These are the issues that matter most in Canada's largest riding
TORONTO -- Nunavut is the largest riding in Canada, covering one-fifth of the nation’s landmass. It also faces some of the country’s biggest problems.
Suicide rates in the northern region are the highest in Canada. Nearly 5,000 people are waiting for homes due to a severe housing shortage, and the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is more than $2,600 per month. High living costs mean that many people struggle simply to put food on the table.
For the first time in the riding’s history, three Inuit women are on the ballot. Each is running on a campaign of affordability, housing and improving quality of life.
Former health minister and two-time MP Leona Aglukkaq is running for the Conservatives, former Iqaluit city councilor Megan Pizzo Lyall is representing the Liberals, and 25-year-old activist Mumilaaq Qaqqaq is running for the NDP.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau visited Iqaluit in August and unveiled a promise to invest $290 million over eight years to pay for new affordable housing.
Pizzo Lyall says it’s those sorts of promises that will make a tangible difference in people’s lives.
“We want to make sure people have more money in their pockets to feed their families and make sure that they have a safe place to call home,” she said.
Aglukkaq says housing is a major concern.
“I’ve heard stories about families sleeping in shifts just because there's not enough space,” she told CTV News.
“The housing crisis is complicated by the carbon tax because we have to ship absolutely everything from the south.”
For Qaqqaq, this race is personal. While she has never been elected to office, she says she has an intimate understanding of the problems facing her community.
“I’ve lost family. I’ve lost friends,” Qaqqaq said. As an activist, she travelled to Parliament two years ago to deliver an impassioned speech about the suicide crisis affecting Indigenous youth.
“We've always felt left on the back burner when it comes to the government,” she said. “We've been crying for help for decades.”
Without an incumbent in the mix, the race widely is considered a toss-up.
Incumbent MP Hunter Tootoo was elected with the Liberals in 2015 but resigned from caucus the following year, citing addiction issues. He later issued a public apology after allegations emerged that he engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a staffer.
Election day is Monday, Oct. 21.