No single reason for non-confidence motion that saw Nunavut premier depart, MLAs say
“People will never really understand why. I understand they are upset about it”
In a non-confidence vote and ensuing leadership forum in which Nunavut’s new premier Joe Savikataaq was elected, Nunavut MLAs made it clear yesterday that they didn’t want the Aggu MLA Paul Quassa to hold the highest-ranking position in Nunavut’s government.
The June 14 vote saw 16 members of Nunavut’s legislative assembly stand to oust Quassa and three stand to keep him. Two members abstained. But some Nunavummiut are still asking why the vote took place at all.
In the house, members cited “mismanagement” and “poor” or “autocratic” leadership as their reasons.
Autocratic means behaving as if one has absolute power, domineering, and not accounting for the wishes of others.
But to gain some more insight into what the MLAs thought, Nunatsiaq News caught up with a few MLAs last night and today, while they were getting ready to fly home after nearly a month in the assembly.
In a social media posting on Thursday night, Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone had listed “poor leadership, fractured cabinet, terminations, lack of transparency and answers, public servants living in fear of how the next directive will harm Nunavut, misleading statements in the house,” as reasons for the day’s events.
To Nunatsiaq News Lightstone said Friday, “It’s not something we wanted to do, we felt we were obligated.”
That’s also what George Hickes, who represents the riding of Iqaluit-Tasiluk and is now part of the cabinet, said standing in the legislature the day before.
“The premiership of Nunavut is not a popularity contest,” he said in the house.
Hickes did say the decision wasn’t solely to do with spending on care services and travel for the entire cabinet to attend the Northern Lights Trade Show and Conference that took place earlier this year in Ottawa.
“There’s nothing to wrap your hands around,” Hickes said of what MLAs called Quassa’s failed “leadership style.”
“I’ll never speak ill of the man … unfortunately I don’t think it was the right role for him right now,” Hickes said.
“There was a very obvious division amongst cabinet and that was definitely affecting government, and the house, the assembly, and the whole territory,” Lightstone said.
After the notice for the non-confidence motion was given on June 12, Lightstone said some of his constituents spoke to him about Quassa, giving the long-time Nunavut politician “due praise,” but, “I also heard from a lot of constituents who spoke of the opposite, who were not pleased with the direction this government was going.”
“And, other issues,” he said.
It’s those “other issues” that MLAs interviewed by Nunatsiaq News declined to get into.
For those wondering what lead to today's events
Lack of transparency and answers
Public servants living in fear of how the next directive will harm Nunavut
Misleading statements in the house
— AdamArreakLightstone (@AdamLightstone) June 15, 2018
Finance Minister David Akeeagok, the only cabinet member who stood in support of Quassa yesterday, challenged this before the vote was made, by asking for more information on what the mentioned “misleading statements” were.
It wasn’t “any one issue,” chair for the regular members council, Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main said. “It’s all in the Hansard,” he said.
But there might be more that we can learn by reading the assembly’s public transcript also known as “the blues.”
“People will never really understand why. I understand they are upset about it,” said Aivilik MLA Patterk Netser, who ran for the premiership yesterday and lost.
He also chose not to get into specifics, but said there were “back room deals” being made.
“It was our responsibility to take action for the future of our children, for the future of Nunavut,” he said.
Netser called the selection process for leadership in Nunavut’s government “flawed,” adding that the territory cannot prosper until the “selection process” for government changes.
He was also disappointed by Quassa’s decision to elect Paul Okalik as Nunavut’s devolution negotiator.
“Be very cautious” when you’re answering questions, was the message Netser had for cabinet.
Gjoa Haven MLA Tony Akoak, who seconded the non-confidence motion, told Nunatsiaq News his requests for cabinet to meet with the Kitikmeot Inuit Association after the GN pulled its support from the Grays Bay Road and Port project were “evaded.”