Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut November 10, 2015 - 7:00 am

After Ugyuk quits, Nunavut MLAs put Hickes, Savikataaq into cabinet

Mid-term leadership forum wraps up Nov. 9

THOMAS ROHNER
MLAs cast vote by secret ballot for two new cabinet members inside the legislative chamber in Iqaluit Nov. 9, at the end of their mid-term leadership review forum, which saw Netsilik MLA Jeannie Ugyuk quit the legislature and MLAs George Hickes and Joe Savikataaq elevated to cabinet. (PHOTO BY THOMAS ROHNER)
MLAs cast vote by secret ballot for two new cabinet members inside the legislative chamber in Iqaluit Nov. 9, at the end of their mid-term leadership review forum, which saw Netsilik MLA Jeannie Ugyuk quit the legislature and MLAs George Hickes and Joe Savikataaq elevated to cabinet. (PHOTO BY THOMAS ROHNER)

Nunavut MLAs chose two new members for the territory’s executive council Nov. 9, as the mid-term leadership review wrapped up at the legislative assembly in Iqaluit shortly after 7:30 p.m.

“I am pleased to announce that two members, Mr. George Hickes and Mr. Joe Savikataaq, have been elected to serve on the executive council,” George Qulaut, the speaker of the House, said shortly after MLAs and ministers cast their ballots into a box set up in the middle of the chamber.

Each minister-designate thanked their fellow MLAs after being elected to serve on cabinet.

“I just want to thank everyone for trusting me with this responsibility and I promise I won’t let you down,” said Hickes, MLA for Iqaluit-Tasiluk.

“I thank all of you for believing in me and voting me in,” Arviat-South MLA Savikataaq said. “I will be humbled and I feel privileged that you voted me in. Thank you.”

The former family services minister, Jeannie Ugyuk, freed up one of the two cabinet seats when she resigned as minister and as Netsilik MLA earlier in the day Nov. 9.

Ugyuk failed a vote of confidence Nov. 7 during the leadership review’s first day, which lasted more than 11 hours.

“In light of Saturday’s deliberations of the Nunavut Leadership Forum, I have determined that the needs of my constituents in Taloyoak and Kugaaruk would be best served by affording them the opportunity to elect a new member,” Ugyuk said in a statement. She was not in the legislature Nov. 9.

Ugyuk’s resignation, which took effect at 5 p.m. Nov. 9, means voters in the Netsilik constituency will elect a new MLA in a by-election that must be held within six months.

The MLAs’ caucus decided earlier Nov. 9 to fill a second cabinet seat, bringing the total number of ministers back up to nine, speaker Qulaut said Nov. 9.

That’s the same number of ministers the current government had when it formed in 2013.

But after Premier Peter Taptuna relieved Tom Sammurtok, MLA for Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet, of his portfolio following a drunk driving charge in May, the premier decided to re-assign that portfolio to another minister.

After being nominated, but before the vote took place, both new minister-designates told MLAs that they had previously declined nominations to serve as ministers.

“As a regular MLA, I felt I was doing a good job bringing concerns and issues forward,” Hickes said before MLAs cast ballots.

“But I’ve come to realize I don’t need to stop doing that as a member of cabinet. Instead of just bringing focus to issues, I can bring action to those issues.”

Savikataaq told his colleagues before the vote that he declined nominations to become a minister in 2013 because he first wanted to learn how to be a regular MLA.

“But things change… and after being an MLA for two years, I’ve learned a lot,” Savikataaq said.

Taptuna will likely assign portfolios to Hickes and Savikataaq in the near future.

A third MLA had been nominated for cabinet, Aivilik MLA Steve Mapsalak. He failed to win a seat.

After the vote, the MLAs met to deal with two motions.

The first motion, introduced by Quttiktuq MLA Isaac Shooyook Nov. 7 to oust Ugyuk from cabinet, was withdrawn due to Ugyuk’s resignation.

Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak also tabled a motion, seconded by Hudson Bay MLA Allan Rumbolt, to recommend the new ministers-designate for the approval of Nunavut’s commissioner.

That motion passed unanimously.

The speaker of the assembly then adjourned the session until the legislature’s winter 2016 sitting, set to start Feb. 24, 2016.

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