Premier pledges inclusiveness

Aariak assigns jobs to six cabinet members


Short on experience but long on hope, Nunavut's new cabinet was sworn in last week amid pledges of openness and territorial unity.

On Nov. 19, Premier Eva Aariak assigned portfolios to the six men who MLAs elected to cabinet in their Nov. 14 leadership forum

"We will be inclusive of all of Nunavut," Aariak said during the swearing-in ceremony, held in Iqaluit Nov. 19.

"I am truly looking forward to working with my cabinet on setting priorities, and delivering programs and services to the people of this territory."

MLAs will hold another leadership forum sometime in the new year to pick a seventh cabinet minister, after the winner of the Akulliq by-election, scheduled for Dec. 15, joins the Legislative Assembly.

Only Louis Tapardjuk, who retains the Language and Culture, Language, Elders and Youth portfolios, and takes over as justice minister, served in the last cabinet.

Three ministers, Lorne Kusugak, Peter Taptuna, and Daniel Shewchuk, are first-time MLAs.

Nunavut's new cabinet is:

  • Eva Aariak: premier, minister of executive and intergovernmental affairs, minister responsible for the status of women and immigration.
  • Peter Taptuna: deputy premier, minister of economic development and transportation, minister responsible for the Nunavut Business Credit Corp., Nunavut Development Corp., and mines.
  • Louis Tapardjuk: government house leader, minister of justice, minister of culture, language, elders and youth, minister of language.
  • Keith Peterson: minister of finance, minister of health and social services, minister responsible for the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission.
  • Hunter Tootoo: minister of education, minister responsible for Nunavut Arctic College, Nunavut Housing Corp., and homelessness.
  • Lorne Kusugak: minister of community and government services, minister of energy, minister responsible for Qulliq Energy Corp.
  • Daniel Shewchuk: minister of environment, minister of human resources.

Tootoo said his first order of business is to implement the territory's new education act, which was passed shortly before the last assembly dissolved.

The act, which devolves some power to the district education authorities and promises K-12 Inuktitut-language education by 2019, was heavily criticized by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. for not going far enough.

"Everyone [in the second assembly] agreed it would be nice to do things faster, but there's no use to put something in there that we wouldn't be able to achieve," he said.

And despite being one of the Okalik government's fiercest critics during the last assembly, Tootoo said the way he does his job won't change.

"I'll be doing the same thing I've been doing in the assembly for the last nine years [only] at the cabinet table."

As the CGS and energy minister, Kusugak is tasked with finding ways of weaning Nunavut off fossil fuels, which, despite recently plummeting oil prices, still cost the territory hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

"We have so much energy resources on hand that haven't been tapped into," he said. "We have wind energy, we have tides… so definitely it's going to be interesting to talk to people in those departments and find out where we are."

Kusugak said he also wants to find ways to get projects built in communities that are clamouring for infrastructure, particularly recreation facilities.

Peterson inherits both the perpetually cash-strapped health system and a territorial balance sheet that may be close to going into deficit. Taptuna takes over responsibility for Canada's smallest economy, which stands to suffer if global financial instability causes a slowdown in the mining sector.

Shewchuk takes the reins of a department squeezed between international pressure over polar bear quotas, and Inuit organizations who say quotas in Baffin Bay and western Hudson Bay aren't high enough.

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