Nunavut’s premier responds to criticisms of cabinet ministers’ performance
“I am fully prepared to ensure that corrective action is taken, when warranted”
Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq is pressing the territory’s caucus of regular members to provide specific examples of what they consider to be lacklustre performance by certain cabinet ministers.
John Main, the chair of the regular members’ caucus, wrote in a letter to the premier, tabled in the legislature earlier this week, that there is “growing dissatisfaction” among regular members over “a number of ongoing performance issues with the executive council.”
The letter goes on to call on the premier to crack the whip and ensure that ministers provide more meaningful answers when they are questioned in the legislature.
If certain cabinet ministers don’t shape up, Main warned, there could be consequences, including motions of non-confidence.
But Savikataaq said, in a letter in response tabled on Thursday, May 30, that he needs examples of what the regular MLAs view as “performance issues.”
“I need to be informed of specific instances of ‘performance issues’ of members of the executive council,” Savikataaq wrote.
“I am fully prepared to ensure that corrective action is taken, when warranted.”
Main’s letter includes a list of expectations for ministers. It says ministers should be properly briefed, provide substantial answers to questions in the legislature, be clear and concise, provide timely followups when they can’t provide information immediately, give full consideration to recommendations made by standing committees and individual MLAs, table documents in a timely manner, and maintain open lines of communication with standing committees and individual MLAs.
In response, Savikataaq said in his view, cabinet ministers already meet these expectations.
Cabinet ministers are already briefed on all major issues, he wrote. “Our administration and staff work very hard to ensure that this happens on a regular basis.”
The demands to offer substantial answers and to be clear and concise “appear to contradict each other,” Savikataaq wrote.
“There are times where substantive answers are certainly warranted, and there are other times in which a more concise answer is necessary. Dependent on the matter at hand, ministers make determinations on how to respond.”
Followup answers are offered in a timely manner, said Savikataaq. But questions about complex issues sometimes take longer to address.
Standing committee recommendations and the views of individual MLAs are taken into consideration when the budgets of government departments and agencies are developed, said Savikataaq, “and when necessary, explanations are provided to members on areas of possible contention.”
Ministers try their best to table documents in a timely fashion, and “when there is a known delay in a minister’s ability to table documents, appropriate notices are provided,” said Savikataaq.
And ministers do their best to keep the lines of communication open with standing committees and individual MLAs, said Savikataaq.
“Instructions from the Office of the Legislative Assembly are disseminated on a regular basis. Further to this, my office has invited the clerk of the assembly to engage with ministerial staff to ensure there is clarity on the way in which information from ministers to members should be disseminated. We commit to ensure ongoing openness on this front.”
After tabling his letter, Savikataaq told the legislature that “we as cabinet have an open-door policy and they can come and talk to any minister or myself about any issues or perceived issues they have with any one of us on cabinet.”