'I will offer all my energy and experience to our leader.'

Tagak Curley finally squeaks into cabinet

By CHRIS WINDEYER

He didn't make the cut for the premier's job, but Tagak Curley won over enough MLAs to become the eighth and final member of Nunavut's cabinet during a leadership forum in Iqaluit this past Monday.

In his pitch to MLAs, Curley emphasized his experience in politics and business, and his bilingualism, saying he would not have stepped forward for the job if he ­didn't speak both Inuktitut and English.

"I believe I am ready," he told MLAs. "I will do whatever I need to do to advance the interests of Nunavummiut."

Curley defeated South Baffin MLA Fred Schell on the second ballot to capture the cabinet slot. Tununiq MLA James Arvaluk also ran, but was eliminated after the first ballot.

Schell, a former mayor of Cape Dorset, touted his 35 years' experience in business and said communities and police need to be given more tools to combat drug and alcohol abuse.

Arvaluk, Nunavut's first education minister who resigned in disgrace in 2003 after being convicted of assaulting a girlfriend, talked up his 40 years of public service. He promised to seek consensus not just among cabinet, but among all MLAs as much as possible.

Curley, the veteran MLA from Rankin Inlet North ran unsuccessfully against Premier Eva Aariak in October's leadership forum. Speaking to reporters Monday, Curley pledged his full support to Aariak's government.

"I want to be helpful to the premier….We can only have one leader," he said. "That's what I will offer. I will offer all my energy and experience to our leader."

It's the first time Curley has served in Nunavut's cabinet. He was an MLA in the pre-division Northwest Territories assembly and served as minister of public utilities from 1984 to 1987 and minister of government services from 1986 to 1987.

"That experience shouldn't be sitting around wasted," he said. "I'm available now. Whatever portfolio [Aariak] wishes to give me, I will take it."

Aariak had yet to announce Curley's portfolio by Nunatsiaq News' press-time this week.

But she suggested there will be a cabinet shuffle after she stripped minister Louis Tapardjuk of the justice portfolio after he made controversial comments about the justice system and victims of domestic violence last week.

Monday's leadership forum also fills the final hole in the cabinet ranks. MLAs voted in November to delay the selection of the final minister to wait for the winner of the Akulliq by-election to join the assembly.

But that by-election ended in a tie after a judicial recount earlier this month, forcing a second by-election that will take place March 2.

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