Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut March 09, 2018 - 10:29 am

Nunavut’s Holy Grail, devolution, may be a poisoned chalice, MLA warns

John Main says a bad deal would be worse than no deal at all

John Main, the MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove, said March 7 that a bad devolution deal with Ottawa could leave the Nunavut government worse off than it is now. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
John Main, the MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove, said March 7 that a bad devolution deal with Ottawa could leave the Nunavut government worse off than it is now. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)

Referring to devolution as Nunavut’s “Holy Grail,” John Main, the MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove, warned Premier Paul Quassa this week that the long-sought-after prize might turn out to be a poisoned chalice.

“My concern is that a bad devolution deal would be worse than no devolution deal for Nunavut,” Main said on Wednesday, March 7 in a series of questions.

That’s because the Government of Nunavut already suffers from serious capacity problems, and the most recent employment report shows about 25 per cent of all current jobs at the GN sit vacant, Main said.

At the same time, a devolution agreement would transfer many more federal government jobs to the Nunavut government—jobs that Nunavut may not be able to recruit for.

That, in turn, could hamper the GN’s attempts to increase Inuit employment in the government.

“We need to recognize that filling this capacity gap by transferring a significant number of current federal employees to the GN would likely have a negative impact on our own goals of achieving higher Inuit employment in the public service,” Main said.

The current phase of devolution would see Ottawa transfer responsibility for public lands and resources, the 80 per cent of Nunavut’s land base not covered by Inuit-owned lands, to the Nunavut government.

It’s likely that such an agreement would shift many federal positions to the Nunavut government that are now filled by federal civil servants working in places like Iqaluit, Ottawa and Yellowknife.

“There are so many issues that we have as a government, without additional responsibilities that would be given to us under a devolution agreement,” Main said.

Quassa said in his answers to Main’s questions that devolution talks continued this week in Ottawa, but that negotiators are a long way from reaching a deal.

And he said gaps between the two sides involve money and the extent of the area that will be covered in the agreement, or, in his words “financial requirements and the geographical scope of the agreement.”

“Certainly, the gap is significant and will involve difficult negotiations,” Quassa said.

The reference to “geographical scope” may refer to a demand that offshore resources, specifically oil and gas, be included in this current round of talks.

Offshore oil and gas resources, and the lucrative royalties that could come with their development are issues that, in the past, Ottawa has said should be dealt with only in a second phase of negotiations.

That’s the position set out in a devolution protocol signed in 2008.

But Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., which is also a party to the talks, wants marine resources added to the first phase, through “creative approaches.”

As late as 2016, the disagreement between NTI and Ottawa over the offshore issue appeared to be a stumbling block.

“The previous government adopted a take it or leave it approach to negotiations and appeared unwilling to consider creative approaches to issues like marine areas and revenue sharing,” NTI’s former president, Cathy Towtongie, said in statement issued in July 2016, after the Liberal government appointed Fred Caron as its chief negotiator.

And even now, there’s no agreement on that, and other issues, Quassa said.

For his part, Main said the GN should not rush into a devolution agreement.

“I favour an approach to devolution that is at a slower pace, not rushed or driven by artificial timetables,” Main said.

Quassa ended his remarks with a standard GN talking point on the issue.

“Securing a good deal is in the best interest of Canada and Nunavut and is the priority of the Government of Nunavut,” Quassa said.



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(20) Comments:

#1. Posted by Esquimo on March 09, 2018

Who does this guy think he is.  He is getting somewhat too cocky and confident.  Devolution in any form, for any region is not close to any sort of a “holy grail”. Referencing and mocking biblical history & artifacts should not be allowed in official settings such as this.  If atheist such as this rookie MLB can speak about biblical history and mock it comparing it to a lowly topic such as devolution, he should be open game to some mla’s around the floor to put him in his place.  John, be careful of the words you use.  It will come back to haunt you.

#2. Posted by spelling vs meaning on March 09, 2018

Jim Bell, there is a stretch of difference between the meaning of Holy Grail, and holy grail.  The best spelling term to use in this article is holy grail.

holy grail - a thing that is being earnestly pursued or sought after.

Holy Grail - is under the subject of religion

#3. Posted by Bet one side cheers fast negotiations on March 09, 2018

A current example going too fast with negotiations
is QIA’s Tallurutiup Imanga (LandcasterSound) park deal.

#4. Posted by question on March 09, 2018

#1 if referencing shouldn’t be allowed in an official setting such as this, can we get rid of the opening prayer?

#5. Posted by Northern Guy on March 09, 2018

#1 and #2 the “Holy Grail” is a construct of middle-aged Catholic religious ideology, more specifically the recovery of the Grail (among other relics) from the Holy Land was used by Catholic Popes as the basis for the early crusades against the Ottoman Empire. There is no historic proof that a “Grail” ever existed and nowhere in the bible does it refer to a “Holy Grail”. Nor does the article in any way make an inference as to either Mr. Bell or Mr. Main’s religious beliefs; so #1 for you to call either an atheist is not only silly and presumptive it is extremely inaccurate.

#6. Posted by YOU MISSED THE POINT on March 09, 2018

Read all of the release not just two words and dwell on those two words Mr Main makes good points of concern. Discuss the topic if you will but at least stick to the topic and not a couple of words of your choosing.

#7. Posted by It's true on March 09, 2018

I would agree with John Main with this.

#8. Posted by To Esquimo on March 09, 2018

Hey Esquimo, John knows that christianality is not our culture, we were assimilated to it. So it’s alright he uses that phrase!

#9. Posted by words do not align on March 09, 2018

#5,#6 The two words using capital letters does confuse the article to denote a religious suggestion.  Simply put the two capital letters in small letters and the point will become more understood and in line with Mr. Main’s reference to using those two words.

#10. Posted by He turned me into a newt! (I got better) on March 09, 2018

@#5 you beat me to it.

Like King Arthur’s knights, Nunavut governments will continue to quest for this holy grail, tilting at windmills (forgive the garbled allusion) as they go. And when they do get it, they’ll find that Eldorado is over the next hill (sorry, another mixed metaphor).

Mr. Main is right, we’re not ready. We should spend the money, effort and political attention span on building capacity.

#11. Posted by Colin on March 09, 2018

The foundational problem is the education department. For the modern world young people need chemistry and calculus so as to become the doctors and dentists, mine mangers and marine biologists in their own land.

In his memoirs written around 1960 Peter Pitseolak expected a grandson to become a doctor.

Fat chance of an Inuk doing that from any Nunavut settlement school any time this century.

If self-government, on its own, were the answer then Haiti, self-governing since 1804, and Liberia, self-governing since 1840, should get it like Singapore, self-governing only since 1965.

Just putting bums on seats, whether in the legislature or anywhere else, is just putting people to play in the sandbox.

It’s all about leadership and management—educated, trained and skilled management.

#12. Posted by Teacher1 on March 09, 2018

I call for a leadership review.

Colin (#11) for Minister of Education.

#13. Posted by Nurez on March 10, 2018

Typical uneducated comments, i bet you that most inuit do not know what devolution really means and the pros and cons. Good for you Mr.Main for the concerns. Nunavut cannot even properly govern its self, lets first get this nunavut govt joke working before we talk devolution.

#14. Posted by Andrew Hammond on March 10, 2018

I was involved in the Federal Governments “devolution” of service and funding to the GNWT. I was very fortunate to have seen the direction that both sides took in their negotiations.  I would be happy to share with someone within the Nunavut government my experience so that Nunavut has more background information so they may have the most success for the people of Nunavut.

#15. Posted by Anguta on March 12, 2018

Behold! It is said that the great Shaman, Umiaktorvik travelled by kayak to waters near to Scotland in the late 17th century. It is these men who were spotted by James Wallace, near Orkney and these mysterious travellers were known as the Finn Men to the Scots. The Finn Men were elusive, as anytime a boat was launched to meet them - they sped away swiftly. Umiaktorvik was there when Wallace fixed his eye on their presence. Wallace was a member of the Knight’s Templar, and knew the secrets of the grail. It is said, the Finn Men were one of the few outside of this order to catch a glimpse of the chalice. This is why they sped away and did so every time thereafter. Not only did Inuit discover Scotland, Umiaktorvik himself perceived Holy Grail. Taima.

#16. Posted by Norseman on March 12, 2018

#15 Great story, thanks. Though it is said the Scots captured two kayaks from the Finn Men, which are now held in Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

#17. Posted by hypnoseal on March 12, 2018

Don’t believe #15? You might think twice after learning more about the Finn-men:

#18. Posted by Perplexed on March 12, 2018

I am quite exasperated that the terminology “holy grail” is a subject to people complaining on the issues John had laid out and he has seen it long before he became the MLA, why is it every time an MLA or leader push for their communities it becomes an problem for everyone?  Quite frankly that is what they are put there for!  As for you who think that the word “devolution” is a terminology inuit don’t understand, you’ve got to have a good session with NS or something lower.

#19. Posted by R P Dwyer Gjoa Haven (SELKIE LEGEND) on March 12, 2018

#,s 15,16, 17,
A legend I heard was that an Orkney fisherman, captured a female
seal, who then stepped out of her skin, and was very beautiful
woman. Some say a dark haired Inuit lady. I think so
The man hid her skin so she could not go back to the sea, and she
became his wife.
He treated her very well and they had 4 children.
After 10 years one of her children brought her a dry skin he had
found in a old sea chest.
She recognized it as her own and she changed into it from her house
clothes and ran to the sea and swam away with her seal people.
Of course her husband and kids were very sad, so she returned once
a month to visit, but stayed in the water.

#20. Posted by monty sling on March 13, 2018

#13, typical wm, looking so low at nunavumiut you twit…hope you’re not living up here because we have enough of your kind….of course we understand the subject, do you know how igloo does not fall apart when constructed? or when seal is coming up to breath then harpoon it through quarter size hold? thank God for free will to prejudice, as i do in kind to you.

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