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Election upset in Tuktoyaktuk

Three-term former mayor Eddie Dillon returns to office as Ernest Pokiak turfed

Lynn Lau
Northern News Services

Tuktoyaktuk (Dec 17/01) - The outspoken mayor of Tuktoyaktuk, Ernest Pokiak, says he's looking forward to regaining his voice as a private citizen after losing his seat in Monday's municipal election to a three-term former mayor.

Pokiak won 112 votes, finishing 11 votes behind first-place candidate Eddie Dillon and nine votes behind the second-place candidate, Patrick Gruben.

A fourth candidate, William Nasogaluak, the owner of Canadian Reindeer Ltd., finished last with just 16 votes.

While Pokiak says he was disappointed with the results, he says he respects the people's choice. "I guess they had a taste of me and they're not ready for my type of leadership," Pokiak reflected last week. "Normally a mayor just takes direction from council and most time there was not too much direction. I woke the people up three years ago, and I guess they're tired and they want to take a nap."

A mechanic by trade, Pokiak went into politics after he retired from the civil service in 1998. During his term, he took the community through two plebiscites on bringing a liquor store to the community, the results of which are still being considered by the Liquor Commission.

Facing disunity on council, Pokiak had a rocky first year, and was strongly criticized for writing a clumsily-worded guest column which appeared in the Inuvik Drum Nov. 11, 1999. In the column, Pokiak urged local leaders to straighten out their lives, so they might lead the community by example.

The following week, councillor Mervin Gruben wrote a scathing response, publicly criticizing Pokiak for making negative statements about the community and for writing the column without first consulting council.

Pokiak says he plans to take a month off before deciding on his next step. His term expires at the end of this month. "My wife's been telling me to get a real job for a long time so I think I'm going to start doing that." He says he's also been considering running for MLA in the territorial election in two years.

The new mayor, Eddie Dillon, is a 47-year-old career politician who has served on hamlet council almost without break since he was first elected at the age of 26. Dillon had previously served as mayor from 1989 to 1998, before losing his seat in the last mayoral race.

Dillon says he will be more of a team-player than his predecessor, and he will continue the work he started when he was last in office -- transferring more responsibilities from other levels of government to the municipal level.

"Everybody has a goal in life and my goal was always to represent the people in office," says Dillon on his election victory. "I feel humbled that the people were able to put the X beside my name and give me a majority vote."

Meanwhile, down in Fort Providence, there was no election at all. There were no nominations for any council positions, and there is no mayor.

Louie Constant, who held the post only since July, did not run. Chief and former mayor Sam Gargan said he believes Constant didn't want to miss out on job training he's taking to work in the oil and gas industry.

The election had "a low profile," Gargan said.

"I was barely aware there was an election. That's the kind of communication we have in this community."

Gargan was mayor until last summer, when he resigned to take over as chief. That's when Constant moved up the ladder from deputy mayor. Constant also serves as a band councillor.

- with files from Dave Sullivan