Kusugak: Shadow cabinet is just a watchdog
Jose Kusugak says NTI’s shadow cabinet wouldn’t be necessary if Interim Commissioner Jack Anawak had followed his letters of instruction and set up an office in Yellowknife.
IQALUIT – If Interim Commissioner Jack Anawak were representing the interests of Nunavummiut in Yellowknife, Nunavut Tunngavik wouldn’t have to set up a shadow cabinet, the organization’s president told reporters last Thursday.
Jose Kusugak said Nunavut’s interim commissioner, Jack Anawak, was asked to set up an office in Yellowknife in the letters of instruction presented to him when he accepted the position last April.
Eight months have passed since that appointment and Anawak still no visible presence in Yellowknife.
“The intent was to make sure interests for the Nunavut government were seen first-hand in Yellowknife,” Kusugak said. “It has a lot to do with that not happening.”
Kusugak called the press conference to release details about NTI’s plans to monitor decisions being made by the GNWT’s eight cabinet ministers.
Anawak has failed as a watch-dog
Because Anawak has failed to become Nunavut’s watchdog, NTI board members announced they would establish their own watchdog group during their annual general meeting in Igloolik in October.
Kusugak cited the crisis situation in the Keewatin region, where residents are outraged by GNWT decisions concerning health care and fuel resupply, as catalysts.
But if Kusugak’s tone this month in Iqaluit seems somewhat muted compared to his Igloolik presentation, it’s because NTI’s intent was “misrepresented,” he said.
“People have been putting words in our mouths beyond what it was,” Kusugak explained was part of the reaction to NTI’s shadow cabinet plan. “We’re not here to develop an army against unseen forces.”
On the side of ordinary MLAs
NTI board members were both praised and criticized for what many call the first step towards party politics in territorial government, something Kusugak said is not the organization’s intent.
“There is a difference between a watchdog group and an opposition party,” Kusugak said. “We are on the side of the ordinary MLAs and we are aware of many positive steps they have taken.”
Members of NTI’s executive committee and the presidents of the three regional Inuit organizations will make up the seven-member shadow cabinet, which is expected to be up and running by late January. Each person will be assigned to a specific GNWT department.
NTI initially set aside $100,000 to pay for the plan. Some expenses can be absorbed into existing NTIU budgets, but hiring a researcher in Yellowknife and a co-ordinator could double that cost, Kusugak said.
“It’s unfair of certain individuals to suggest this is a misuse of funds,” Kusugak said, referring to GNWT cabinet ministers who spoke out against the initiative. “We will use what is necessary for it to work the best, otherwise the effort isn’t going to do its intent.”
Kusugak also answered critics who suggest the shadow cabinet is a trial run for Nunavut leaders who have an eye on winning a seat in the first government.
“We don’t have another motive than to be a watchdog,” he said. “There’s not another objective to prepare ourselves to be MLAs.”