As we close in on the Oct. 21 federal election, Nunavut News asked several questions of the four individuals who have entered the race to become the territory’s member of Parliament.
Leona Aglukkaq, Conservative
Q: What are your top three priorities and, briefly, how will you make improvements in each area?
A: My top three priorities are the same top issues that come up at the doors: affordability, mental health and infrastructure, which includes our housing crisis.
The number of people who have told me they are living paycheque to paycheque and finding it difficult to make ends meet is heartbreaking. We need to do things like scrap the carbon tax, make changes to personal income tax and eliminate GST for home heating. Conservatives are also introducing important tax credits for elders and reinstating the Universal Child Tax Credit and the fitness and arts tax credit for children.
Mental health doesn’t affect individuals, it affects us all. I want to support the training of Inuit mental health workers in addition to territorial and community-based healing programs to tackle the current crisis of suicide and violence in Nunavut. It is important to have culturally-sensitive, Inuit-led and community-driven programs in Nunavut.
Infrastructure is also important. We need to build our territory up to help with community resupply, communications and energy alternatives to diesel. We need to solve the crisis that has 4,900 people on a wait list for housing. Safe, secure housing will lead to better mental health and educational outcomes.
Q: Nunavut needs approximately 3,500 new homes. How many houses is your party going to build over the next four years?
A: The money Prime Minister Trudeau “announced” in August was, in fact, mostly made up of previous commitments in the 2016 and 2017 federal budgets. Premier Savikataaq said the money would amount to 83 houses per year over the next eight years. The Nunavut Housing Corporation estimates that we need approximately 375 houses per year. I want to work with industry, Nunavummiut and both levels of government to think outside the box. In the last Conservative mandate, we committed significant funds to get 725 houses built in two years. I think we can do better than that if we work together on innovative solutions.
Q: How will your party tackle climate change? Is a carbon tax effective?
A: People dismiss Conservative plans to scrap the carbon tax as us hating the environment. I’m Inuk. The North is my home and I love Nunavut. I don’t hate the environment. The carbon tax is supposed to be a disincentive to use carbon-intensive options but in Nunavut we have no alternatives. So it becomes punitive. The exemptions are only for flights within the territories. That makes this a shipping tax. All our building materials, food, consumer goods and so forth come from the south. We are paying the carbon tax on all of it. The hunters pay more on gas for their snowmobiles and small business owners pay more overhead. That is why I want the carbon tax gone.
Conservatives believe that the big emitters should be putting the money into green technology. Under the current regime, major emitters get sweetheart deals and the taxes collected go into general revenues.
Q: Tell us about an underrepresented issue or something you’ve learned about for the first time on the campaign trail that you now plan to address.
A: Something I have had brought up time and time again is that we are on an unsustainable path. The rising cost of living, the cost of housing and the cost of doing business is hurting Nunavummiut. We need to take a hard look at cost drivers and leverage public-private partnerships to find innovative solutions. I am committed to examining ways of reducing costs in all sectors.
Q: What are you hearing from Nunavummiut about your national leader?
A: I have met with lots of people who support me and want an MP that delivers for Nunavut. I’m working on meeting with and talking to as many people as possible. I’m hearing that people believe Conservatives have a plan to help them get ahead.
Q: Do you agree or disagree that a judicial review should be held before compensation is granted to Indigenous people who were apprehended under the government’s child welfare system?
A: The Conservative Party of Canada agrees with the appeal.