Constitutions and government

NNSL (May 19/97) - The constitutional future of both the Western and Eastern Arctic have been under the microscope for most of the last 20 years.

In Nunavut, residents are preparing to vote next week on whether the new territory will be represented by equal numbers of male and female MLAs. In the West, another round of public hearings on a new constitution were announced last week by the authors of a controversial proposal that would give aboriginal voters two votes in a new assembly.

In both cases, the House of Commons will have the final say on whatever form territorial governments take, forcing Northern MPs to play key roles in shepherding each bill through Parliament.

Hunter Tootoo, the New Democratic candidate for Nunavut, said the Footprints 2 report from the Nunavut Implementation Commission, holds many of the answers for the East. But he also emphasized the importance of making sure residents can take advantage of the new system.

"Spread the government resources evenly and it shows people and kids in the community that there's jobs out there and a reason to go to school," he said.

Tootoo's take on gender parity is simpler: he supports whatever the people decide in the plebiscite.

Nunavut Reform candidate John Turner is similarly optimistic about recent developments in Nunavut and offered no suggestion about the MP's role, other than continuing the past co-operative attitude.

Neither Tory Okalik Eegeesiak nor Liberal Nancy Karetak Lindell returned requests for interviews.

In the Western Arctic, where there is less consensus among the public, the candidates are surprisingly close in approach.

Turner's party colleague, Mike Watt, is the least sympathetic to the recent constitutional proposal, dismissing it as divisive and rushed.

"Do we have a democratic society up here?" Watt asks."Maybe that's the first decision we should come to," Watt said.

Tory Bob Dowdall, however, said he supports the idea of separate representation for aboriginals, although he rejects the idea of extra votes for any group.

New Democrat Mary Beth Levan urged caution, as well, but said the MP "should encourage dialogue and encourage understanding."

Liberal Ethel Blondin-Andrew wouldn't even go that far, saying it would be "foolhardy for me to walk into that at this point."

Independent Wally Firth also said their is no need to force the issue. Instead, he referred to one of his main campaign platforms, the need for partisan politics in the new western territory before mature constitutional development takes place.