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Ell, Oshutapik and Enook to join legislature
New MLAs win byelections in three Baffin Island ridings

Casey Lessard
Northern News Services
Published Monday, September 19, 2011

One of Nunavut's three new MLAs is already experiencing the same challenges as the people he will represent after his byelection win Sept. 12.

NNSL photo/graphic

Iqaluit-West returning officer Sandi Vincent determines whether residents are eligible to vote in the Sept. 12 byelection. - Casey Lessard/NNSL photo

Joe Enook, an Iqaluit resident who took the Tununiq/Pond Inlet riding with overwhelming support, committed to moving to Pond Inlet if he won and is having a hard time finding housing.

"I have the same concerns that the average Joe Inuk off the street might have," Enook said. "I'm trying to go through the maze of getting housing in Pond Inlet. That was one of two or three promises I made, to move to Pond Inlet as soon as I get housing. I'm finding it very interesting. I will get housing somehow. Not through my influence, but because the people of Pond Inlet will demand it. They want an MLA who lives in Pond Inlet."

Waiting for a flight from Pond Inlet, his wife's hometown, to Iqaluit for Monday's induction and orientation, he is also seeing how hard it will be to commute to the capital.

A mechanical problem with an instrument at the airport means flights can neither land nor take off if there are any weather problems.

"We got a notice that for the next week or whatever, the directional beacon is down," he said. "Both flights last night were cancelled because of the snow."

Enook says he was humbled by his overwhelming win, which was "nicely shocking" and showed the "trust" of the community in what he said during his campaign.

In the territory's most contested byelection race, Enook had the support of 285 voters, or 60.5 per cent of the 471 votes cast in Tununiq.

'Shocked at first'

In Pangnirtung, Hezakiah Oshutapik said he was "shocked at first" to learn he defeated his lone opponent Johnny Mike.

"It was beyond my expectation," Oshutapik said. "I'm looking forward to serving my community as an MLA. The term is short and I will accomplish what I can."

In Iqaluit-West, Monica Ell took 53.7 per cent, or 230, of the 428 ballots cast to defeat Kirt Ejesiak and Tuutalik Boychuck.

"Everybody was quite excited about the news," Ell said of her supporters. "I want to represent the people and be there 100 per cent to serve and do better government. There may be opportunities to make changes. I want to be optimistic."

Ell's brother David is a city councillor in Iqaluit, as was her father. Ell has a long history of leadership, and she thinks her father would be "very proud" of her work.

"I've learned over the years with what I've accomplished, and that's my strength and what I will be focusing on to serve the people."

Voter turnout was highest in Tununiq, where 69.3 per cent of the riding's 679 eligible voters marked a ballot. In Iqaluit-West, 60.1 per cent of the riding's 711 eligible voters appeared. In Pangnirtung, 55.7 per cent of the voter base voted.

The new members of the legislative assembly were elected in byelections Sept. 12 after the seats were vacated earlier this year.

Former premier Paul Okalik vacated his seat in Iqaluit-West to run as the Liberal candidate in the federal election, but lost to Conservative MP Leona Aglukkaq. The Pangnirtung seat became available after MLA Adamee Komoartok resigned in March to face criminal assault charges that were later withdrawn. Tununiq MLA James Arvaluk left the legislature for health reasons in May, seven months after he suffered a heart attack.

The new MLAs start work today with a swearing-in ceremony and orientation.

The fall session will begin Oct. 18. The next general election will be held within the next two years.

There were 16 spoiled ballots in Tununiq, six in Pangnirtung, and two in Iqaluit-West.

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