to identify where the savings are by printing consumer savings on their receipts.

JACK

  • If the NDP form the government, they will dismantle the Nutrition North program.
  • New program will be done through consultation with people affected.

HUNTER

  • Liberals will increase funding to Nutrition North by 40 million dollars over the next four years.
  • Need to also look outside the program to address the high cost of living in Nunavut.
  • Liberals will lower the middle class tax bracket, increase guaranteed income support for seniors, introduce more jobs to help keep more money in the pockets of Nunavummiut.

Nunavut has a very young population. How will your party support and give assistance to young people?

JACK

  • We need to provide assistance to help our youth complete high school.
  • NDP is elected will ensure that any capital projects will include training opportunities for young Nunavummiut so they can enter the wage economy with skills.

HUNTER

  • 750 million dollars pledged to the provinces and territories for job readiness and training programs.
  • Another 50 million dollars a year to Aboriginal skills and training strategy.
  • Liberal party will close the gap on Aboriginal education.
  • Through their infrastructure announcement, they will build more cultural and recreational facilities for youth to use.
  • Trudeau has committed to forming a Prime Ministers Youth Council to act as an advisory group to the PMO.

LEONA

  • Conservatives will continue to provide assistance for education, including programs in the Arctic to upgrade education options.
  • Over 1,000 Inuit have gone through their job training programs already.
  • Will provide money to increase training opportunities for those who wish to work in the mining sector.

If the two Northern airlines merge, or if they are not in competition with one another, this can adversely affect passengers. How will your party address that issue?

HUNTER

  • This is an issue for the GN.
  • One issue is high cost of running an airport or airline up here; no paved runways, high maintenance costs, poor navigational aids.
  • Federal government needs to address those factors to help bring costs of running airlines down.

LEONA

  • Competition Bureau needs to address that issue.
  • Carbon tax from the NDP would affect cost of all transportation in the territory.

JACK

  • Federal governments needs to address the issue of the codeshare or airline prices as well, because the GN operates on funding from the Government of Canada.

What is your party's stance on giving access to year-round shipping by companies like Baffinland?

LEONA

  • Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) has the mandate to deal with environmental issues like this.
  • NIRB needs to address this via consultation.

JACK

  • NDP will fully consult with those that are affected by any new activity before it is approved by the government.
  • As it is, these projects are approved by the government first and then a hearing takes place for environmental impact.

HUNTER

  • Gatekeeper for any development is the Nunavut Planning Commission; in this case, the Planning Commission unanimously decided that year-round shipping didn't comply with the land use plan, but this was overturned by the Conservatives.
  • Conservatives moved the decision on to the NIRB.
  • Liberals would abide by environmental processes and review without political input and would not bypass Planning Commission or Inuit organizations.

Nunavut is lacking in facilities like ports and docks. What would be your priority and how would you implement a plan to create these facilities?

JACK

  • Conservatives said Iqaluit would get a major dock well over 10 years ago; what happened there?
  • Now they are saying that only if they are elected, will they provide a deep sea port.
  • NDP is committed to all communities; ports for Iqaluit and Pond Inlet have already been committed.

HUNTER

  • Announcement by the CPC of deep sea port in Iqaluit is an attempt to buy votes.
  • If commitments are made to create deep sea ports, then Liberals will honour that commitment.
  • Liberals infrastructure investment can be used by GN or hamlets to create ports or docks, if that is their priority.

LEONA

  • In 2011, her position was that she would support a deep sea port in Iqaluit; now she sees this as a priority.
  • In August, the CPC started allocating funds for such projects.
  • If elected, will keep treating this as a priority.

The incumbent MP has only met with government officials, but has not consulted with the public. How will you commit to consultation with regular voters?

LEONA

  • Has fought for sealing and polar bear hunt over the years; supported by consultation with voters.
  • Polar bear management plan created by meeting with NTI, GN, and hunters.

JACK

  • NDP is committed to consultation before implementation.
  • Platform is commitment to meeting with communities and those who will be impacted by political decisions; includes individuals, committees, regions, and Inuit organizations.

HUNTER

  • Believes that visiting and talking to people in the communities is the only way you can stay in "touch with...the issues that are important to them."
  • That's the only way he can do his job properly.
  • Need to visit not just the big cities, but also the territory from one end to the other.

How will your party address climate change and suicides in Nunavut?

LEONA

  • Conservatives will work with local governments and organizations to create solutions.
  • Made mental health and suicide a priority as Chair of the Arctic Council.
  • Party has made significant investments to GN to deal with mental health - 30 million dollars.
  • Conservatives established the Mental Health Committee of Canada.

JACK

  • Too much trauma has occurred due to colonialism.
  • People who are working on the issue right now may never have dealt with suicide.
  • NDP will change how the GN and Feds look at suicide by asking the people how they want to address it, instead of saying, "here is the money, here is the strategy, now go do it."

HUNTER

  • Liberal Party is committed to developing National Mental Health Strategy and National Suicide Prevention Strategy with provinces and territories.
  • Also need to address the housing issue, education gap.
  • Climate change is happening; Liberals will provide national leadership and join provinces and territories to take action.
  • Will establish national emission reduction targets and provide 2 billion dollars to fund projects that reduce carbon emissions.

If you are elected, but your party is not, how strong of a voice do you think you can be for Nunavut?

JACK

  • MP will be the only Inuk in the House of Commons; must always represent the people of Nunavut.
  • Whether you are in the government or the opposition, important to know the system and how to use that for the best for the territory.

HUNTER

  • Not afraid to raise unpopular issues.
  • Best thing to do is bring people together, look for win-win scenarios.
  • That's how Inuit survived, by working together for the common good.

LEONA

  • Has seven years experience, understands the system and the bureaucracy.
  • It's easy to criticize programs, but coming up with solutions is very important.
  • Noted that every community in Nunavut is different, and needs are different.

Do you support an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women?

HUNTER

  • If Liberal Party is elected, they will launch an inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.
  • TRC recommendations will help individuals and families come forward and tell their stories, which can also help identify problems.

LEONA

  • Issue of violence against women and domestic violence is not being talked about.
  • To say we are going to wait for an inquiry is unacceptable; people need help now.
  • There have been over 40 studies already; do we want to wait another five years to respond to women in these situations?
  • Conservatives will double support for domestic violence victims and put forward more community-based programs.

JACK

  • Forty studies, "and nothing has been done yet?"
  • NDP committed to start an inquiry into MMIW within first 100 days of taking office.
  • Serious issue and current government has chosen not to focus on it, even though that's what has been asked.

People who want to hunt and fish must also have another job because cost of gas, equipment, etc. is so high. If you are elected, what will you do to enable people to hunt and fish and put country food on their tables?

LEONA

  • This government is the only government that stood up for the seal hunt.
  • Committed to support hunters and women who make products to market the products.
  • Will ensure scientists are consulting with Nunavummiut when it comes to management of wildlife.
  • Will create Nutrition North subsidies not just for beef, but for country food.

JACK

  • He delayed the ban of sealskin products in Europe by talking to the Chancellor of Germany at the time.
  • NDP will increase guaranteed income support.
  • Northern Residents Tax Deduction will be indexed to reflect cost of living.

HUNTER

  • Liberals will provide ways for Inuit to keep money in their pockets.
  • Nutrition North only allows subsidies for shipping country food for commercial purposes; Liberals will open it up to allow Inuit to share country food.

How much will Nunavut get from your party's plan for infrastructure development?

JACK

  • NDP has promised 54 million over four years.
  • Too much of the money for infrastructure projects in Nunavut goes down south; NDP will add skills and training to all contracts so money stays in Nunavut.

HUNTER

  • Liberals committed to 125 billion in infrastructure development over 10 years.
  • Ottawa won't decide where the money goes; that will be up to the GN and hamlets.

LEONA

  • Nunavut is playing catch up after 13 years of Liberal government.
  • Conservatives announced 490 million in infrastructure spending over 10 years in Nunavut.
  • Gas tax will be permanent.
  • Established P3 program is accessible by Inuit organizations.
  • National budget of 4 billion can support major projects in Nunavut.

Do you commit to implementing the 94 recommendations of the TRC?

HUNTER

  • Liberal Party is committed to implement all the recommendations of the TRC.
  • Recognize impacts of the the residential school system and continued effects.

LEONA

  • Current Prime Minister issued a historic apology to Aboriginal peoples of Canada.
  • Need to carefully review the recommendations of the TRC before implementing.

JACK

  • NDP has made a commitment to implement the recommendations.
  • Will prioritize based on consultation with the groups affected.

What changes will you make to the Nutrition North program to make it directly accessible to all Nunavummiut, like the old food mail program?

LEONA

  • Nutrition North can always be improved.
  • Conservatives will invest 32 million into the program.
  • Make it mandatory for retailers to pass on the subsidy and prove this on receipts.

JACK

  • Right now there is no accountability from retailers.
  • In June, the NDP put forward a motion to do a comprehensive review of Nutrition North; Conservatives did not agree, but NDP will do that if elected.

HUNTER

  • Liberal Party will review and expand Nutrition North, increasing funding by 40 million dollars over four years.
  • Southern retailers don't participate in current program because it's too onerous; this means Nunavummiut don't have a choice of where they can order food from.
  • Regulatory changes will make it easier, simpler for retailers to participate.

What will you do to address the high rate of incarceration amongst Inuit?

JACK

  • GN things its too expensive to send people to healing centre with Inuit specific trauma programs.
  • What we really need are treatment facilities up here.
  • Prohibition is not a solution - we know it's not the alcohol and the drugs, it's the trauma.

HUNTER

  • Record numbers of people incarcerated is due to current government's "tough on crime" stance.
  • CPC cut funding for Aboriginal healing programs.
  • We need to address root of the problem: residential schooling, trauma, poverty.

LEONA

  • We can't forget about the victims of crimes committed by those who are incarcerated.
  • As Health Minister, established northern wellness approach program.
  • CPC supports organizations that deal with prevention by making it easier to get funding.

Final Thoughts

My final impression of the forum was that it was a bit repetitive, but mostly lively and engaging; no easy feat when it ran until 10:00 PM on a school night! It wasn't Leona's best night - she faced the only jeers from the audience and garnered comparatively less applause than her counterparts. Jack elicited the most laughs, Hunter the most cheers, but it was hard to tell if this support was partisan or reflective of the candidates' comments.

If I had to choose a winner, I'd say it's the people who have not yet voted, because this forum provided a great opportunity for any and all Nunavummiut to really get to know their candidates - besides our interviews and election coverage, of course ;)

Big thanks again to the CBC for hosting, and the candidates for their candid responses and comments. They've surely given Nunavut a lot to consider and think about before October 19th.

Who impressed you the most at the CBC Nunavut Federal Candidates Forum? Let us know in the comments!