Saturday, October 31, 2015

Late October (2015)

On October 19th, Canadians went to the polls to elect a new federal government.  Twenty-three political parties competed to have the most candidates elected to the House of Commons in Ottawa.  The five most popular parties were the Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats (NDP), the Bloc Quebecois, and the Greens.  Thirty new seats were added to Canada's "chamber of democracy," bringing the total to 338.  The preceding federal election was held in 2011.  (I was surprised there was still room for more seats in the chamber.  I can only imagine what will happen when it becomes too crowded). 
The federal election was called on August 2 by Prime Minster Stephen Harper.  His Conservative Party had been ruling the country for ten years and was hoping to get reelected.  The campaign would last 11 weeks, the longest in Canadian history.  (Our American neighbours to the south mocked us for making "a big deal" about the length of the campaign because their presidential campaigns go on for two years). 
The Liberal Party had been reduced to third-party status in the previous election and was hoping to reclaim its rightful place as Canada's "natural governing party".  The New Democrats had been the Official Opposition for four years and were eager to become Canada's first federal New Democratic government.  The Bloc Quebecois lost most of its seats in 2011 and was hoping to win them back and add more in the province of Quebec.  The Green Party had succeeded in getting its leader elected in the last election and wanted to win more seats this time. 
I periodically followed the highlights of the campaign on the Internet but I couldn't watch the debates because I would use up all my bandwidth.  I notified Elections Canada of my change of address and had them move my name over to the Arctic Bay voting list.  This would be my first time voting as a Nunavut citizen in a federal election.
The Hamlet Office served as the community's polling station.  Several teachers & I drove over to the building after school to cast our ballots.  It was as easy as marking an X on a piece of paper, folding it up, and placing it inside a box.  Democracy in action.  I eagerly followed the live election results online later that evening.  The voter turnout was surprisingly high at 69.1%.  In the end, the final results were: Liberals - 184 seats, Conservatives - 99 seats, NDP - 44 seats, Bloc Quebecois - 10 seats, and Greens - 1 seat.  The Liberals would form a majority government with Justin Trudeau as the new Prime Minister.  The Conservatives would form the Official Opposition and the NDP were reduced to third party status.  It looks like the majority of Canadians wanted change.  We shall see what Trudeau's Liberals will do for the next four years.
Speaking of change, the federal Nunavut riding has a new MP - Hunter Tootoo.  He campaigned as a Liberal and unseated Conservative MP Leona Aglukkaq.  He previously visited Arctic Bay in 2013 when he was a Nunavut MLA.  Spencer Rocchi, a former teacher at Inuujaq School, ended in last place behind the Conservatives & New Democrats.  He ran for the Green Party.   
From a distance, the iceberg looks small,
but it's really big up close.
The iceberg I photographed two weeks ago has drifted across the bay and become stuck near the airport.  The water in Adam's Sound has begun to freeze for the winter and the resulting surface ice has trapped the iceberg for the winter.  (The freezing of Adam's Sound usually begins in mid-October but this year, the natural process began later in the month).  As I mentioned in my post on October 14, 2015, this is the first time an iceberg has drifted this close to Arctic Bay since I moved here in 2013.  The community now has a natural attraction until next summer.  When the bay fully freezes and the ice is thick enough, locals will travel to the iceberg on their skidoos and break off pieces of ice with chisels.  I've been told that tea made with water from an iceberg tastes very good.  Since I don't drink tea, I'll stick to my original plan: extreme ironing in the spring!
Arctic Bay: October 24, 2015
Arctic Bay: October 24, 2015
I started driving my skidoo not too long ago.  It was a great feeling to finally be able to get back behind the . . . steering handlebars?  Everything appeared to be in working order.  I still had to keep an eye out for rocks on the skidoo trails and exposed gravel on the roads.  I would wait until early to mid-November before driving out on the frozen ice in the bay.                     

Halloween decorations began to appear in the main hallway and on classroom doors during the last week of October.  It was time for the annual Halloween door decorating contest.  Classes were encouraged to come up with creative & scary ideas to decorate their classroom doors for a chance to win cash prizes.  Some doors were scary while others were just colourful.  The winners would be announced at the Halloween Assembly on October 30th. (More on that in a future post).

The administrative staff of 3045 Army Cadets received an anonymous tip that my birthday would be occurring around late October and that something special should be done.  Two large birthday cakes were prepared behind-the-scenes.  Everyone in the corps was sworn to secrecy.  I didn't know of the plan until the night of the 28th when the cake was presented to me in full view of the cadets.  While everyone sang Happy Birthday, I did my best to keep a straight face.  I blew out most of the candles in one breath.  Everyone posed for a memorable photograph after the cakes were consumed.  Deep down, I was impressed by the amount of effort that everyone put in to "make my day".  Thank you everyone.  It was very touching.   
3045 Army Cadets
The birthday festivities continued on the evening of Friday, October 30th, when several teachers & I drove out to Uluksat Point to celebrate the occasion.  (Aside from Victor Bay, Uluksat Point is the closest camping area).  We chose Friday because it was the end of the school week and we could stay up much later.  We brought hot dogs, marshmallows, and beans for food. We also brought large pieces of wood to make a bonfire. 
The area was in complete darkness.  We used flashlights and the high beams of the vehicles to locate the fire pit and picnic tables.  A cold arctic wind began to blow as we assembled the large pieces of wood.  Once we got the fire going, we roasted the hot dogs & marshmallows over the open flames.  As for the beans . . . they were cooked using a frying pan.
The highlight of the bonfire was when Jean-Francois (JF), the high school science & math teacher set off the fireworks.  The fireworks were bought at the Northern Store.  Most of them ignited in the cold weather and exploded high in the night sky.  We all agreed to buy two box sets next time because one wasn't enough.  Come to think about it, you can never have enough fireworks.
We retreated to JF's house for an after bonfire party.  I was presented with a large lit birthday cake made by JF.  I blew out the crackling candles and did my best to cut the cake into equal pieces.  The cake was delicious.  Thanks JF!     

Sunrise. October 27, 2015.
And finally, my drummers & I are getting ready for our first performance gig: Halloween.  The school organizes a Halloween Assembly every year and for the third time in a row, my drummers are the opening act.  Naturally, my drummers are nervous because this will be their first time performing in front of a large audience but I've been constantly reassuring them that everything will be fine.  I have also been suggesting that they should wear Halloween masks to combat stage fright.  That's what I will be doing.    

Happy Halloween Everyone!

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