Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut June 14, 2018 - 9:30 pm

Nunavut welcomes new premier, Joe Savikataaq

Savikataaq of Arviat becomes Nunavut's fifth premier

Joe Savikataaq gets up to shake the hands of his fellow MLAs in the Nunavut legislature June 14, moments after learning that he would be Nunavut's fifth premier. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
Joe Savikataaq gets up to shake the hands of his fellow MLAs in the Nunavut legislature June 14, moments after learning that he would be Nunavut's fifth premier. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
Premier Joe Savikataaq shares his elation at being chosen premier June 14 before speaking to reporters in the foyer of the Nunavut legislature. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
Premier Joe Savikataaq shares his elation at being chosen premier June 14 before speaking to reporters in the foyer of the Nunavut legislature. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
George Hickes, who represents Iqaluit-Tasiluk in the legislature, is moving back to cabinet after spending the past seven months as a regular MLA. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
George Hickes, who represents Iqaluit-Tasiluk in the legislature, is moving back to cabinet after spending the past seven months as a regular MLA. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

Nunavut has a new premier, Arviat South MLA Joe Savikataaq, along with a new face in the cabinet, Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA George Hickes.

That’s after a whirlwind day in the Nunavut legislature, June 14, that saw Aggu MLA Paul Quassa, the premier, ousted by a non-confidence vote.

Of the 21 members who voted, 16 voted against Quassa.

After the MLAs gathered for a meeting of full caucus, they went directly into a leadership forum, nominating Aivilik MLA Patterk Netser, Lorne Kusugak, a cabinet member and MLA for Rankin Inlet South, and cabinet member Savikataaq who represents the riding of Arviat South to stand for premier.

Then those three nominees fielded questions from the MLAs on everything from their work ethic to their views on child sex abuse, domestic violence, devolution, elder care and education.

During the three-plus hours of questioning, Savikataaq sold himself as a hard worker, who would make sure the job came first.

Savikataaq said he’s honest and positive, and promised team work with MLAs, saying he would make use of the little resources that Nunavut has “to get big results.”

He also spoke about a need for training, and achieving higher rates of Inuit employment in government and mining jobs.

“We want all Nunavummiut to be educated at the same level,” he said. “We don’t want a second-tier system in Nunavut.”

But it took two ballots for Savikataaq to earn the chance to bring his ideas to Nunavut.

The first ballot did not show a majority for any of the three nominees. This led to a second round of votes between Savikataaq and Kusugak. Netser was out of the running after the first vote.

After the results were announced in Savikataaq’s favour, he went around the chamber shaking hands with his fellow MLAs. Quassa did not attend the leadership forum.

Outside in the foyer of the legislature, Savikataaq, who had a broad smile, spoke briefly to reporters.

“I feel humbled, but I feel very good. I’m honoured that the MLAs have entrusted me to take on the premiership. I won’t let them down,” he said.

Before being elected to the Nunavut legislature in 2013, Savikataaq, a wildlife officer, served on the hamlet council of Arviat for about 20 years.

Under Quassa, Savikataaq served as environment minister.

“This morning was very stressful. There were no cheers. Nobody wanted it, it was something they felt had to be done,” he said about the motion that led to Quassa’s removal as premier.

“The issue this morning was management style. I have a different management style,” Savikataaq said, adding that he will use this style to work to get more federal government support for Nunavut.

As for his larger goals: “It’s bringing our elders home (and) treating our people that have mental illnesses. We have to help people who can’t help themselves.”

During the leadership forum, Savikataaq also said he wants to see an addictions treatment centre built in Nunavut, something many in Nunavut have been calling for.

Hickes, who served as health minister in the previous government, was returned to cabinet by acclamation, taking the place Savikataaq left open by becoming premier.

He said he couldn’t wait to get started on his new cabinet portfolio, although he’s still waiting to hear what that portfolio will be. “I’ve got a busy summer ahead of me,” he said.

“There are things in health I feel I didn’t finish,” but it’s up to the premier to decide the portfolio, he said.

Savikataaq did say he would likely take on the regular portfolio of the premier, which would leave his cabinet position in the Departments of Economic Development and Transportation or Environment open.

Savikataaq said it wouldn’t make good sense to do an extensive shuffle of the current cabinet.

When asked what the members meant in the morning session by their loss of confidence in the premier’s “leadership style”—that was the overarching reason members gave for demoting Quassa—Hickes couldn’t elaborate other than to say “everything wasn’t working.”

Two motions made by Hudson Bay MLA Allan Rumbolt saw Savikataaq recognized in the house as premier and Hickes as new cabinet member. Both were carried.

Then, at shortly after 8 p.m., it was time for speaker Joe Enook to thank the assembly staff for their hard work and wish everyone a safe summer and an abundant hunt during the summer.

“Those who are elected here today, we are proud of you,” he said.

The legislature returns Oct. 23 for its fall sitting and consideration of capital spending in the territory.

with files from Beth Brown and Jane George

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(38) Comments:

#1. Posted by Nunamiuq on June 14, 2018

Georgie, if you can convince the MLAs that everything wasn’t working under Paul Quassa, surely you can also convince Tootoo that he isn’t working for Nunavut? Please!

#2. Posted by not many seasons left on June 14, 2018

“Then, at shortly after 8 p.m., it was time for speaker Joe Enook to thank the assembly staff for their hard work and wish everyone a safe summer and an abundant hunt during the summer.”  Not too many of those seasons left when the vision of Nunavut is no longer recognized and the mining companies gobble up the land.

#3. Posted by Angela C on June 14, 2018

Wow! From conservation officer and now to Premier! Way to go Joe. Best of luck!

#4. Posted by B Aglukark on June 14, 2018

John Main you didn’t fully explain why you initiated this motion as committee chair.  Your riding fully deserve an explanation. Provide explanation in an open letter clarifying your reasoning.  Your showboating did not give any closure. Joe Savikataaq, if you process, and have the GN back as a partner in the Greys Bay Project, this move, is much worst than the Northern Lights expenditures John Main is rightfully concerned about.  I would expect John as my representative, and the supporting cast including George to fully challenge this move if It happens. Lastly, it will be evident, that this process played today was selfish, pre-determined and you had a part in it, and all residents of Nunavut will have been sold out and cheated.  This is possible capital expenditure that could be used for infrastructure needs, as John Main so clearly states.

#5. Posted by uvaga on June 14, 2018

Congratulations!!! thank you MLA’s, we trust you Joe, I know for sure you are not one sided, I know you will help Baffin, Kivalliq and Kitikmeot all same.

#6. Posted by Toomas on June 15, 2018

Does this mean its go time for old news like residential school era news alike, relocation, that involves all this crap?

#7. Posted by Native on June 15, 2018

Congratulations Joe and George

#8. Posted by Hungover on June 15, 2018

Did that all just happen?
I was really liking Main until this week. I thought he’d have more faith & stronger convictions to stand up to those bullies that just took over. There won’t be many more hills for you to scream on top of…
Pretty gross the Hickes ego was so hurt when he didn’t make cabinet that he had to figure out how to undercut, manipulate & twist to get back in. Sad.
Have no clue what they were all drinking when they didn’t choose Kusugak. He was by far the most level-headed & respectable. But, not to worry. It will be premier Kusugak in 7 months with this flip floppy assembly.Get ready for the bumpy ride!

#9. Posted by george on June 15, 2018

# 4 - its called democracy. Cheated?

#10. Posted by to hungover on June 15, 2018

Do you not remember in 2008 what kusugak was accused of? Would you want another person like that?

#11. Posted by No wonder on June 15, 2018

No wonder the Nunavut land use plan is taking for ever. Brian that time you spent commenting and shooting the messenger was time you could have use to work on the land use plan. Now we know why its taking so long. Please speed up your work to save tax $$$$$ and finish that long awaited plan. Good luck.

#12. Posted by Seen It Before on June 15, 2018

It was claimed that leadership style was the issue.

We will soon see if the man brings the style or if the government structure molds the man.

The GN claims to be an open government.  But no one can make even the smallest of change without the approval of 1 of 8 Deputy Ministers.  No one can make a small change without the approval of Cabinet, requiring “consensus” from 8 Cabinet Ministers.  A major change requires approval by the Legislative Assembly.

But nothing gets to the Cabinet or to the Legislative Assembly without first being approved by the Premier.

The Premier is the roadblock to all progress.

We will see what happens. Good luck Joe, good luck Nunavut.

#13. Posted by Observer on June 15, 2018

I assume this dude has a high. School diploma…

#14. Posted by Oh Ima on June 15, 2018

There’s no hills in Arviat! 15% of the population cried and got their wish with support of two MLAs who are so removed from their Inuit brothers and sisters that they gave them what they needed. There been concerned raised by Inuit employees and Inuit wanting jobs with GN about institutional racism and bullying in the system but no one heard them. As soon as Paul put in mandate that all GN workers have to learn and speak Inuktitut all of sudden these two MLAs raised concerned of GN employees? Goes to show Nunavut is not working for Inuit!! the majority and marginalized people in our own home!

#15. Posted by Mary on June 15, 2018

Make a motion to remove Ministers with criminal records.

#16. Posted by Kanokli on June 15, 2018

Hmmm, B Aglukark works for NPC, a public body that supposedly works on land use plans.  Hmmm. His opinion is very biased on Grays Bay!  Jeepers!  No wonder nothing moves forward!  We have all these tree huggers working undercover!!!  That’s not good for NU!!!

#17. Posted by Oh Ima on June 15, 2018

Observer he’s got better than a high.School diploma, he’s got community living experience, hunting and fishing skills , speaks Inukitut, understands the community needs outside of Iqaluit. A lot more then a southerner with that don’t know shit about what Inuit go through!

#18. Posted by community member on June 15, 2018

YES #15! Minister’s and MLA’s

Higher standards are needed, much higher standards.

#19. Posted by B Aglukark on June 15, 2018

# 16- I have no need to explain my position to someone who is hiding behind an alias.  I will say this one point.  Your suggestion is what basically puts “fear” into the employees of the GN, NTI etc.  Who may have real issues o raise.  You won’t muffle me.

#20. Posted by iRoll on June 15, 2018

#4 Did you directly vote for the Premier?

No, you didn’t.

The only people who did were the members of the Legislative Assembly, and they wanted him out, overwhelmingly (don’t put this on John Main, he was the spokesperson for the regular members, his job was the voice their concerns).

Let’s break this down. Of the 20 members who voted (the speaker is not included, and let’s not include Quassa either) 16 voted to oust the Premier. 2 abstained, and only 2 voted to keep him.


If that doesn’t make you think, nothing will.

#14 Connecting this to the language issue is not plausible. I get that you are pissed that there won’t be mandatory Inuktitut in the workplace, but the idea is a non-starter for constitutional reasons.

I’ll let you sort that out, though I suspect you won’t.

#21. Posted by Dark Ages forever on June 15, 2018

#17 Of course, these are the skills that make for a good policy maker. Nevermind high school, he knows hunting and fishing! lol.

Not only does ignorance reign in Nunavut, it is celebrated.


#22. Posted by Chesley on June 15, 2018

We ought to appreciate the work that reps on all committees and governments and elsewhere do on our behalf, it is frequently thankless work and oft with much totally unneeded opposition (that is the adopted system). This being said power has its own nature to corrupt individuals and rare is the person who does not weaken to the temptation.

#23. Posted by Northern Exposure Man on June 15, 2018

Now actually governing so that all Nunavumiut will notice improvement in their daily lives and hopes for the future of their families….priceless.

#24. Posted by uvaga on June 15, 2018

many times YES #15 and many more YES to #18

#25. Posted by Northern Inuit on June 15, 2018

what a fun day that was to watch.

Paul, you served with an iron fist and didn’t listen to your Assembly.

you lied and Grays Bay, but I ultimately agreed with you on, the decision not to go forth with it.

but spending on Northern Lights?  seriously, $7,000.00 on a Limo for less than one kilometer cause it was cold and slippery?  where do you live again where it’s what 9 months of the year?

don’t blame John Main for introducing this motion.  it came from the rest of the regular mla’s.  I’m sure there are more reasons than we all know about.  it may come out, it may not.

but in the end, it came down to Lorne and Joe, both are strong choices and I think that Joe was a fine choice.  all the best Joe and do us all proud!

#26. Posted by Observer on June 15, 2018

Hey Dark Ages some people just don’t get it…they think IQ is the end all and be all so if you can hunt and fish then you can manage a territory…no wonder Nunavut is in the state it’s in….looking through rose coloured glasses we will see how this new premier makes out but I would bet it won’t be much better than the last

#27. Posted by Putuguk on June 15, 2018

People still wondering about the reasons behind removing Quassa really need solid reporting Nunatsiaq.

Main said that Quassa’s misleading statements were a matter of public record. They are. The evidence is there for anyone to see, including reporters. 

On May 25, 2018 Quassa in response to a question from Main, stated that cabinet attendance at the Northern Lights Conference was not mandatory.

On June 11, 2018 each cabinet member was asked by an ordinary MLA whether they were told to attend. All of them responded they were told to attend.

So, Quassa mislead - lied - to the house in May.

GN could have saved money with less Ministers attending, but Quassa was “autocratic” and told everyone to go.

Now, instead of criticizing Main for being vague, perhaps the public might consider for a second that Main was trying to be as respectful as he could possibly be to Quassa while at the same time pointing out a lie and bossy behavior.

#28. Posted by Unreal on June 15, 2018

Quassa doesn’t join in on the leadership forum. And you all wonder why he was removed!

#29. Posted by Tom on June 15, 2018

How does ones charges or criminal records conflict with their portfolios.

#30. Posted by Jerry on June 15, 2018

Why are they hiding and allowing Ministers to practice and represent people. So called transparency!! Communities have to stand and say that’s not acceptable. Schools apparently can’t have people visiting that hold a criminal record.but we allow members to in our schools…....? Zero tolerance.

#31. Posted by Inuk Person on June 15, 2018

Nunavut Inuit face real and on-going issues that have only deteriorated since the creation of Nunavut, when the residents thought it would be better. These issues include:

- Lack of housing,
- Food insecurity/poverty,
- Mental illness/addiction,
- Isolation,
- High prices/standard of living
- etc…

Paradigm shift needs to occur in Nunavut, the policy makers, bureaucrats, and so on.

Inuit organizations, different levels of government, and private businesses need to start working together so that Nunavut won’t be a third world country within one of the riches countries in the world!

Enough with strategies, meaningless meetings, leadership battles, let’s just get something done!


#32. Posted by Inuk Person on June 15, 2018

About eighty years ago, the Inuit were living a traditional nomadic life with no Western education. Within a very short period of time, the Inuit successfully negotiated the NLCA and created our territory.

This was made possible because the Inuit across the Arctic came together and tackled the issues/negotiations as one entity, rather than small little entities that would have fought the same issues.

The Inuit, once again, should unite as one and fight this battle of Goliath (issues listed above).

Our ancestors were ingenious, worked really hard to survive, kept our knowledge/language without any writing system. Here we are today, killing ourselves, being hungry, having no place to live, losing our language.

Let’s join together and make a better territory for ourselves and our future generations!

#33. Posted by Paul Murphy on June 16, 2018

One simple question for those that believe any “minister with a criminal record” should be gotten rid of.

Why did you elect them to your governments, inuit organizations, etc?  You knew of their record - why?
Do you need any one else to blame?

#34. Posted by Voter on June 16, 2018

This Premier better not open up the Grays Bay project again!

#35. Posted by Rinse & Repeat on June 16, 2018

#31 / 32 Interesting narrative. I wonder how much truth there is to it?

#36. Posted by Inuk Person on June 16, 2018

#35; eye of the beholder.

In 1970, people of the Arctic came together in Coppermine, NWT and analyzed/understood what was happening to their homeland (mining/exploration, lost wildlife management, sent to residential schools, outsiders taking control of the land, etc.).

Those people decided to form an organization that would speak for Inuit as a whole (rather than several small organizations), and as a result created the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada (ITC, which is now known as ITK). ITC/Tungavik Federation of Nunavut (TFN) successfully negotiated and signed the NLCA.

Nunavut Inuit had high hopes prior to the creation of Nunavut, but their livelihoods have only worsened. So many meetings go on, yet nothing really ever gets done.

I hope Savikataaq and the future leaders of Nunavut will alleviate some of the hardships the people endure in the far north!

#37. Posted by iWonder on June 17, 2018

#36 Thanks for sharing your story.

I understand that a lot of people had very high hopes for Nunavut when it came to be. Don’t you think there may have been a lot of unrealistic expectations that came with it too? The issues we have are complicated don’t really lend themselves to quick or easy fixes.

#38. Posted by Uncle Bob on June 18, 2018

I am excited to see this new Premier get Nunavut off to a positive start, you have a good team behind you Joe, use them efficiently to make Nunavut great.
No more perks for the boys, all travel and expenditure to be monitored closely.

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