MLAs have mixed views on NTI shadow cabinet

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

DWANE WILKIN
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT Last week’s announcement that Nunavut Tunngavik would set up its own “shadow cabinet” has been greeted with a mixture of optimism, relief and skepticism.

Some regular MLAs say they can use all the help they can get watching over the policies of the territorial government.

Kivalliviq MLA Kevin O’Brien, for examlpe, who has been particularly vocal in his criticism of the government’s health policy in recent months, has already been approached by NTI with offers of support and assistance.

But at least one cabinet minister questioned Nunavut Tunngavik’s motives.

“I believe that a lot of the issues they are concerned with could be dealt with through better communications with the cabinet and MLAs,” said Deputy Premier Goo Arlooktoo.

Arlooktoo suggested that leaders of the Inuit birthright corporation may simply be positioning themselves for the first territorial election in Nunavut.

“Those of us in the political field find being in the first Nunavut legislature very attractive, so there’s no question in my mind that that’s part of it,” Arlooktoo said.

“I see it as posturing by some individuals within NTI before the next election.”

Under the plan unveiled by NTI, each of the eight members of NTI’s executive will be assigned to one of the eight members of the GNWT cabinet, and will be resposnible for monitoring, criticizing and responding the actions and statments of each minister.

In announcing the shadow-cabinet, NTI accused ordinary MLAs of failing to provide an effective opposition in the legislature.

As one of the few ordinary MLAs viewed as an ally by the Inuit birthright corporation, O’Brien said he supports the idea of a constructive opposition.

“I think any organization that wants to monitor what goes on in the government is a positive thing,” O’Brien said. “Actually, I would have liked to have seen it two years ago.”

O’Brien said such organized opposition would be like having an another set of eyes and ears.

“From my viewpoint, judging from the number of members we get criticizing the policies and the programs of the government, I think we could use that extra set of eyes and ears.”

Nunavut Tunngavik has already begun to plan how its executive will co-ordinate the Inuit shadow cabinet, and expects to match board members with their respective portfolios within a few weeks.

The motion setting up the shadow cabinet, which was passed Oct. 31 during NTI’s annual general meeting in Igloolik, also authorized spending of up to $100,000 on staff and consultants.

As an Inuk beneficiary himself, Arlooktoo said he has reservations about NTI’s decision to spend that amount of money to keep NTI executives informed of the cabinet’s work.

“Is this the best use of beneficiaries dollars? Is NTI, which is already well-funded administratively, not able to do this within their present structure?” he asked.

Since his own appointment to cabinet, Arlooktoo complained that NTI’s executive has given him the cold shoulder.

“Since then I have never received one call from the NTI executive,” Arlooktoo said. “I have been the one who intitiates the calls. Most of the communication that comes through is after the fact of little crises and threats to sue, that kind of thing.”

On the other hand, Arlooktoo said, the shadow cabinet might offer an opportunity for MLAs and NTI to start working more closely on political issues, “because at this point in time I can tell you there is no working relationship… politically,” he said.

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