Nunavummiut elect 11 fresh faces to territorial legislature

Newcomers inject new blood into territorial politics.

By Madalyn Howitt, Nunatsiaq News - October 26, 2021
Nunavut’s legislative assembly will look quite a bit different after voters elected 11 new MLAs to represent them Monday night. (Mélanie Ritchot / Nunatsiaq News)

Results on election nights can come in fast and furious.

So quickly in fact, that candidates themselves sometimes can’t keep up.

Elections Nunavut announced on its website shortly before 10 p.m., eastern on Monday that Mary Killiktee had won the riding of Uqqummiut with 261 votes, ahead of rival candidate Sheila Enook who had 148 votes.

Nunatsiaq News reached Killiktee by phone soon after — but before Killiktee herself had heard the news.

“Let me just go to the living room, we’re crowded here.… Can you call back? People are smiling, I need to get off the phone now and see if there’s been something new,” she said when reached at home.

Killiktee is one of 11 newcomers who will be joining the Nunavut legislature after Monday’s territorial elections. Once she had chance to see the results for herself, Killiktee said that she was feeling “overwhelmed” with the results.

“How I’m feeling right now I’ve never felt. [It’s] my very first time feeling the excitement, feeling the support, feeling that trust from the two communities,” she said, referring to Clyde River and Qikiqtarjuaq, which make up the riding of Uqqummiut. “I’m just in awe right now.”

“I’m excited, I’m eager, I’m ready,” she went on. “I have the energy to join the elected members.”

Daniel Qavvik of Hudson Bay was the first new MLA to be announced by Elections Nunavut shortly before 9 p.m., eastern.

“I’m so overwhelmed with joy and happiness. My family and I are so happy about the results,” Qavvik said, speaking from his home in Sanikiluaq.

Qavvik handily won the riding with 226 votes, ahead of his fellow first-time candidates Mick Appaqaq with 86 votes and Ronald Ladd with 8 votes, according to unofficial results from Elections Nunavut. The three newcomers were vying to represent the riding that includes Sanikiluaq, after incumbent MLA Allan Rumbolt opted not to run for re-election.

Going into election day, Qavvik said he felt good about his chances.

“Personally, yes I was confident. I was excited throughout the whole day … it was a good feeling, especially when the votes were being announced,” he said, adding he would do his “absolute best to represent [and] be the voice for the community.”

Meanwhile, in a tight two-person race, Joanna Quassa emerged as the winner in Igloolik’s riding of Aggu, receiving 96 votes against Methusalah Kunuk’s 86 in a race that was made wide open by the departure of longtime MLA Paul Quassa, Joanna’s brother-in-law.

“[I’m] excited and happy and looking forward to the next four years and anticipating … what I’ll be able to do,” Quassa said, watching results roll in at home with her family. Unlike Qavvik, Quassa said she had tried to keep her mind off the results of the race heading into the evening.

“I didn’t really want to think about it.… I kept pushing it away just in case I don’t win. I didn’t want to be too disappointed,” she said. Quassa added that she’s anxious to get to work first on addressing Nunavut’s housing crisis once the legislature resumes.

Other winners include Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster, who appeared to have eked out a narrow victory in Iqaluit-Sinaa by seven votes, and P.J. Akeeagok, who won Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu by a landslide.

Brewster is a newcomer to the territorial legislature but is no stranger to municipal politics — she took leave from being Iqaluit’s deputy mayor to run in the territorial elections. With 97 votes, Brewster came out ahead of Jeff Ungalaq Maurice and Christa Kunuk, who garnered 90 and 75 votes, respectively.

It was one of several very tight races across the territory. Nunavut’s election laws have mandatory recounts in races where the margin of victory is less than 2 percent of the total votes cast.

With 404 votes, Akeeagok ran away with the win ahead of Dinos Tikivik with 54 votes and Noah Papatsie with 21 votes. The 36-year-old was the president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association for the last seven years before deciding to run in the capital.

Alexander Sammurtok is a fresh face in the Sixth Legislative Assembly, although this isn’t his first entry into territorial politics. 

The new MLA for Rankin Inlet North–Chesterfield Inlet first served as an MLA in Rankin Inlet South in 2014, after edging out Lorne Kusugak that year.

Sammurtok received 147 votes Monday night, beating out incumbent Cathy Towtongie who received 124 votes and Albert Aokaut who got 43.

Prior to that, Sammurtok worked as a plumber for 26 years for the Government of Nunavut and served on Whale Cove’s hamlet council.

In an interview before the election, Sammurtok said his priorities for Chesterfield Inlet include pushing for the airstrip and roads to be better maintained and a small craft harbour and deepsea port to be built.

For Rankin Inlet, he said he wants to see graduates of the Nunavut Arctic College health-care programs to work for the elders facility when it opens up.

He also wants to push to bring back the community’s midwife services, as they were suspended in 2020.

Sammurtok said he wants to represent the riding to accomplish what his constituents ask for.

“I believe I’ve got the experience, the know-how, to go after what the people
want,” he said.

Other new MLAs include Solomon Malliki, who defeated incumbent Patterk Netser in Aivilik; Pamela Hakongak Gross, who defeated incumbent Jeannie Hakongak Ehaloak in Cambridge Bay; Bobby Anavilok, who took the seat from incumbent Calvin Aivgak Pedersen in Kuglutuk; Inagayuk Joseph Quqqiaq, who will take over from incumbent Emiliano Qirngnuq in Netsilik; and Karen Nutarak defeated incumbent David Qayaakuttuk Qamaniq in Tununiq.