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MLA candidates on the issues: George Hickes, Iqaluit-Tasiluk

Hickes will support mandatory vaccinations if need be
George Hickes candidate for the riding of Iqaluit-Tasiluk. Photo courtesy of George Hickes George Hickes candidate for the riding of Iqaluit-Tasiluk.

George Hickes

Community: Iqaluit

Age: 52

Family Status: Married with three daughters

Career: Incumbent MLA for Iqaluit-Tasiluk since 2013, cabinet minister in 4th and 5th legislative assemblies (held portfolios of Finance, Justice, Health, Qulliq Energy Corporation, Nunavut Housing Corporation and Workers Safety and Compensation Commission). Previous work experience in finance, policy, communications positions and within the financial services industry.

Volunteer or board experience?

I’ve been a volunteer firefighter, a member of the Canadian Rangers and a minor hockey coach. I have also participated in a number of boards over the years in multiple roles.

Why are you running for MLA? I want our territory to be a safe, healthy and prosperous place to live. That means ensuring government is working to address the needs and priorities of Nunavummiut – whether it’s more affordable housing, better Elder care in the territory, greater economic and educational opportunities for Inuit, safer communities or providing more healthcare closer to home. While we’ve made progress in a number of these areas, there’s still much to do. That’s why I’m running again to represent Iqaluit-Tasiluk in the legislative assembly for another term. With the experience of the past two governments, I have delivered results for Iqaluit and Nunavut, and feel like I’m well-positioned to keep momentum moving forward on these important issues.

How much influence should NTI have in territorial governance? NTI has been a valued partner of the GN on a number of important initiatives, including the TB Elimination Action Plan, the Nunavut Suicide Prevention Strategy, and in securing funding for an addictions and trauma treatment centre for Nunavut. The GN and NTI are also working closely to implement the Katujjiqatigiinniq Protocol to ensure that Inuit interests are reflected in GN policies and programs. Going forward, I’d like the GN and NTI to work together to tackle the housing infrastructure crisis and develop training programs for Inuit mental health counsellors and Elder care health providers here in territory.

How urgent is combating climate change in Nunavut? Climate change has affected how and when we hunt and travel on the land. Multi-year pack ice has blocked sealift barges from communities. Thawing permafrost is shifting buildings. Home insurance rates have skyrocketed due to floods and fires worldwide. It’s our responsibility – as citizens and governments – to take action now so that our children and generations to follow do not inherit problems that we can solve today. As minister of QEC, I supported low-carbon LED streetlight retrofits and allowing homeowners to power their homes using solar panels. We must reduce our reliance on carbon fuels and develop more green energy options.

How do you envision economic development in your riding? An addictions and trauma treatment centre and high-level Elder care centre will create hundreds of new jobs in Iqaluit. It is critical to develop training programs for Inuit to become certified mental health and Elder care workers in those facilities. Keeping corporate taxes low helps small and medium-sized businesses, who already face high costs of doing business in Iqaluit. Stable, predictable funding is needed for our non-profit and social enterprise sector, who are working on the ground level to build capacity in our community and create better opportunities for Iqalummiut. Supporting hunters, tourism operators, artists and cultural industries is essential in developing a local economy that is uniquely ours.

Are you for or against mandatory vaccinations? Many will remember seeing me on the daily Covid updates as the minister of Health, urging Nunavummiut to protect themselves against Covid-19. I am fully vaccinated, and encourage everyone to get their vaccination, if they haven’t already done so. Vaccines are the best form of protection for you, your family and your community. I trust the advice of our CPHO, Dr. Patterson, and the indisputable evidence that vaccines are safe and effective. Many Nunavummiut have conditions that make them susceptible to the worst outcomes of Covid-19, including hospitalization or death. If mandatory vaccinations are necessary to protect them from Covid-19, then I will support it.

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