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Baker MLA focused on 'unfinished business'

Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak is openly optimistic about the possibilities awaiting the Government of Nunavut (GN) over the next four years.

Mikkungwak, one of three Kivalliq MLAs re-elected during the October election, decided it was time to get involved in territorial politics after being involved at the municipal level for a number of years and hearing the local elders talk about wanting to have an approachable MLA in Baker Lake.

Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak, back centre, leads a group of kids in a cheer of appreciation for the original 2015 Festival By The Lake. NNSL file photo

He said he had, pretty well, made up his mind prior to the legislative assembly's final sitting of the previous government he was going to run again in his riding.

“Considering the fact I had some unfinished business, in so far as I had included a GPS approach for the Baker Lake runway on my initial platform, which still hasn't come to surface, I knew I had to run again,” said Mikkungwak.

“At the same time, Baker Lake definitely is in need of a larger health centre for the community, which I want to try and deliver.

“And, seeing as how we have an operating gold mine north of Baker Lake, and with the addition of the Amaruq project, economic development for our community could actually improve, and I believe there could be more small business opportunities for those who want to go that route.”

Mikkungwak admits to being a little unsettled by an erroneous report during election coverage that indicated he might not be returning to Iqaluit as Baker's MLA.

He laughed as he described constantly refreshing his laptop on a different elections site as the TV coverage briefly reported on his imminent political demise.

“I kept constantly pressing, or maybe pounding, on my computer's refresh button there for awhile,” laughed Mikkungwak.

“I woke up at 6 a.m. on election day, so, by that point, it had already been a long day, so my mind was pretty much saying that the matter is left to the voters and they'll decide who they want as their MLA.

“Arriving in Iqaluit this past week, I found those the people voted-in for the GN to be an interesting group, and, compared to the fourth assembly, the dynamics are very much different. It's a very diverse group and, listening to some of the new members, in my opinion, this is a far more people-orientated group of MLAs I see as being a strong group to work with.”

Mikkungwak said one of the issues he anticipates addressing in the new session is the revamped Education Act.

He said the act will definitely be resurfacing and, from his perspective, the right decision was made by the previous assembly in dealing with it in the form in which it was submitted.

“I could not support it at that time, because it was really going to negatively affect my community and, in addition to that, it was also going to negatively affect Arviat,” he said.

“I will also say, at the time the Arviat MLAs were both cabinet ministers, so... well, I'll just leave it at that. We have a new premier now and, just from what I heard, there are quite a number of individuals who are interested in becoming cabinet ministers.

“That's one thing I find very different with this group because, in the fourth assembly, there really weren't so many people interested in that, but, this time around, there's been a lot of interest from the group in both the premier's position and those of cabinet ministers.”

Mikkungwak said having a term under his belt has given him a better understanding of how the various departments work and how everyone operates in the legislative assembly.

He said he took every opportunity to learn that presented itself during his first go-round as Baker's MLA.

“I look at that learning as being my strongest asset now, he said.

“Looking ahead a bit, I very much expect good things from this government moving forward.”