MLAs must decide whether to replace Kilabuk

Spring session of Legislature to begin on Monday



Members of the Legislative Assembly are in Iqaluit today to prepare for what could be an exciting spring session that kicks off on Tuesday.

The first order of business is for MLAs to decide whether to elect a new cabinet minister to replace Peter Kilabuk, who resigned from cabinet on Feb. 1 to rejoin the regular MLAs on the opposite side of the Legislative Assembly.

This decision will be made at a closed-door, full caucus meeting before the session officially begins.

Patterk Netser, MLA for Nanulik, said he, for one, would support a replacement, simply to keep the workload reasonable for current cabinet ministers, but he declined to suggest who might be nominated, or whether a new cabinet minister would have to come from the Qikiqtani region, in order to keep some balance of regional representation.

Hudson Bay MLA Peter Kattuk said he, too, would like to see a replacement right away.

“I would like to see a full cabinet,” Kattuk said.

But Rankin Inlet North MLA Tagak Curley said that if members choose to replace the position, that person will have to step down soon afterwards during the planned leadership review, scheduled to happen sometime before June 31.

Curley also said he couldn’t predict whether regional representation would be a factor in choosing a new cabinet member.

“We don’t have a system where there is a regional balancing act,” he said. “The members, with our own consciences, did try to spread the ministerial portfolios as we practice our own little democratic right. There was no hard rule on that thing.”

During this session, members will debate the 2006-2007 operations and maintenance budget, which house leader Ed Picco said would likely be tabled during the first week of the session.

This year’s budget could top the $1 billion mark, but even with a hoped-for increase in the budget, some program cuts are expected.

Noticeably absent from this session is the first draft of a new Education Act, which was to appear this spring.

“We’ve extended the time frame,” Picco said.

The education department had planned to complete public consultations by the end of 2005. Instead, legislation specialist Manitok Thompson is only half way through the consultations, with about 11 more community visits planned.

“We’ve been weathered out in four or five places,” Picco said.

He also added that though his department has been criticized for being too slow, it’s better in the long run to “cover all of our bases.”

The session is to run until March 14.

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