Minister of education and economic development defeated
© Derek Montague
Roy Blake was elected as Nunatsiavut ordinary member for Upper lake Melville, after being a candidate in three elections.
The Nunatsiavut election for ordinary members, held throughout Labrador on May 6, brought a mixture of triumph and heartbreak for the candidates. Some of those elected have come up short in the past, and have now been vindicated. For incumbents who were defeated, there is a sense of shock and disbelief.
Nunatsiavut Beneficiaries voted for representatives in seven different regions: Nain, Upper Lake Melville, Hopedale, Postville, Makkovik, Rigolet and Canada.
Upper Lake Melville, the region with the highest population, had one of the most dramatic results, following a hard-fought campaign. In the three-person race for two seats, Roy Blake was the lone challenger against the two incumbents, Gary Mitchell and Patricia Kemuksigak. Blake collected the most votes with 649, while Kemuksigak grabbed the second seat with 522. Gary Mitchell was the odd man out with 446.
For Blake, who considered himself an underdog heading into election day, this was his third attempt at representing Upper Lake Melville as an ordinary member.
“I didn’t think I would get in to tell you the truth,” Blake said the morning after the election.
“I think that’s what drove me more, because I knew I really had a fight on my hands. They’re both really good people and they represented Upper Lake Melville well.”
The key to Blake’s campaign this year was to go all out and never become overconfident. During the last Upper Lake Melville byelection in 2011, Blake thought he was a shoo-in for a victory, only to narrowly lose.
“When we went door-to-door, checking off people who said they’d vote for me, we had 574 names,” recalled Blake. “I took it easy. I never called any voters before voting day … because I thought I had it in the bag. I was over-confident. And it came back to bite me, I’m telling you.”
After he is sworn in as ordinary member on May 12, in Hopedale, Blake’s priority will be dealing with the long-standing membership issue in his region. For years, there have been people who claim their Nunatsiavut memberships were taken away unjustly. Now, said Blake, is the time to fix it.
“Right from Day 1 (of the campaign), the No. 1 issue in Upper Lake Melville is membership,” he said.
Nunatsiavut minister shocked after defeat
Since there were two seats available in Upper Lake Melville, and three people running, one candidate was bound to walk away heartbroken. To the surprise of many, that candidate was Gary Mitchell.
“My first reaction was shock because I didn’t expect it,” said Mitchell.
“With the houses that I did visit and the people I talked to on the street … I was feeling good about the whole campaign.”
Mitchell was elected as ordinary member in Upper Lake Melville in the 2011 byelection. Not long after being elected, he was appointed as minister of education and economic development for the Nunatsiavut Government.
In retrospect, Mitchell believes his ministerial duties may have kept him away from representing the Upper Lake Melville region as much as he could have.
“That kept me really busy. And I think, looking back at it, those duties took me away from some of the responsibilities I had as representative for the people of Upper Lake Melville,” said Mitchell.
“I just couldn’t get out there and give myself more profile with the people in the area.”
Despite the defeat, Mitchell said the past two-and-a-half years have been a rewarding experience. He hopes that people will remember some of the things he helped achieve in education and economic development.
“I’ve worked on a number of things, like the social work degree program and the teachers’ degree program,” said Mitchell.
“You achieve a lot of things and you’re satisfied by it but the public doesn’t know everything you’re doing, and you can’t sit there and write a newspaper column every day.”
There will be no time for Mitchell to transition to his new life. Just six days after his defeat, the elected members will be sworn in.
Mitchell was not prepared to be leaving government so soon and doesn’t know what he will be doing next in life.
First time’s the charm
Sean Lyall of Nain has always been a political person but never attempted to become an elected politician until this year’s Nunatsiavut election.
“I wanted to get more information out to people, that was part of my campaign platform. Myself, personally, I felt very disconnected (from government). I just wanted to know what was on the go,” said Lyall.
“By communicating with people, you can identify issues and problems. Approach things in a positive way and you can resolve almost any issue.”
The 40-year-old surprised himself by receiving the most votes (367) than any other candidate in Nain.
Besides communication, Lyall has a long list of priorities for his region, most of which involves needed infrastructure. His top priority is for Nain to receive a seniors’ care facility. He also claims that Nain is in desperate need of more housing.
“There’s a lot of overcrowding. People need homes, people need repairs,” said Lyall.
“People need their space, families need their space.”
Too close to call
The unofficial election results, released immediately after polls closed, showed tight races in many communities.
In Postville, Tyler Edmunds defeated Glen Sheppard by just a single vote. In Hopedale, Greg Flowers defeated Susan Nochasak by seven.
According to Nunatsiavut chief electoral officer, Jack Shiwak, Sheppard and Nochasak requested recounts. Shiwak also said, however, that the results were so close he would have recounted even without a request. The results of the recount are expected to be compiled on Friday, May 9.
Below are the full unofficial election results for each region.
Upper lake Melville
• Roy Blake (elected) — 649;
• Patricia Kemuksigak (re-elected) — 522;
• Gary Mitchell— 446.
• Sean Lyall (elected) — 367;
• Richard Pamak (elected) — 243;
• Joe Dicker — 181;
• Jim Lyall — 150;
• Johannes Lampe — 134;
• William Barbour — 101.
• Daniel Pottle (re-elected) — 432;
• Patricia Ford (re-elected) — 400;
• Zippie Nochasak — 115;
• Edward Rudkowski — 108.
• Greg Flowers (elected) —107;
• Susan Nochasak — 100;
• Marjorie Flowers — 89.
• Kate Mitchell (elected) — 101;
• Denise Lane — 60.
• Darryl Shiwak (re-elected) — 92;
• Melva Williams — 48;
• Chesley Sheppard — 19.
• Tyler Edmunds (elected) — 53;
• Glen Sheppard (elected) — 52.