Quizzical Nunavut MLA tries patience in legislature
“I’m assuming he is telling me to shut my mouth”
This past Tuesday, March 23, wasn’t a good day for Ron Elliott, the MLA for Quttiktuq, to be asking a lot of questions in the Nunavut legislature.
That’s how it looked when Elliott, asking repeatedly for a definition of poverty during question period, noticed Health Minister Tagak Curley making gestures at him from across the floor.
Elliot complained they looked like “signs like this or go like this, which I’m assuming he is telling me to shut my mouth.”
“If he could explain to me what he’s telling me non-verbally, because I don’t understand what he’s telling me non-verbally, because I don’t understand what he’s telling me,” said Elliott, raising a point of order.
Curley, who apologized for trying to help Elliott out, said he was simply suggesting that “we should have more communication.”
That’s because “when we’re dealing with poverty, we assume that we’re dealing with the vast majority of Nunavummiut,” he said, noting there are “fundamentally much broader issues than just the definition.”
Speaker James Arreak asked Curley to “please refrain from making unparliamentary gestures as you are interfering with the proceedings of the house.”
Elliott finally got an answer from Peter Taptuna, the minister of economic development, who said the government of Nunavut planned to use “common sense,” consultation and research to help define what poverty is in Nunavut.
But Elliott was also chided later in committee of the whole discussions on the budget of the executive and intergovernmental affairs department, after he asked many questions about the department’s $4-million-a-year plan to hire 25 new employees as government liaison officers in Nunavut communities.
During the EIA budget review, Elliott asked several questions of Premier Eva Aariak about the GLOs and whether they would replace, or supplement, municipal liaison officers in the communities.
Aariak finally said she would ask her deputy minister Marcus Weber to “elucidate these details… in English.”
Committee-of-the-whole chairperson Johnny Ningeongan, MLA for Nanulik, also seemed to lose patience with Elliott’s questioning, requesting the MLA “to possibly ask questions that you had not already asked.”
As for Elliott, he defended his question-asking, saying he wanted to be “accountable” and “prudent,” and provide more information to his constituents in the High Arctic communities of Grise Fiord, Resolute Bay and Arctic Bay.
Elliott also tabled lengthy written questions to Curley and Lorne Kusugak, minister of community and government affairs.
These will be answered when the legislature meets again on June 1, because the current session of the legislature wrapped up at about 6 p.m. March 23.