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Cathy Towtongie: back in the game

Former Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) president Cathy Towtongie felt she had to re-enter the political arena because of the number of issues across Nunavut that, in her opinion, were being ignored.

Rankin Inlet North/Chesterfield Inlet MLA Cathy Towtongie, left, and Mary Tatty spend a little time with popular entertainer Ernie Monias during his brief visit to Rankin Inlet this past month. photo courtesy of Noel Kaludjak

She entered her name in the race for the Rankin Inlet North/Chesterfield Inlet riding during the Oct. 30 territorial election, hit the campaign trail, and held off a determined bid by Cedric Autut to win the riding.

Towtongie said there is a lot of work ahead for the Government of Nunavut.

She said inclusive employment that would see more physically-challenged people hired in full-time positions is an issue that hasn't even been properly discussed yet.

“Housing is also a huge issue for me,” said Towtongie.

“I went into people's homes and saw the overcrowded conditions of 11 people living in a two-bedroom house.

“Housing really affects the mental, social and growing needs of the children, so when I see children living in those types of conditions, I know we're not providing for them and that has to be addressed.

“Mental health is another issue in our territory that's growing almost out of control with far too many teenagers feeling like they have no hope for the future, and we need to instill in them that there is hope, and we'll continue fighting for what other Canadians have in a far better standard of living for our youth.”

No one to turn to

Towtongie said a lot of people who asked her to run in the territorial election said they felt like they had no one to turn to for results in their community.

She said they told her they write letters asking for help and action, and nobody responds.

“Our people definitely need help from their elected leaders, especially when dealing with the high cost of living and transportation.

“I don't care if you're Inuk or non-Inuk. We don't have roads, so we pay lots, and lots, and lots of money to the airlines to travel because there's really no competition, and now, I understand, our main airline is doing away with the Aeroplan program.

“So, yes, that was also a factor in my decision to run in the election.”

Towtongie laughs when asked if she was confident as voters headed to the polls on Oct. 30, saying elections should be called “hanging” because your life is not grounded again until the final results are in on voting day.

She said you want to win so badly because you feel, in your heart and mind, if you're elected you'll be able to make a positive contribution to the lives of the people in your riding, and that means the world to her.

“During a visit to Chester, both elders and youth came to me to discuss their aging infrastructure in the community, as Chesterfield Inlet has not had any commitment to capital-needs infrastructure since 1999.

“I went door-to-door there to speak with each individual, and I have a lot of work ahead me.

“After I was voted in, I went to each administration in the various government offices, shook the hands of our civil servants and told them all I'm here to help them, but, I too, will need help from them.

“People tend, too often, to put civil servants down when there might be other factors in play that prevent them from completing their projects, and MLAs and government administrations have to be able to work together if we are to have any hope of continued success.”

Towtongie said Walter Morey and Mary Tatty gave her tremendous support during her campaign.

She said Morey took care of all the financial matters and offered good advice when asked, and Tatty was an incredible “people person” during the campaign.

“We had a very strong, and really diverse, group of people voted-in during this election.

“We have two previous mayors, two previous NTI presidents and a number of grassroots workers in this collective, and we were all drawing strength from each other during our orientation, which is always a good sign.

“We all seem to want to bring change to this government, and have strong leadership throughout, so it's going to be a very, very exciting group to work with.

“It's an excellent group, here to serve the people with our hearts in the right place, so, in five years, you're going to see positive movement across the territory of Nunavut.”