Medevac questions slow assembly

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

The legislative assembly got off to a slow start on Tuesday afternoon as Speaker Jobie Nutarak spent 25 minutes presenting his ruling on multiple points of order that stalled debates last week.

The problem started during the health department’s budget review last Thursday, when questions arose about a medevac contract awarded to Kivalliq Air in 2003.

In questioning the department about the competition for the contract, Rankin Inlet MLA Tagak Curley learned from the deputy minister of health, Bernie Blais, that the department had awarded the contract under direction from cabinet.

Curley’s line of questioning was shut down when he quoted from a letter sent to Skyward Air informing that company of a delay in a request for proposals. Iqaluit East MLA Ed Picco asked that Curley table the letter he was reading from before proceeding with the debate, as per house rules.

In question period the next day, Curley asked Finance Minister Leona Aglukkaq whether she had directed the health minister to award the contract to Kivalliq Air.

Aglukkaq took the question as notice, meaning she would look into it and get back to the house with an answer. Curley was refused answers to subsequent questions about political interference in the awarding of contracts.

Iqaluit Centre MLA Hunter Tootoo later raised the issue again, when he asked the finance minister whether such cabinet directives were common practice. Premier Paul Okalik said this question had also already been taken as notice.

Nutarak ruled on Tuesday that, while related to previous questions, Tootoo’s question was different and could have been answered in the house.

In his ruling, Nutarak said that while ministers may take a question as notice before answering, “taking a question as notice cannot be a means to shut down a line of debate.”

Later on Tuesday, Curley made a motion to defer further consideration of the health budget until his questions could be answered. After some debate – and Okalik asking for a clearer timeline than “eternity” – the motion was carried.

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