Municipal Election Day is Oct. 18, with voting set up at the Midnight Sun Complex and Ingamo Hall. There are 11 candidates for town council in Inuvik this election, each bringing their own concerns and capabilities to the job. We spoke with candidates to give you an idea of what each of them stand for.
In addition, Inuvik Drum has teamed up with CBC North to present an all candidates forum online this Thursday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. The forum will be broadcast online on both the Inuvik Drum and CBC North’s Facebook pages.
Having watched Inuvik grow over the last 20 years, Ruth Elanik says she believes the town is her responsibility.
“I’d like to represent the community and the local people,” she said. “And also the surrounding communities, because that’s where all the local people come from.
Hailing from Aklavik, Elanik said she brings a wealth of traditional and cultural knowledge to the table, as well as sitting on several boards, including chairing the Aklavik Housing Association and District Education Authority, as well as working for both the Gwich’in Tribal Council and Inuvialuit Regional Corporation.
She says the greatest strength of Inuvik are the Gwich’in and Inuvialuit peoples and helping people who are struggling should be the town’s main priority. She said she wants to push for more shelters for the homeless — segregated into male and females for privacy, and bring Alcoholics Anonymous back to the community. Work also needs to be stepped up on the roads around town, she added.
“I think about it as intake, outtake,” she said. “Intake is the water — are we drinking good water? Outtake is where the sewage is going. Those are going to be my main topics.
“There has to be a long-term plan for our usage of water. Our sewage can’t be forever down by the river bank.”
Having just completed a three-year stint in the mayor’s chair, following a term as councillor, Natasha Kulikowski has six years of current experience in the job.
“(I) want to continue to be a part of the decision making process and the great work the Town is doing,” she said. “Our multicultural community is in my opinion one of the most welcoming in the country.”
If re-elected, she said she would work towards further steps towards Reconciliation, including changing names of streets where appropriate and ensuring town workspaces are inclusive and welcoming to whomever enters them.
Accessing more funding sources, Kulikowski said, would help the town with its budgeting and minimize disruptions to the cost of living to residents and ratepayers.
Kulikowski also said she wanted to focus on supporting small businesses to be ready when the pandemic is no longer a threat.
“I look forward to a return of our Inuvik festivals and conferences,” she said. “Please get out and vote on October 18th.”
After 14 years in town, seven addresses, four children and four executive director positions on three non-profits and four years as director of community services for the town, Black Fly Studios owner Tony Devlin has thrown his cap in the ring.
“We celebrate our individual successes together and show no hesitation to come together to comfort and support those in times of need,” said Devlin, who came to Inuvik for an 18-month contract and never left. “We also have an amazing amount of active programs and services.”
Devlin said the biggest challenge facing the town was catching up to the world economy and said he would work to bring more educational opportunities for young adults. Noting much of the open jobs in Inuvik revolved around information technology and communications, Devlin pointed out the pandemic has shown people can work remotely from anywhere.
“Many of our young people can’t or don’t want to move away for school and are frustrated,” he said. “We haven’t had a dedicated college trades program in Inuvik in five years, a traditional arts program in twelve years, and we have never had locally-relevant, modern 1-2 year certificate/diploma programs such as communications, marketing, IT or tourism.
Each candidate was given the same list of questions to ensure fairness, however some chose to not answer the questions.
“Wikipedia me,” said candidate Alfred Moses with a laugh. “Go look at the things I’ve done.”
Moses has an extensive background in elected office, most recently sitting as the MLA for Inuvik-Boot Lake from 2015 until his retirement in 2019. As MLA, he held several portfolio positions in former-Premier Bob McLeod’s cabinet, including Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA), Minister responsible for NWT Housing Corporation, WSCC, homelessness, and youth, as well as serving as Minister of Education. He also sat as an Inuvik Town Councillor in his 20s.
Among his accomplishments in government include overseeing the implementation of the territory-wide emergency 911 call system, and the roll-out of junior kindergarten.
“If anything, I just want to come and work for the people again,” he said.
Moses is also currently running the Inuvik Warming Shelter.
Incumbent councillor Desmond Loreen says the talent pool of councillors is deep enough that he’s encouraging people to expand their voting options.
“I want people to make the right choice,” he said. “I want people to tell me I’m done, I don’t want to tell people I’m done.
He said the experience has shown him a lot of how Inuvik runs under the hood and said he was proud of the work town council did to improve the appearance of the town, citing the new welcome sign and the new look of Chief Jim Koe Park as major accomplishments over the last three years. Changing how council operated was another major impact he cited.
Loreen added if elected he would be happy to hold the seat, but said he wasn’t going to be upset if he wasn’t re-elected.
With four terms as councillor under her belt already, Alana Mero is no stranger to the issues facing the town.
“Inuvik’s greatest challenge is the need to broaden our economic base,” she said. “A strong and diverse economy means increased employment, a stronger tax base and more opportunities for all residents.
“As a community we need to build on what we have, the rich cultures of the Gwich’in and Inuvialuit, the opportunities for research, cold weather product development and testing and the development of natural resources. There needs to be encouragement and support for new industries such as the recent plans for a soil remediation facility and the development of the natural gas that underlies the Mackenzie Delta.”
Having lived in Inuvik since 1998, Mero brings several decades of experience serving on boards, teaching and volunteering to the table, including Justice Committee, Inter-agency Committee, Parks and Recreation Board, Girl Guides and Civil Air Search and Rescue.
Grant Gowans has spent many decades representing Inuvik as an athlete and a coach. Now he wants to bring those teambuilding skills to council.
Currently completing a Masters degree in Business Administration, the second-generation Inuvikian says he wants to find ways to help and create homeowners to improve the town’s property tax base.
“I think if we offered lower levy fees at the landfill so people would benefit from renovating their homes, or buying homes and renovating them that could be a start,” he said. “We could also look at the same levy reduction at the dump for businesses. For new home owners their property taxes could be suspended or frozen for a period of time so that they would be encouraged to become home owners.
“This could also be done for home owners or business owners that invest money to renovate their properties. Although lower levies from the land fill may cost the town a bit of money in the short term increased property values and more property values could make up on the property tax side.”
Gowans also wants to establish programs to help homeless people find work to give them a hand-up earning an income.
“The Town could look at various projects where there could be a way to offer people on the street an option to work on a short-term basis,” he said. “Earning an income can offer someone a bit of pride. And this can be something that can move them forward to better choices.”
Having a career as a social worker in the North, Jillian Fitzpatrick has had a first-hand view of some of the bigger challenges facing the town and its people.
Saying homelessness is one of the biggest issues facing Inuvik, Fitzpatrick wants to create a united front between the Town of Inuvik, Gwich’in Tribal Council and Inuvialuit Regional Corporation for negotiations with territorial and federal governments.
“The biggest challenge facing the Town of Inuvik, is finding the necessary financial resources to meet demands of the many priority projects without raising any new cost on residents or businesses,” she said. “By combining lobbying efforts, we can draw from the intelligence and experience of key stake holders to brainstorm new ideas and then collectively gain more attention federally to issues affecting the town.”
Fitzpatrick added she wanted to expand anything that benefits the children and families in town.
She concluded by commending the town administration, as well as IRC, GNWT and GTC staff, for the work they have done around town in the past few years.
Having lived in Inuvik for over 30 years, businessman, coach and volunteer Jesse Harder wants to give back to the community.
“I’ve been talking about it for years and it just felt like it was time I put my words into action,” he said. “Put my feet on the ground and help the community that’s helped me.”
Not wanting to rock the boat or take town council in a new direction, Harder said he instead would like to improve on what the town is currently doing.
Expanding opportunities for young adults to enter the tourism sector through Aurora College is a priority for Harder, as well as expanding trades training for people in the area.
“We’ve pumped a lot of money into tourism and I want to see that get off the ground,” he said. “I’d love to see trades and more education being produced here in Inuvik so people don’t have to leave home. We need to get the town involved.”
Harder added he was inspired by the town’s resilience and how residents always come together in times of need.
Two candidates — Donovan Dean Arey and Kurt Wainman — did not respond to questions before press time.
Municipal Election Day is Oct. 18. Votes will be cast at the Midnight Sun Complex or Ingamo Hall.