MLAs will have report by beginning of October

Former Yukon premier heads GN review


Premier Eva Aariak said she feels like she has been trying to run Nunavut's government with the qamutik before the dogs ever since last fall's election.

But appointing former Yukon premier Piers McDonald to head the long-awaited "comprehensive review of the Government of Nunavut's strengths and weaknesses" means she can now look forward to getting things back in proper order – with the dog team out front, driving the process.

Aariak announced last week that she has hired Vancouver-based North Sky Consulting, and specifically a team headed by McDonald, to conduct the research and public consultation and to provide MLAs with a completed "report card" by Oct. 1.

Aariak promised the review as a major component of her election-campaign platform last fall, and it has been mentioned at various times since in government statements and interviews, most significantly in Tamapta, the GN's vision and priorities statement for the coming five years.

Tamapta is the skeleton, Aariak told Nunatsiaq News, resorting to a second metaphor. The report card will give her government a chance to put some meat on the bones.

It will show MLAs not just what hasn't been working and should be revised or thrown out entirely, but also "what is working, so we can continue the good work."

For his part, McDonald admitted he has accepted "a very ambitious project" – to take an across-the-board snapshot of Nunavumiut's views of their government's programs, and to produce the completed "report card" – all within little more than four months.

It helps that as a former minister and premier of Yukon, and an experienced business leader, McDonald is familiar with the challenges, structures, constraints and limitations of governing a small, northern territory.

At the same time, he is an outsider, and he has a strong team to support him. It includes Maurice Albert and Sandie Romanczak, both former Yukon deputy ministers, and John Walsh, a former deputy minister in the Nunavut, British Columbia and Yukon governments.

"I feel it is crucial that this review be done by an independent and outside body," Aariak said in the interview. "We don't want to be evaluating ourselves."

But she emphasized that local Inuktitut speakers will also be integral to McDonald's team – including Mary Ekho Wilman and four as-yet-to-be-named Inuit consultants – to make sure that unilingual Inuit have their voices heard as well.

"I would really like every member of the population of Nunavut to be aware of this review, and to feel free to participate and express their opinions – youth, adults and elders," Aariak said.

She promised that all input will be treated as confidential.

The premier was almost apologetic about the timing of the review. "I know spring is not the ideal time to do things like this," she said, "but we can't afford to wait until the fall."

"These things take time. After the fall election, we had to go through the cabinet retreat, then issue a request for proposals."

MLAs need to have the report card by the beginning of October so the government can start "implementing the government's vision of ensuring that all Nunavummiut have their basic needs met," Aariak said.

More specifically, they will need it to help them set next year's budget, which is basically a statement of a government's spending priorities.

The main consultation period will begin in June, McDonald told Nunatsiaq News, and will run until the end of August. The team will be collating results at the same time, and will spend most of September finalizing their report.

The team will divide into four groups, he said. They will fan out into the Nunavut communities, making sure they visit every municipality, where they will hold "traditional community meetings."

"But not everyone is comfortable with speaking up at a public meeting, McDonald admitted, so the process will include several more creative and innovative options for participation.

The consultation process will include phone-in radio talk shows, and online and mail-in questionnaires. "We'll also use Facebook and other web-based media," he said.

I think many of the younger generation are more comfortable operating through social networks like Facebook, Aariak said.

"We are seeing that we don't always get the numbers we want at public meetings."

As for predictions regarding what McDonald and his team will find, "I'd really like to keep an open mind at this point," Aariak chuckled.

"I'll wait and see."

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