Saturday, October 26, 2013

Candidates forum

So, Nunavut's election is on Monday and today was an all afternoon affair at the Francophone Centre. A little last minute scrambling by some dedicated volunteers led to a unique event - candidates from all four Iqaluit ridings had a brief, well, debate isn't the right word. It was a question and answer session, to be more accurate. A forum. Each riding got 90 minutes with the candidates. Questions were sent in and drawn at random and asked to the candidates.

I'm going to say a few words, which I assume I'm allowed to do. I have some empathy for Elections Nunavut during this voting cycle. They're being stuck enforcing some truly bizarre rules. The latest one is that all candidates must remove all social media presence by tomorrow. That means candidates are not allowed to have websites up, active Twitter accounts or any kind of group on Facebook. Why? It violates the rules passed in the recent Nunavut elections act. I'm sure there is logic to it, just none that I can see. So for all I know someone from Elections Nunavut might tell me to take this down in a few hours. I don't know if I might not get in trouble if I Tweet something about the election in the next 48 hours.

I assume whoever gets elected on Monday might want to look at going back and tweaking some aspects of that act.

So, onwards to the latest events.

1. In the end, five of the six candidates came to our doorstep. I spoke with four of them. The only one who didn't show up was Sytukie Joamie, who said he wasn't going to do any campaigning of any kind. Which is his right, I just won't be voting for him. It's easy to crap on people who want to get involved in politics, but I found the candidates I spoke with to be intelligent, knowledgeable about the issues and possessing a genuine desire to try and help. So I applaud them for getting involved and working hard to convince people to vote for them over the past month.

2. Also, got to say, it's refreshing not to be dealing with party platforms. Each candidate has issues they believe passionately in. There's considerable overlap, but there's no party platform trying to be adapted to a specific riding. There was no crapping on an opposing party. This is what each person believes in. You can like it or not, but at least you know what you're getting. A person, not a plank.

3. A friend of mine commented on Twitter that the nice thing about the Nunavut election is the lack of polling. Absolutely right. I have no idea how things are going to turn out on Monday. I have no idea how three of the four seats in Iqaluit are going to go, including ours. I'll be up late on Monday getting the results. I'm looking forward to it.

4. As for the event today, there's a lot to commend to the volunteers who put together a great event in a short period of time. It was well organized, there was simultaneous translation available in English, Inuktitut and French. It was broadcast on radio and they had dedicated people Tweeting out the questions and the candidates responses. Voters from all four ridings got to see their candidate speak on the issues at four different times. A remarkable job.

I put that out there so as to not distract from my two complaints. First, it wasn't a debate. Candidates were asked four questions, they all got a chance to answer. There was no debate or interaction. For our riding, the candidates were all very polite to each other. Which is grand and nice to see, but it also would have been nice to see them debate their differences in opinion with each other.

Secondly, I wish they had done a better job with the questions. They took them from the general public and drew them at random from a box. Not all questions are equal. The questions asked of the candidates in Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu were, at best, meandering and at worst completely irrelevant (one was on snowmobile safety in Iqaluit. It's a municipal issue). I wish they had done a better job of screening out weak questions or picked a different way to quiz the candidates. They should have just gotten Nunatsiaq News editor Jim Bell to ask questions.

So having said that, how did they do today? Well, I caution this is just my opinion. I also caution this is not an indication of how I'm voting or who I am supporting. I'm weighing factors other than four not great questions asked over the space of an hour. Having said that, this is my ranking.

1. Anne Crawford - She's the one who seemed the most comfortable with the format. She was the most concise with her answers and used her time the most efficiently. She spoke English, French, and Inuktitut. She also raised good points and offered up some interesting ideas. She did a good job.

The nitpicks. I'm not sure how many Inuit she wowed starting off her opening remarks in French. Also, while she speaks Inuktitut, I'm not sure how comfortable she was with it except for prepared remarks. A question about encouraging the use of Inuktitut was tailor-made to be answered in Inuktitut; she responded in English.

2. Jack Anawak. He offered up the best and more forceful opening remarks on what he wants to get accomplished. He also raised interesting points about the Inuktitut language and the need for greater training for Inuit, pointing out that mentoring programs are worse now than what they were in the 80s. He was well-spoken and is obviously passionate about issues as they relate to mental health. He's the one who moved up the highest in my regard after the candidates spoke.

The nitpicks. Not always the best at managing his time when talking. He ran out of time during his opening remarks. Also, I think he was trying a bit too hard sometimes to try and tie answers back to the issue of mental health.

3. Duncan Cunningham. A solid opening statement and he also tried to work all three languages in. He's obviously got a ton of experience and some good ideas. No one real shining moment during the meeting, though.

He wasn't so great at answering the questions in the time allowed. He seemed to get nervous and flustered and never looked 100 per cent at ease on the stage. He also wasn't 100 per cent comfortable using Inuktitut, except in prepared remarks. He's someone I get the feeling is much better at the policy and nuts and bolts of being in the office than in the campaigning to get the job.

4. Pat Angnakak. Oh, I confess this was a disappointment. I really quite liked her when she came to the door. Bright, engaging, well-spoken and lots of ideas. But the format clearly unnerved her. She never really had her composure until towards the end. She was nervous when talking and never got the clarity I think she was looking for when trying to answer questions.

She has one really quite good moment when talking about teacher/parent engagement, relating her own experience and also with her frustration that getting kids involved in school should be a community-wide effort (fair point, why do local businesses let kids into their establishments when they should be in class). I think she's better than she showed today, but it's bad timing to have an off day.

5. Sytukie Joamie. I think it's almost unfair to rate him 5th, simply because he's doing his own thing. He's the least polished politically of the six. That means sometimes he says stuff that leaves you scratching your head (making Nunavut into a province), but he also says stuff that is quite insightful. His reminder that Nunavut has a lot of positive things and is a good place was a needed, and refreshing, reminder that not everything is broken with Nunavut. In a discussion that so often focus on what's wrong and how to fix it, it was nice to hear.

6. Methusalah Kunuk. I didn't know much about him going into this forum and I still don't know much about him. It was not a great performance. He has a ton of experience in Government of Nunavut, but none of that was convincingly related when he spoke. He doesn't have a clear speaking voice in either language and not helping is that he never really seemed to clearly relay his ideas and what he stands for. You can scoff at some of Joamie's ideas, but at least they will get you talking. Nothing Kunuk said made an impression.

So there we have it. Crawford said it's too bad all of them couldn't win. And honestly, it's a pretty good field to pick from. No predictions on my part, and I'm not saying who Cathy and I are voting for. But Monday should be interesting. Best of luck to all of them

Last Five
1. We - Neil Diamond*
2. Man's best friend - The Pursuit of Happiness
3. Make a little noise - Joel Plaskett Emergency
4. We walk - The Ting Tings
5. Confidence - Garbage

1 comment:

John, Canberra AU said...

Rankings are great. Now don't you wish you had an election system that used such rankings, rather than result in by-elections and the like?