Nunavut’s new premier doles out cabinet jobs
“We will be leaders together, to listen to what our people are telling us”
As high winds and freezing rain pummelled Iqaluit, the territory’s newly sworn-in fifth assembly rallied Nov. 21 behind the election of Premier Paul Quassa, seven cabinet members, and Speaker Joe Enook, following the first official sitting of the new legislature.
And despite a two-day blow that crippled services in Iqaluit and most of the city’s Government of Nunavut offices, Commissioner Nellie Kusugak, in her opening address, described the moment as a chance to work “for a bright future with a solid foundation.”
Quassa, in his first speech as premier at around 5 p.m., said he and his fellow MLAs “will be leaders together, to listen to what our people are telling us.”
“The issues and concerns that the people of Nunavut have, we heard them and we took them in, and we completely understand the challenges that our fellow residents of Nunavut go through.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a statement, congratulated Quassa and said he looks forward to working with him and the rest of his government.
Trudeau also plugged the Liberal government’s approach to relations with Indigenous peoples, as well as the new Arctic policy framework that’s now under development.
“By coming together in a spirit of cooperation, I know we can deliver true, meaningful reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples, and bring about a better quality of life for Indigenous peoples in Nunavut,” Trudeau said.
“The Government of Canada will continue to work with Indigenous, territorial, and provincial partners to co-develop a new Arctic Policy Framework that better reflects the needs and priorities of the North, and builds stronger, more sustainable communities in the region.”
But the first sitting day of the fifth Nunavut legislature wasn’t without its unexpected hiccups.
Keyootak barred from taking his seat
Speaker Joe Enook told MLAs that Uqqummiut MLA Pauloosie Keyootak can’t take his seat until he or his financial agent submits a required financial return.
Keyootak, from the north Baffin community of Qikiqtarjuaq, beat out two Clyde River challengers in the Oct. 30 election to retain his seat.
But because he has not submitted a financial return, he could not take his seat at the Nov. 21 sitting. He did, however, attend the swearing-in of the premier and executive council.
Under the Nunavut Elections Act, a winning candidate must file a financial return before they are allowed to take their seat.
And all candidates must file a financial return before the end of the a 60-day post-election period.
Enook later confirmed to Nunatsiaq News that Keyootak has until the end of December to file the required financial documents.
The Elections Nunavut guide for financial agents says that if a candidate fails to meet the 60-day deadline, the candidate and their financial agent are barred from running in a territorial election for five years, and the candidate will lose their $200 deposit.
Quassa assigns portfolios
Here’s the list of portfolios that Quassa assigned to himself and to the other seven members of the executive council, or cabinet:
Paul Quassa: premier; minister of executive and intergovernmental affairs; minister responsible for aboriginal affairs.
Joe Savikataaq: deputy premier; minister of family services; minister responsible for homelessness; minister responsible for immigration; minister responsible for poverty reduction.
Elisapee Sheutiapik: government house leader; minister of economic development and transportation; minister of environment.
David Akeeagok: minister of finance; minister responsible for the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission; minister responsible for the liquor commission; minister responsible for the Nunavut Liquor Licensing Board.
Pat Angnakak: minister of health; minister responsible for suicide prevention; minister responsible for seniors advocacy.
Jeannie Ehaloak: minister of justice; minister responsible for the Qulliq Energy Corp.; minister responsible for the status of women; minister responsible for democratic institutions; minister responsible for the Nunavut Human Rights Tribunal; minister responsible for labour.
David Joanasie: minister of education; minister of culture and heritage; minister responsible for Nunavut Arctic College, minister of languages.
Lorne Kusugak: minister of community and government services; minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corp.
Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak was appointed deputy Speaker.
MLAs declare their priorities
MLAs were sworn in before friends and family in the legislature’s gallery earlier in the day, following a long leadership forum last Friday.
When they addressed the assembly in their first statements that afternoon, many MLAs highlighted priorities identified in the election and leadership forum that will certainly become fixtures in the new government’s mandate.
“Every person has a right to a safe home, an affordable home,” said Iqaluit-Sinaa’s new MLA, Elisapee Sheutiapik, who defeated the incumbent, Paul Okalik.
Aivillik MLA Patterk Netser pointed to the education gaps in Nunavut compared with the rest of Canada, adding “by working together we can achieve great things for the people we have the great privilege of representing in this house.”
Kugluktuk MLA Mila Kamingoak, who succeeds outgoing Premier Peter Taptuna as MLA for her constituency, thanked her family in her first statement.
Kamingoak also listed elder care and infrastructure development as critical areas for the fifth assembly to address..
“As Nunavummiut, put here in this house by people of our territory, we have to find a way to make things better, to find a way to help those people out in health care, education, getting better jobs,” said the new Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA, John Main.
Quassa beat out three rivals in a first-ballot victory at last week’s leadership forum to become the territory’s new premier.
MLAs also chose the cabinet, as well as the Speaker, from among themselves at that forum.
Nunavut’s fifth legislative assembly is scheduled to reconvene March 6 for its first winter sitting.
“I am extremely happy of the leaders of the fifth ledge assembly and we all know that they were all elected because of their strengths,” Quassa said.