Nunatsiaq News
EDITORIAL: Around the Arctic May 05, 2018 - 9:59 am

Nunavut’s latest government: what does it stand for?

On numerous issues that affect the day-to-day lives of residents, Nunavut’s premier and cabinet have nothing to say

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
The Nunavut cabinet meets in Igloolik this past January, prior to a full caucus meeting of all MLAs held in February. (GN HANDOUT PHOTO)
The Nunavut cabinet meets in Igloolik this past January, prior to a full caucus meeting of all MLAs held in February. (GN HANDOUT PHOTO)

The current Nunavut government has held office since Nov. 21, 2017, when the 22 members elected to the Nunavut legislature this past Oct. 30 chose a premier and cabinet.

That was nearly six months ago. And yet this government still can’t declare what it stands for and what it plans to do.

They had a chance to say that in March, when they released their Turaaqtavut mandate document.

But they didn’t. Instead, they produced a content-free compendium of classic Nunavut clichés.

“We will work towards the well-being and self-reliance of our people and our communities!”

“We will provide education and training that prepares children, youth, and adult learners for positive contributions to society!”

“Investing with partners in infrastructure!”

“Strengthening the foundations for a fully functional, bilingual society!”

They had another chance to do that within the commissioner’s address, the territorial equivalent of a speech from the throne.

As far as it goes, it’s all unobjectionable. Who could possibly be opposed to “education and training” or “well-being and self-reliance” or “a fully functional, bilingual society?”

The point, however, is how to get there. And on that front, the Nunavut “government,” by which we mean the premier and cabinet, has, with a couple of minor exceptions, yet to act like a government. They have offered no specific ideas, proposals or commitments to advance the vague priorities they claim to believe in.

And on numerous real issues that affect the day-to-day lives of real people, they still have nothing to say.

For example, the Qulliq Energy Corp. has proposed sweeping changes to the way it charges every customer in every community for electricity: a 7.6 per cent rate increase combined with a multi-year movement toward uniform rates in every community.

There are valid arguments for and against this proposal.

But if it’s adopted, the QEC proposal would almost certainly increase the price of food and other goods and services for many thousands of people. The electricity that powers all those freezers, refrigerators and grills you see in your local stores and hotels and coffee shops will cost more. That means that in many communities, it’s people like you who will pay more for store-bought food and other products.

Has the territorial government taken a position on this issue? Apparently not. There’s little evidence the premier and cabinet even grasp its implications.

“Again, I cannot really answer that particular question,” Nunavut Premier Paul Quassa said last March when an MLA asked him about it.

At the same time, the commissioner’s address and the Turaaqtavut mandate failed to provide any specific, meaningful statements on energy policy.

Another example is cannabis regulation and the territory’s response to the Liberal government’s Bill C-35, which would legalize the sale and possession of small amounts of cannabis.

Again, this is a real issue that affects the day-to-day lives of thousands of people.

Reliable current numbers are hard to come by, but based on old surveys that do exist, cannabis use among Nunavummiut likely ranges from between about 30 per cent to about 70 per cent, depending on the community and the age group. This has led to a huge underground economy conducted in secret.

At the same time, credible research has shown cannabis dependency is a risk factor for death by suicide. The Canadian Medical Association, citing multiple credible studies, has warned governments about the neurotoxic effects of cannabis on the developing brains of adolescents and young adults.

Where is the Nunavut government on this issue? Right now, they lag far behind every other province and territory in Canada. And the commissioner’s address and Turaaqtavut mandate statement—where specific policy statements are supposed to appear—have nothing to say on cannabis legalization.

Indeed, Nunavut’s unelected senator, Dennis Patterson, has done more work on this issue than the entire Nunavut cabinet.

You may agree or disagree with Patterson’s stated position on cannabis. But he at least did the work, took a position, and communicated it to the public. That’s what political representatives get paid for.

And there’s climate change, where this week we learned the current territorial government has developed no greenhouse gas reduction target. They can’t even state when they’ll develop one. Again, this means Nunavut lags far behind every other province and territory. The Government of the Northwest Territories, for example, developed a GHG emission target years ago.

The previous Nunavut government, under ex-Premier Peter Taptuna, said they feared the impact of the federal government’s looming carbon tax on the territorial economy. But the current government has no stated position on the issue and has not calculated what a carbon tax would cost.

The concern about a carbon tax is legitimate. But without coherent positions on climate change, the Nunavut government has little credibility on the issue.

But then, they’ve established little credibility on any of the issues that matter. Take the Education Act, whose bilingual education goals have been in non-compliance with reality for its entire existence.

Well, aside from the usual jibber-jabber about “quality schooling” and “improved student outcomes,” the government says they will amend the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act.

But MLAs did not need to hold a week-long mandate retreat in Pond Inlet to figure that out. Reviews of those laws are already mandated—by existing legislation. Again, the premier and cabinet have communicated no specific positions and offered no concrete ideas on how they’ll deal with education and language.

Okay, they did offer one quasi-specific statement. Last month, they dumped one of their “partners in infrastructure.”

That’s the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, who must now pursue their Grays Bay road and port dream on their own, and earlier this week, asked the Nunavut Impact Review Board to immediately suspend its environmental review of Grays Bay until they can figure out how to advance the project on their own. On that point, the territorial cabinet did make a statement about something, even if it’s something they don’t want to do anymore.

Apart from that, they’ve yet to demonstrate that they’re capable of governing. JB

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(26) Comments:

#1. Posted by Bnff on May 05, 2018

I know people who are dying and have died from there addictions. There is no help! There are no programs! I’ve tried. You want to fix Nunavut start treating the addictions.

#2. Posted by Nunavutmiut on May 05, 2018

Geesh JB. They’ve only been in cabinet six months. Things don’t happen evernight. If you think you can do any better why don’t you run for MLA next time!

#3. Posted by pissed off on May 05, 2018

So true Jim!!

Pompous phrases and empty declarations .

Collect your cheque and do as little as possible. That way you don`t have to make decisions that will ruffle some feathers . This is not a Government.  This is a baby sitter government or should I say a substitute teacher Government .

But let`s not single out this particular Government because it is a disease of all Northern organisations. Delegate, postpone, when in a bind create a new committee.

That way you buy time and avoid making the hard decisions. Let time go by, memories fade and all of sudden you are preparing for a new election. Can`t do anything that would bind the new Government!!!

And we start all over again.

Pitiful.

Thanks

#4. Posted by IceClass on May 05, 2018

Between these guys and Hunter Tootoo as MP, there’s a lot of political role playing going on lately.

Wake me up when we start electing educated people who have a clue what they’re doing instead of just playing dress-up for a cheque.

#5. Posted by Inuk on May 05, 2018

While we continue to line the pockets of our elected. We live in 3rd world conditions. Of course we know we rely heavily on federal funding on everything from “low” cost housing which are dilapidated which if they were to be rated would fail and be considered hazardous and inhabitable.
We all know the social ills that causes family breakdown. While we hire “experts ” to consult we dont listen and implement change. The cosmetics of the capital city alone costed 300 mil..while people are starving and homeless…lets put our priorities straight..you get the pic

#6. Posted by Fake Plastic Tree on May 05, 2018

#2 Have you read the Turaaqtavut document? It is as stated, maybe worse. Tired cliche’s and emotive rhetoric strung together in a triumph of the most sensitive language laboured over, very painfully in am sure, by some one in the communications office.

Bravo! 

You should be disappointed. Or, are you?

As for Jim, he’s doing the job the media is supposed to do. Informing you. Which is as important as governing itself, maybe more.

Nunavut needs a much stronger political class, and badly. There are a few bright spots, but not nearly enough.

#7. Posted by Jeff on May 05, 2018

Great article J. Bell. Nailed the performance of this group of mla’s right on the head. Although I think a couple of the regular mla’s could do some things if given the chance. John, Adam & George should be promoted. Several ministers and the premier should be demoted from the big show.

#8. Posted by Jobi on May 05, 2018

That picture of cabinet mla’s does not look like one that can change things for Nunavut. Sorry to say but that’s how the picture looks to me.

#9. Posted by Atii! on May 05, 2018

This new government is made up of earnest people but does not realize the need to communicate what it is up to.
There is a serious lack of Press Releases and making oneself available on radio for interviews that the public expects.
No matter how busy they are, they need to communicate it.

#10. Posted by Smile Again on May 05, 2018

PQ said this government would make Nunavut smile again. 

Comments above gave me a smile. 

Now let us trash PC and move with confidence.  No flip flops.

#11. Posted by 8/10 on May 06, 2018

I agree with this article except for -1- a mandate wouldn’t contain policies but rather clear direction. And -2-, Dennis Patterson was outright against cannabis legalization and then raced through 25 communities to seek out people who felt the same way.

#12. Posted by vegetable farmer on May 06, 2018

What does Nunavut stand for these days? Excellent article. It’s very unfortunate this current cabinet continues the muted, secretive (maybe even paranoid), anti-public engagement attitudes of the previous government.

PQ and his arrogant, narcissistic inner circle of ‘top advisors’ have spent the last few years making life miserable for many good, hard-working public servants. The result has been, as always, an exodus of the good. It’s going to be amateur hour in Nunavut for the next few years.

Let’s hope these elected leaders, many of whom could not be expected to function in a government anywhere else, don’t cause too much more damage.  Stay in school, Inuit. Get your education.

Get life experience and push yourselves to be better than these past-their-prime has-been leaders you’re electing. Nunavut deserves much more than this self-inflicted vegetablism.

#13. Posted by curious on May 06, 2018

do candidates/MLA’s ever have to show what their education levels achieved are to be an MLA?

#14. Posted by drop out on May 06, 2018

#13 - Nope. MLA’s and candidates don’t have to show any form of education whatsoever. Residential school, Grade 8, a year or two of upgrading at Nunavut Sivuniksavut, maybe a watered-down certificate or diploma from NAC. Only a very few cabinet ministers holding a university degree have ever served.

The importance of education is frequently shouted to the heavens, but usually falls on deaf ears as many communities have a well-established track record of electing—let’s be honest—some really f’d up people.

No one really cares about their elected representatives being uneducated. It’s also acceptable for candidates to have convictions for all sorts of crimes, ranging from sexual assault, drunk driving, wife-beating, manslaughter, child abandonment.

#15. Posted by not_4_you on May 07, 2018

They are acting like they are waiting for someone to act for them are they a puppet who waits, once they act they or someone will get paid

#16. Posted by budget on May 07, 2018

Going through data to see where they can grab then release what is already expected robbers behind doors

#17. Posted by Ours not yours on May 07, 2018

What Nunavut lacks is accountability. Elections are a popularity contest. There’s a complete lack of transparency, nobody knows who makes what decisions and the big boys club prevails. People don’t realize that they have the power.

#18. Posted by Qanurli on May 07, 2018

MLAs need to bond together for the betterment of all. You are not stand alone! But, instead there are bonds that tie some but not others. Why the division when the so-called IQ principals are to be at play?  Some weaker Ministers are holding onto the cloaks of those with power. Stand UP! 

Question: who ensures the responsible spending for such things as travel and who attends and where, who gets what benefits such as housing allowances, etc. Recently NN did an article on the salaries but perhaps this info goes hand in hand with that info.

As a voter I would like to see the GN website include such facts and figures allowing us to determine our X at the next election. Keep your places while we watch and wait.

#19. Posted by Iimanna on May 07, 2018

The GN has been so disconnected with the people of Nunavut for so long, it is going to take more than 6 months to sort things out and lay a plan to start improving where its most needed right now, once the interviews and studies are completed I am sure they will come up with a plan.

When you talk with people especially in the communities, the GN is very disconnected, people do not know how the GN services work, how the GN should be providing services.

Basic services, there is no connection with the people, you see this in the election numbers, some communities are very low.

#20. Posted by Student on May 07, 2018

Why oh why are Cabinet decisions secret?

There are a few that need to be kept confidential for a short length of time, such as negotiating strategies. But most of them should be made public right away.

In place of transparency we have annual reports that are several years out-of-date when they are made public. Worse than that, most of them have little to no data in them.

For example: Does the annual Education report tell us how many Inuit started in grade 1, how many of those made it through to grade 12, how many graduated, and how many of those who graduated from high school were accepted into colleges and how many were accepted into university? And I’d like to know how many who went on to post secondary passed their first year and continued on to second year.

In other words, what is the success story of schooling in Nunavut?

Our government seems to think that when everyone is fluent in Inuktut all jobs will be held by Inuit and all of Nunavut’s problems will melt away.

#21. Posted by Former student on May 08, 2018

There is a website that shows the GN contracts and tenders, how much was spent and who got them, if someone can post it on here that would be great. With this being a public government they should be showing this.

#22. Posted by Another Former Student on May 08, 2018

Former Student:

I think the report you are looking for is available at:

http://assembly.nu.ca/sites/default/files/TD-292-4(3)-EN-Procurement-Acivity-Report-2015-2016.pdf

#23. Posted by Nunavut Tenders Website on May 09, 2018

#21 - everything is on Nunavut Tenders website: www.nunavuttenders.ca

#24. Posted by Former student on May 09, 2018

Thank you both, I will have a look at these sites. It should show us the contracts/tenders and who got them.

#25. Posted by curious on May 10, 2018

I think the big point being missed is why an MLA doesn’t have to have any background education, these elected officials and decision makers should have minimum college degree.  This is the story that Nunatsiaq News should be covering.

#13 - Nope. MLA’s and candidates don’t have to show any form of education whatsoever. Residential school, Grade 8, a year or two of upgrading at Nunavut Sivuniksavut, maybe a watered-down certificate or diploma from NAC. Only a very few cabinet ministers holding a university degree have ever served.

The importance of education is frequently shouted to the heavens, but usually falls on deaf ears as many communities have a well-established track record of electing—let’s be honest—some really f’d up people.

No one really cares about their elected representatives being uneducated. It’s also acceptable for candidates to have convictions for all sorts of crimes, ranging from sexual assault, drunk driving, wife-beating, manslaughter, child abandonment.

#26. Posted by Ms.Trouble maker on May 17, 2018

Where’s the press releases for the departments? Anything happening in the departments? When the Ministers don’t put anything out as a preset release, it shows the communication officers don’t know what they are doing or they aren’t given anything to say. It also means the department don’t have any thing new and it means they are not making any changes. Health should be saying something but it seems dead. .Transportation should be saying a lot with summer coming but nothing has come out of them either. It’s either they don’t want to be criticized or asked a question which means they are all chickens. Boring…. not much better then the last quite government.
Even the regular members don’t have anything to say ....

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