IQALUIT, Nunavut — Voters in Canada’s eastern Arctic headed to the polls Monday in Nunavut’s fifth general election since becoming a territory.
There are no political parties in Nunavut’s consensus-style government, so those elected will meet a few days after the vote and choose a premier and cabinet from among themselves.
No matter who wins, the eastern Arctic will have a new premier as incumbent Peter Taptuna did not run for re-election.
Incumbents were re-elected in several ridings, including Aggu, Arviat South, Baker Lake, Gjoa Haven, Hudson Bay, Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu, Iqaluit-Tasiluk, Netsilik, Rankin Inlet South, Tununiq and Uqqummiut.
But there were also a number of upsets including Amittuq, which went to Joelie Kaernerk; Iqaluit-Sinaa, where Elisapee Sheutiapik won; Pangnirtung, where Margaret Nakashuk was elected; Rankin Inlet South, which was taken by Lorne Kusugak; and Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet, where Cathy Towtongie beat out cabinet minister Johnny Mike.
Chief Electoral Officer Dustin Fredlund said all 72 polling stations were up and operating election day, with no weather-related closures.
Voter turnout was high, reaching 81 per cent in Arviat South and almost 77 per cent in Pangnirtung. Many ridings had turnouts of more than 60 per cent and only a couple came in at less than 50 per cent.
By many measures, Taptuna hands off a territory in improved shape.
The books remain balanced. Three mines are now producing and several others are moving forward. The Conference Board of Canada predicted 4.9 per cent growth for Nunavut this year, outpacing the Canadian average.
Taptuna’s government also passed Inuktitut language legislation to ensure services are available in the language most people speak.
Still, familiar problems remain. Nunavut is short about 3,000 homes and overcrowding is one reason tuberculosis rates are 50 times the southern average.
Suicide is also an epidemic. Taptuna declared it a crisis and appointed a high-ranking bureaucrat to oversee a new prevention strategy that includes a social media focus.
The territory’s education system remains stuck between English and Inuktitut, producing graduates that many say function well in neither. Taptuna’s government failed to pass an Education Act that would create Inuktitut schools.
The incoming government must also negotiate with Ottawa on a deal that would give the territory jurisdiction over its lands and resources, similar to what provinces enjoy.
And tough talks with Ottawa over a carbon tax that Taptuna argued is unfair to northerners will also be an issue.