Curley queries lame-duck Nunavut cabinet minister’s workload
Tight-lipped deputy premier will wait for integrity report
What’s his workload?
That’s what Tagak Curley, the MLA for Rankin Inlet South, asked May 30 in the Nunavut legislature about Fred Schell, South Baffin MLA, who currently sits as a minister without portfolio in the Nunavut cabinet.
Curley asked deputy premier Peter Taptuna for a list of what assignments have been given to Schell, if any, since March 11, when Premier Eva Aariak stripped him of all ministerial portfolios after being told of allegations that Schell has “acted in conflict of interest and abused his authority as minister.”
Given the heavy workload the cabinet bears, it would be beneficial to know whether Schell has a list of assignments, Curley said.
“The portfolios that the minister had were assigned to the remaining cabinet,” said Taptuna, adding that he could not comment on Schell’s activity until after the Nunavut Integrity Commissioner, Norman Pickell, submits his report to the Speaker of the House.
MLAs will then vote to accept or reject the report, but may not amend it.
The Premier assigns portfolios to cabinet and once her decisions are made, the cabinet will know, Taptuna said in response to Curley’s question.
When asked if Schell was “doing absolutely nothing,” Taptuna responded that “I can’t answer that question today.”
Schell, 59, is the owner of Polar Supplies Ltd., a general contracting firm in Cape Dorset that has been embroiled for several years in court actions against the Hamlet of Cape Dorset.
Schell’s interest in Polar Supplies has been managed within a blind trust since Jan. 1, 2010.
Under the blind trust, Garth Wallbridge, a Yellowknife lawyer, is in charge of the business while Cheryl Constantineau serves as operations manager in Cape Dorset.
But this past October, Pickell found Schell, when he still served as a regular MLA in 2009, and before he had placed his business within a blind trust, had put himself into a conflict of interest by sending a threatening email to certain GN employees.
The email attempted to influence officials into making a decision favourable to Schell’s business interests, Pickell found in his report.
MLAs then decided to slap Schell with a $1,000 fine, but also voted to put him into cabinet.
Under Nunavut’s non-partisan system, the Premier does not have the authority to remove cabinet ministers from office. Cabinet ministers are elected, or removed, in votes conducted by MLAs.
As well, Schell and his 28-year-old spousal partner, Ezevallu Qatsiya, face charges of assaulting each other in relation to an incident alleged to have occurred this past April 10 in Iqaluit.
The couple are scheduled to appear in court June 4.
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