Former Nunavut minister ready to continue on as regular MLA
“It’s going to be how I was before,” says Pat Angnakak
There’s not much to say about Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak’s new main-floor office at the Nunavut legislative assembly. That’s because it’s completely empty.
On early Friday afternoon, Oct. 26, Angnakak hasn’t had time to move her belongings downstairs from the office she occupied as a cabinet minister only one day ago.
“I want to go forward. I don’t want to keep revisiting it after today. I want to do what I can do,” she said.
Angnakak is speaking of the events of the past 24 hours that saw Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq remove all her portfolios, on Oct. 24, over a breach of cabinet confidentiality.
She had been the minister responsible for the Qulliq Energy Corp. and the Nunavut Housing Corp.
Savikataaq said the breach took place when Angnakak read information from cabinet documents during a response to a question the day before.
On Thursday, Oct. 25, Angnakak resigned from Nunavut’s executive council. Her resignation followed an exit speech in which she slammed the Nunavut premier, denied the breaches and said she had been given approval to share the information with the house.
On Friday morning, Angnakak made her first appearance on the other side of the assembly chamber as a regular MLA.
“It’s going to be how I was before,” Angnakak told Nunatsiaq News, meaning her role is now to work as a regular MLA for one of Iqaluit’s four constituencies.
Prior to a summer cabinet shuffle, she was Nunavut’s health minister. It’s around that time that she started to feel as though her efforts to make policy changes were being resisted, she said.
But now, as a regular MLA, Angnakak said she expects to use the insight she gained as a member of the Nunavut cabinet.
Angnakak, speaking quickly, appears rattled by the events of the past few days, and she still questions the decision made by cabinet to send her packing.
As minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corp, Angnakak is accused of breaching cabinet confidentiality when she answered a question in the house about the Government of Nunavut’s staff housing policies—an area the GN is currently reviewing.
Anticipating questions on the subject, she brought information from her cabinet documents to Savikataaq and his staff and asked if it was okay to share work from the ongoing review in the house, Angnakak said.
“No one ever told me no.”
This was shortly before the sitting that day, and the assembly bells were already beginning to chime. The next morning, Savikataaq told her of the breach, when she asked him: “Am I in trouble?”
“In my heart, I really thought that I had the approval to do it. If you know me personally, you know that’s not my character. I would never do something that’s not allowed on purpose. I wouldn’t risk so much. I did that because I thought I could,” Angnakak said.
While at first she refused to resign, she said she soon realized she couldn’t carry on for the coming three years of the current government as a cabinet member without a portfolio, and still be of service to Nunavut.
“I decided my best course of action was to resign and to work hard as a regular MLA on these issues of transparency and fairness. That’s what I intend to do,” she said.
Besides hearing from her own constituents, Angnakak has had people reach out to her from across the territory, and elsewhere in Canada, to show support and to call for transparency and accountability in the government.
“I thought I stood alone, but I realized I have an army beside me,” she said.
This morning, Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet MLA Cathy Towtongie gave notice of a motion to censure the executive council. Aggu MLA and former premier Paul Quassa seconded the motion, which MLAs could vote on as early as Monday.
A motion of censure expresses the disapproval of the regular members and is one step short of a vote of non-confidence. In Nunavut’s consensus government, the cabinet is beholden to regular members.
Also on Friday in the house, Towtongie asked the new minister of the Nunavut Housing Corp., Lorne Kusugak, essentially the same question that led to Angnakak getting forced out of cabinet. Towtongie asked how the GN’s staff housing review will address housing subsidies given to high-income GN workers.
“We are presently working on it, where it will be changed. We are making final decisions and once they are completed I will be able to table it here,” said Kusugak, adding that rents paid by staff earning high wages are under review.
“Those will be pointed out within the review,” he said.
Following the sitting today, a smiling Savikataaq came up to Angnakak and told her the decision to strip her of her portfolios was nothing personal.