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Our Riding Is Bigger Than Yours

Our Riding Is Bigger Than Yours

And that presents one mighty big problem for Nunavut candidates
By Laura Busch
Sep 19
From the September 2015 Issue

So you want to run for MP? Good on you for stepping up and getting involved in our political process. Now, understand that for the weeks leading up to the Oct. 19 federal election, there will be constant demands on your time: shaking hands and kissing babies, heated debates with your fellow candidates, endless requests from media, dealing with attack ads and pounding the old pavement to knock on doors. 

Word of warning: in the North, that last one isn’t so easy. Take Canada’s largest geographic riding, Nunavut, when compared with its smallest, Toronto Centre. The latter is roughly six-by-nine city blocks, while in the former, it takes a 3,000 km flight from the capital (Iqaluit) with a stop in another jurisdiction (Northwest Territories) just to reach one of Nunavut’s major regional centres (Cambridge Bay). If you want to run for a federal seat up here, you better be well-funded and ready to rack up some air miles.

“It has to be the most challenging riding in the country to run in for sure. Just because of the scale,” says Jack Hicks, who ran in Nunavut for the NDP in 2011 but came in third to the Liberal’s Paul Okalik and the victorious Conservative Leona Aglukkaq. “In Ottawa Centre or Toronto Centre, you could bike everywhere.” 

Elections Canada has a few provisions for remote ridings that even things out, says spokesperson John Enright. For example, instead of needing 100 signatures to be nominated, Northern candidates need just 50. The limits on election expenses, normally determined by population, is also done somewhat differently to account for Northern demographics. Yet, the chances of raising the maximum limit of $202,334 for a campaign in Nunavut, a less affluent riding of 32,000 people, is unlikely, to say the least, says Hicks.      

His decision to run came fairly last-minute, Hicks says, and he had no expectation of winning the seat. Outside of Iqaluit, he made one campaign stop in Rankin Inlet, where he was pleased to meet with people who were already aware of his campaign and where he stood on issues. 

“It’s such a huge riding, and unless you’ve got it planned well in advance and you have something approaching the maximum budget, you can’t possibly get out,” he says. “But we live in the age of the Internet and the media seem interested to know what you want to say.” So getting your message out online might be best. Now you just have to deal with those slow internet speeds.

By the numbers

Nunavut riding

Area: 1,877,787.62 km2

Population density: 0.017 people per km2

Cost to travel from one end of riding to the other: $5,433.75
That’s what it costs to fly from Sanikiluaq, the most southern community, to Grise Fiord, the most Northern. Our flight would leave Sanikiluaq on September 2, and wind up taking a Sanikiluaq-to-Winnipeg-to-Churchill-to-Rankin Inlet-to-Iqaluit-to-Resolute-to-Grise Fiord route. You would have to take three different airlines, and wind up at the final destination four days later... so long as there’s good weather.

Total population: 31,910

Under 18 years old: 12,325 (38.6%) (That’s a lot of babies to kiss!)

Over 60 years old: 1,975 (6.2%)

Married and common-law households: 5,585

Without children at home: 1,235 (22.1%)

One child: 1,220 (21.8%)

Two children: 1,260 (22.6%)

Three or more children: 1,870 (33.5%)

Single-parent households: 2,195

Single detached or semi-detached homes: 5,275

Apartments, row houses, duplex homes: 3,360

Toronto Centre riding

Area: 6 km2

Population density: 15,662 people per km2

Cost to travel from one end of riding to the other: $3 by bus/subway (Or $2 if you’re over 65/under 18.)

Total population: 93,971

Under 18 years old: 10,100 (10.7%)

Over 60 years old: 13,050 (13.9%)

Married and common-law households: 18,565

Without children at home: 9,760 (52.6%)

One child: 2,520 (13.6%)

Two children: 1,585 (8.5%)

Three or more children: 845 (4.5%)

Single-parent households: 3,860

Single detached or semi-detached homes: 925

Apartments, row houses, duplex homes: 51,460