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Focus on jobs, youth

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Baker Lake (Dec 20/06) - The call for change came through loud and clear on municipal election day in Arviat this past week.

Mayor elect Johnny Mamgark swept to victory in the election, easily outdistancing his closest rival, Peter Kritaqliluk, by 107 votes and incumbent Elizabeth Copland by 134 votes.
NNSL Photo/graphic

Johnny Mamgark says he won't believe he's really the mayor of Arviat until the day he's sworn in. - photo courtesy of Katie Inukshuk

Mamgark said the win was poetic justice, considering the problems he overcame during his campaign.

"First my original nomination papers went missing at the hamlet office, and then I was accused of using my e-mail at work to campaign and I can't even figure out how to open that program," said Mamgark.

"There was stuff going on that made it look like some people didn't want me in the race, but I was lucky enough to overcome all that."

A student counsellor at Levi Angmak elementary school, Mamgark credits the youth vote for his win.

Mamgark said a great deal of his platform was based on getting new and improved youth facilities for Arviat.

He said he may also have received support from adult recreational hockey players who were shutout from receiving bingo revenues.

"I let it be known I didn't think it was right for them to be treated that way.

"Money went to racing clubs, fishing derbies and other small organizations, but not them.

"These players represent Arviat well when they travel to tournaments and they support the community, so it's only right the hamlet should support their efforts.

"It's a council decision, but, as mayor, I will let my feelings be known at the council table."

Mamgark said he won't believe he's really the mayor of Arviat until the day he's sworn in.

He said Arviat has a strong council that's ready to move forward in the new year.

"It was time for change in Arviat and the voters recognized that.

"We've been idling still in one place for too long and now it's time for us to start moving forward again."

Mamgark lists finding jobs for high school graduates in the community as one of his top priorities.

He also wants to improve upon the existing youth facilities in Arviat.

"The youth put me in this position and I'm going to do my best for them.

"I will work hard for everybody in the community, but youth are my top priority."

When David Aksawnee got the news he had been re-elected as mayor of Baker Lake, he knew he'd be able to continue his efforts to address the community's high unemployment rate for at least two more years.

Aksawnee said Baker desperately needs more jobs and he's looking to the Meadowbank gold project to help provide them.

He said he will continue his efforts to get as many local hires at the Meadowbank project as he can.

"Baker is growing rapidly and another project we're fighting for is a new youth centre," said Aksawnee.

"Our existing centre is far too small to meet the needs of the youth in this community.

"So, job creation and a new youth centre are my top priorities for this term."

Aksawnee said a new youth centre will help keep kids out of trouble by involving them in constructive activities.

He said today's youth are often bored, with too much time on their hands, and that can lead to bad choices.

"I have no doubt a new youth centre would help solve many of the problems we have in our community with some of our youth today.

"They're good kids, but we need more to offer them."

Aksawnee attributes the low 49 per cent voter turnout in Baker to the fact it was a quiet election.

He said none of the candidates seemed to be knocking on doors or addressing the community on local radio.

"I thought there would be a bit more excitement over the election, but I'm happy with the results because it looks like we're going to have a strong council this year.

"We've had some good talks with Cumberland Resources Ltd. during the past two years and I'm happy with the progress that's been made in some areas.

"They've promised to hire as many local people - or people from the Kivalliq region - as possible.

"Things change from time to time, but I'm sure the company has every intention of making good on that promise."