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Democracy is more than an election

For those of you who make the choice to participate in your future and that of our territory by voting in the territorial election, you can do so knowing you have made a difference.

The 22 people we choose for MLA earn between $120,000 and $220,000 – among the highest salaries in Nunavut, and Canada for that matter. And their jobs are guaranteed for four years. To some, this is a pretty sweet gig but we must also recognize that they are under significant pressure to get results for Nunavummiut.

For this, we are grateful for the 72 Nunavummiut who found the courage to put their names forward and share their views on the future of the territory in a month-long public job interview. We recognize many familiar names, and are getting to know those who are new to politics. Our thanks to all of you.

But this week's election of Nunavut's next legislative assembly does not end with the job interview and hiring process. It is now time for the citizenry to manage the people we've chosen to manage our territory.

We have learned – for better and for worse – how important trust is to our public institutions. Nunavut would not exist without the people putting their trust in the men and women who made the territory a reality, and in those who have brought us to this point. With new faces filling the two most important positions – premier and finance minister – we are guaranteed to see a new direction for the next four years, and they will need our trust and support.

But the occasional breaches of trust – the rare times MLAs have fallen to their own vices – need to remain in our memories as a possible outcome even as we select the next 22 legislators. If the past is any indication, we can expect at least one MLA to test the limits of the law or ethical standards, and be censured or expelled from the legislature. It happens but thankfully it's not the norm.

We will know voter turnout numbers in the coming days, but the history of territorial elections has shown a decreasing proportion of electors each election since the territory's first in 1999. As this trend continues, fewer of us are deciding who will make decisions that will affect each of us for at least the next four years.

So while we put our trust into the new group of legislators, we must ignore the old adage that if you don't vote, you can't complain. It's wrong to suggest that anyone under the voting age shouldn't be heard, for example. It's also wrong to suggest that even those who don't think it's important to vote can't change their minds later. Not having a say in the hiring process shouldn't stop any citizen from standing up, speaking up, or airing a concern. That said, voting is a democratic right and we encourage people to use it. It remains the most effective way of telling the territory which direction society wants to go.

This job interview process may have ended, but the next – four years from now – starts with the selection of our MLAs today. Each action and vote will be scrutinized, by us and hopefully by you. And the results will show when citizens speak up, either before or on the next election day.