Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut November 09, 2015 - 7:00 am

Nunavut’s family services minister flunks Nov. 7 leadership review

Motion on the floor Nov. 9 to oust Netsilik MLA Jeannie Ugyuk from cabinet

THOMAS ROHNER
Nunavut legislators meet Nov. 7 in the Nunavut Assembly for the mid-term leadership review. (PHOTO COURTESY OF MAATALII OKALIK)
Nunavut legislators meet Nov. 7 in the Nunavut Assembly for the mid-term leadership review. (PHOTO COURTESY OF MAATALII OKALIK)

(Updated, 9:44 a.m.)

After Nov. 9, Family Services Minister and Netsilik MLA Jeannie Ugyuk may no longer be serving as a Nunavut cabinet minister.

MLAs were scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Nov. 9 for a caucus meeting — and they decided to return to the house at 9 p.m. to deal with a motion to remove Ugyuk from cabinet.

The 9 p.m. sitting is required because of a rule that requires a 48-hour waiting period following notice of the motion Nov. 7. The motion could have proceeded immediately with unanimous consent from all members of the house but Ugyuk denied unanimous consent by voting against it.

That Nov. 7 motion came after Nunavut MLAs, including the premier and speaker, cast ballots in a secret vote about nine hours into their mid-term leadership review, giving Ugyuk a vote of non-confidence Nov. 7.

The 11-hour review provided regular MLAs with a chance to challenge Premier Peter Taptuna and other executive council members on their performance half-way through the government’s four-year term.

Taptuna, ministers and regular MLAs, most wearing businesses attire adorned with bright-red poppies, flocked into the assembly’s chambers at 10 a.m. Nov. 7 to begin the review.

Taptuna had 20 minutes to speak on his economic accomplishments and future plans, such as improving the Nutrition North Canada program — and he made a point of speaking Inuinnaqtun during parts of the review, which coincided with Inuit Day, celebrated Nov. 7.

During his opening statement, Taptuna gave an update on the 25 commitments and 113 action items in his government’s mandate, Sivumut Abluqta — or “stepping forward together.”

“I’m pleased to report almost a quarter of those [action items] have been achieved. Over 70 per cent are in various stages of progress… and close to 90 per cent of our mandate is actioned in one way or another,” Taptuna said.

For hours, questioning at the review featured no fireworks, and many of the questions posed by MLAs received bumbling responses or non-answers.

MLA George Hickes of Iqaluit-Tasiluk asked almost every minister the same question: “I believe self-reflection and self-analysis are key to good leadership. How would you honestly and objectively express your strengths and weaknesses as a minister and a cabinet member? And how would you rate your performance to date?”

Most MLAs likely would have failed this question in an actual job interview, as few answered the question directly.

For example, to Hickes’ question, George Kuksuk, minister of Housing, Language and Culture and Heritage, responded that “we all have strengths and weaknesses.

“But I cannot say what they are. I try to use all of my abilities,” Kuksuk said.

Tununiq MLA Joe Enook inspired by far the most heated exchanges during the review — after he vented his frustration at the government’s inability to deal with longstanding social issues in Nunavut.

Enook aimed his questions at Ugyuk, Paul Quassa, the minister of education, and Environment Minister Johnny Mike, but said these questions were meant for all ministers.

While grilling Quassa,  Enook criticized the Education Act.

“Why are so many things still in there that are so inappropriate for Nunavut? And then you tell us you are going to do what’s good for Nunavut…yet we have all these inappropriate laws for Nunavut. Why?” asked Enook.

“That’s a big question, but all of us sitting here are called lawmakers… so that question is to all of us,” Quassa replied. “Nobody else is a lawmaker. We are the ones who got elected to be lawmakers. Let’s always remember that.”

After all the questions — three from each regular MLA to Taptuna and other executive council members, the MLAs, including those in the executive council, cast secret ballots of “confidence” or “non-confidence” on the executive members.

They put their ballots into a large box set up in the middle of the chamber.

The results: Taptuna and the other cabinet ministers passed, with Taptuna thanking everyone afterwards for their confidence in his leadership.

But Ugyuk failed the vote.

During the review, MLAs had grilled Ugyuk on the lack of success in her department’s poverty reduction plan, efforts to curb homelessness and use of Inuit counsellors and social workers.

In responding to Hickes’ self-evaluation question, Ugyuk said she drew part of her strength from her home riding of Netsilik.

“I’m a woman and I’m not scared. I think of other people first. Those are my strengths. And my weaknesses: I haven’t been a member long, and I know I make mistakes,” Ugyuk said. 

After the results of the non-confidence vote, Quttiktuq MLA Isaac Shooyook gave notice of motion, seconded by Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak, to remove Ugyuk from cabinet.

Speaker George Qulaut then closed the review, reconvening the assembly shortly after 9 p.m. Nov. 7 to deal with Shooyook’s motion.

But when Shooyook asked for unanimous consent to waive the usual 48-hour delay between the introduction and vote on the motion, Ugyuk, who said “nay,” did not consent.

For that reason, the assembly is to reconvene Nov. 9 to deal with Shooyook’s motion.

Qulaut had officially adjourned the session Nov. 5 until Feb. 24, 2016.

Two previous mid-term leadership reviews have taken place in Nunavut since 1999.

in 2010, former premier Eva Aariak and all her cabinet ministers held on to their jobs after MLAs conducted a day-long leadership review November 2010. MLAs peppered Aariak and her ministers with questions for about eight hours, then voted, essentially, to do nothing; and,

in 2001, then-premier Paul Okalik emerged in reasonably good shape, thanks to his skills as a lawyer.

MLAs were unanimous in their overall good opinion of Okalik, now Nunavut’s minister of the health and justice departments, saying he was a good ambassador, a good leader, a good role model, a good example, and a good person.

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