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Nunavut MLAs seek Quassa’s removal from premier’s job

“It’s a non-confidence motion, so I think it speaks for itself”


John Main, chair of the caucus of regular MLAs, stands in the foyer of the Nunavut legislature on June 12, shortly after making a notice of motion that would topple Paul Quassa's premiership. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

John Main, chair of the caucus of regular MLAs, stands in the foyer of the Nunavut legislature on June 12, shortly after making a notice of motion that would topple Paul Quassa’s premiership. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Nunavut’s MLAs will debate whether to remove Paul Quassa from his role as premier on Thursday, following a non-confidence motion tabled today by John Main, the chair of the caucus of regular MLAs.

“Therefore I move, seconded by the honourable member for Gjoa Haven, that the honourable member for Aggu be removed from the executive council of Nunavut,” said the notice of motion raised by Main, shortly after the legislature convened on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m.

Shortly after making his notice of motion, Main met with reporters in the foyer of the legislature.

There, he emphasized that he had brought the motion, seconded by Gjoa Haven MLA Tony Akoak, on behalf of all 13 members of the caucus of regular MLAs.

Main said he couldn’t specify what prompted the motion, but he said “it’s a non-confidence motion, so I think it speaks for itself.”

Neither did Main want to speculate on the debate, during which he said the motion would be “considered carefully,” or how the vote would go.

“We’ll see that on Thursday at the latest,” Main said. “If I had a crystal ball, I could tell you how it will go.”

Main, who was elected last November to represent the riding of Arviat North-Whale Cove, describes himself as a “rookie” MLA.

But he said he’s not worried about the impact of his exceptional motion.

“Whether that makes me a lightning rod as chair of the regular members caucus, I don’t know. That remains to be seen,” Main said.

The motion will be debated, as part of the legislature’s orders of the day, on Thursday, June 14, said John Quirke, the clerk of the legislative assembly.

After the debate, a registered vote by name will be recorded. A simple majority in favour of the motion could be enough to see Quassa removed from cabinet, or the result could see his leadership reaffirmed.

If the motion is adopted, then a leadership forum to select a new premier would follow, Quirke said.

Not counting the Speaker, there are 21 votes at stake: 13 MLAs, and eight ministers. Speaker Joe Enook will vote only in case of a tie.

Main had initially tried to make his notice of motion on Monday, but delayed that after Enook refused Main’s request for a break before heading into committee of the whole.

Although mid-term reviews of every territorial government take place, today’s motion is the first of its kind to be raised by any MLA about a sitting premier since the creation of Nunavut in 1999.

In 2007, there was a call—but not a motion—for Premier Paul Okalik’s resignation over behaviour that Okalik admitted was “inexcusable.”

And in 2014, regular MLAs took a long time before voting to remove Uqqummiut MLA Samuel Nuqingaq, after he had earlier been suspended by his fellow members and had admitted to substance abuse problems.

The current crop of regular MLAs, by comparison, have been quicker to raise their frustrations, over the lack of support by Quassa’s government for the Grays Bay Road and Port project and an elder-care facility in Kugluktuk.

The regular MLAs have repeatedly gone after Quassa for his government’s spending at the Northern Lights Trade Show and Conference in Ottawa in late January.

Earlier in this sitting, Quassa had defended the $570,000-plus that the territorial government spent to send more than 60 people to the event and host other delegates at an evening of Nunavut food and music.

“You have to spend money to make money,” Quassa said at the time.

Again, this past Monday, MLAs asked various ministers if they had been “directed to attend” the event.

The regular MLAs also pointed to the lack of action by the Nunavut government on domestic violence, with an MLA releasing a coroner’s report on deaths from domestic violence that had not been given to the public before.

The regular MLAs also grilled Quassa over the high rate of child sexual abuse in Nunavut, prodding him to write a letter to the office of the Governor General, demanding that child sexual abuser Ike Haulli be stripped of his Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Quassa finally tabled that letter on June 11 in the legislature.

Asked if he had anything to say about the non-confidence motion on his leadership introduced this morning in the Nunavut legislature, Quassa said “no,” and, again, “no.”

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