P.J. Akeeagok will be Nunavut’s new premier

Former QIA president defeats incumbent Joe Savikataaq and Health Minister Lorne Kusugak

P.J. Akeeagok won a three-way race to become Nunavut’s next premier, defeating incumbent Joe Savikataaq and Health Minister Lorne Kusugak on Wednesday. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

By Mélanie Ritchot

P.J Akeeagok has been named Nunavut’s new premier-elect after a three-way race on Wednesday.

“I’m very honoured,” he said, and then thanked his family, elders, and constituents after he was elected.

“I know there’s so much work to be done but I think we’re ready to pull up our sleeves and get to work.”

Akeeagok — a first-time MLA — and Health Minister Lorne Kusugak challenged the current premier, Joe Savikataaq, and spent the day trying to win MLAs’ votes on Wednesday.

The race was settled by secret ballots cast by the MLAs elected to the sixth legislative assembly by Nunavummiut.

Before MLAs voted, each nominee made a speech and answered questions from other members.

Hot topics included in-territory elder care, job creation through mining and decentralizing the Government of Nunavut, and housing.

Mental health resources and suicide prevention were also recurring topics brought up in MLAs’ questions.

Akeeagok referenced the Iqaluit high school students who walked into the lobby of the legislature on Tuesday to demand more resources.

“I want every one of them to know we heard you loud and clear,” he said, addressing the youth.

He compared the severity of suicide rates in Nunavut to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Governments were able to mobilize very quickly, they were able to provide support to ensure safety,” he said about the pandemic response. The response to suicide needs to be similar, he said.

“I will do everything in my power to bring tangible solutions to the issue.”

Akeeagok was the president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association for seven years until resigning to run in Nunavut’s Oct. 25 general election.

This experience came up when the nominees for premier debated how the Government of Nunavut should work with Inuit organizations to tackle issues, like the housing crisis, more effectively in the territory.

With Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., having recently passed a resolution to seek Inuit self government, and stating the GN has failed Inuit, Akeeagok said he’s looking forward to meeting with NTI executives soon, in an interview after he was elected.

“To really come openly and really listen in terms of where we could collaborate,” he said.

Akeeagok said two of his top priorities if elected would be addressing the housing shortage and elder care needs.

Throughout the candidate debate, Savikataaq relied on his track record and said his strength is being fair to all Nunavummiut and listening to all sides of issues.

He said giving him a second term would allow for consistency through the changing government.

“I’ve done the job, I’ve been doing the job,” Savikataaq said.

“There is no learning curve.”

Health Minister Kusugak spoke about the need for the next government to be proactive multiple times.

“This government has to stop being a reactionary government on very important issues such as child abuse, suicide, and other crimes to our women and children,” he said.

When the topic of decentralizing the GN to create jobs in small communities came up, Kusugak also suggested more remote jobs be made available to bring remote Nunavummiut into the workforce without needing to build local offices.

Tony Akoak, the MLA for Gjoa Haven, was elected as Speaker of the house at the beginning of Wednesday’s leadership forum.

On Wednesday evening, eight ministers will be chosen from the group of MLAs, also voted-in by their peers by secret ballot.

The premier-elect will assign ministers their portfolios in the coming days.

After the premier was chosen, the MLAs voted for the eight members who will form the cabinet.

They nominated 16 of their peers, including six newcomers, to become ministers, forcing more voting to narrow the field to eight.

Seven ministers were voted in on first ballots.

But four more ballots were needed to narrow down who got the last seat in cabinet, with Aggu’s MLA Joanna Quassa, breaking the stalemate.

The fifth ballot came down to Solomon Malliki Joanna Quassa, Premier Savikataaq.

Nunavut’s eight incoming cabinet ministers are:

  • Adam Arreak Lightstone
  • David Akeeagok
  • Pamela Gross
  • Lorne Kusugak
  • John Main
  • David Joanasie
  • Margaret Nakashuk
  • Joanna Quassa

Pamela Gross, the MLA for Cambridge Bay, and Aggu’s Joanna Quassa, are the only first-time MLAs in the cabinet and are among the four women chosen for ministerial positions.

It’s up to Akeeagok, as premier-elect, to assign ministers their portfolios in the coming days. MLAs will be officially sworn in to their roles on Friday.

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(71) Comments:

    • Posted by Jay Arnakak on

      Paulusi is a proven leadership quality. He led with grace and consensus as the QIA president; I see not how he’d change midstream now.

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      • Posted by Sour grapes on

        Jay, If you’ve been following any of the commentary on this, you might notice that Umingmak is just really unhappy his uncle Lorne did get chosen. That’s all this is.

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          • Posted by Mr. Henry Van Rootselaar on

            Sour Grapes is a good name for you. People like you just sit back and do nothing except complain about everything and everyone with absolutely no knowledge or substance. Get off your butt and actually do something, instead of what you don’t do. Your handle should be Sour Grapes and professional Winer.

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            • Posted by Ouch on

              Sour grapes, it looks like you may have scored a direct hit

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  1. Posted by Yes! on

    Woohooo! It’s great to see PJ as our new Premier, the best one was chosen! Congratulations PJ!

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  2. Posted by Beleaver on

    Going to sell out Nunavut like he did with North Baffin, none of the profits went to 5 affected communities except thru form of a grant and impossible to get.

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  3. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    Best of luck PJ. I hope you rise to the occasion and please do not forget us fine Inuit of the Kitikmeot Region

    All the best

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  4. Posted by uvanga on

    That is great to see PJ! Congratulations! Pisitiapiugaviin, atii pisitirurialatuinariin! Quvianaaq! Balanced young man, capable to lead our Nunavut Government! So happy to see!

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  5. Posted by With held on

    We are now forgotten…..but we are use to it here in the central Arctic Where a case of Pepsi cola can fetch as much as five hundred dollars….think about that for a change. Couple of million cans of pop consumed yearly in Nunavut alone. Where do you think part of the 180Billion dollars a year go to. Northwest company rules the north alongside Canadian north. The two conglomerates are reaping the rewards. . Hopefully the new government can make a difference for once. We’ve waited since the beginning of the day Nunavut became a territory for better days to come… still waiting.

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    • Posted by North Baffin on

      You’ve never been to Clyde River after they’ve ran out of sea lift pop.

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      • Posted by With held on

        Clearly you haven’t been to Kuugaruk …
        You can reap the rewards if you bring in a sea can of pop. Just a case 12= up to $500
        Seriously.

    • Posted by Northern Inuit on

      $500 for a case of pepsi? seriously?

      that’s a choice. you do not have to buy a case of pepsi for $26 at the Northern or Coop let alone $500. holy smokes. seriously. nobody needs pop. we have far pressing issues other than a case of “fresh pop” that someone flew in to your town and auctions off because the rest sold out already from sealift.

      housing, health care, elder care, education, nutrition north, alcohol and substance abuse and price of airline service should be addressed.

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    • Posted by Water on

      Pop causes a lot of illness like cancer, better to limit your intake of pop or better yet stop drinking it.
      So much sugar and other chemicals in pop, very unhealthy.

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  6. Posted by cabinet process on

    Several members voted at their seat, not private, look at the process, they by passed the private voting booth, some didn’t even pretend to vote like John Main.

    There are rules to voting, and these members did not follow them! New premier should follow up and redo the cabinet process for all of Nunavut!

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  7. Posted by Nunavut on

    Cabinet selection is a farce, few members already selected members at their seat! They did not privately vote, John Main pretended to vote!
    This was not a consensus vote for cabinet, members had already selected the selection for members to serve in cabinet, and the selected at their seat where other members had full view, not at the private booth where they are supposed to select the new cabinet!
    Do the right thing and redo the cabinet process where all of Nunavut can see!

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    • Posted by All in on

      Its democracy. You can noy vote. You can spoil your ballot. You can vote at your seat. What ridiculous comments.

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  8. Posted by Jeff on

    Good to see a new young business savvy (QIA) person be named Premier. The previous Premier made a lot of missteps & it was time for a change. As for LK… not qualified in the slightest to lead Nunavut. Good luck! to PJ & the new cabinet that will be chosen.

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  9. Posted by Attii on

    Go to see new premier vested with political back ground and have knowledge of Nunavut agreement whereas out going premier didn’t have any political experienced at first but only at the end he started to more like a politician.
    Good luck for the next 4 years.

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    • Posted by Thu on

      Congratulations to the new premier elect. Please learn from your last experience as as the past QIA President and leave your political advisors at QIA, the “saving” Inuit attitude stinks and reeks enough within the current system.
      Change is possible but make sure the elected mlas are in charge and not the DMs.

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      • Posted by Nanuq on

        PJ will need his political advisers from QIA to make the badly needed changes in the GN, you saw what happened to Quassa when he started making changes, they booted him out and installed someone that will read from the script.
        PJ did an amazing job at QIA, from what it was to what he built in his terms in office is something to be proud of.
        Yes some a minority who didn’t get what they wanted oppose him, some don’t know him too well.
        But I and a lot of us are excited and look forward to his leadership.

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        • Posted by Memories… on

          Please remember, it wasn’t the GN bureaucracy that ousted Quassa – they don’t have that ability. Rather, it was the regular MLAs – acting, they said, on behalf of their constituents — that exercised their *political* powerto remove the Premier they had voted into the role. Bureaucrats had nothing to do with that.

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          • Posted by short term memory on

            Yes it was the MLA’s that removed him based on the information given to them by the bureaucrats , recommendation by their staff supported by the ones that didn’t get into cabinet and the ones that wanted to be Premier instead.
            Back room dealing and behind the door promises along with other dirty games played in the background.
            Those MLAs at the time were given choices and one being more attractive then the others.
            Some of us know how this game is played, Quassa started making changes to top positions and the rest got nervous and waited for a excuse to find and us to remove him.

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            • Posted by uvanga on

              The last premier was a dirty one. Ousting Paul Quassa the way he did. I guess he has never heard the term “What goes around goes around” or as the younger generation says “Karma”.
              I guess 2nd chances are not given in politics, but wait… look at Trudeau..

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  10. Posted by Young and Dynamic on

    He is young and dynamic, let’s see if he actually will be able to do anything. Promises on items like housing, elder care and addiction centers are getting old. Now you want to work with the Federal Government and the “Mines” to look after the housing shortages? Give your head a shake!! Is that what you have learned at NS? lol

    Just like the GG, you need to improve your English as soon as possible, unless you want to spend public money for translators when talking to the Federal Government for all the funds you are sure you’ll get.

    I hope you will place the new Ministers very wisely to give Nunavut a chance. Now it’s not a good time for being exclusive

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    • Posted by Career Advancement on

      Serious question, does PJ have friends or family in high places? I know he passed NS, like every person that attends that social passing program, but then he ended up as an Assistant Director in NTI and an Assistant Executive Director with QIA all before age 30, before being elected as QIA Prez.
      .
      Does he have any real educational background?

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  11. Posted by Rostugg on

    Isn’t PJ the guy that hid away in his office when the Guardians were picketing Baffinland? How is he going to run our Government. Good thing he ran for MLA because he never would have been voted back in as QIA President.

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    • Posted by Hehe on

      I few of you are still pisst, he did great work, he would of probably been acclaimed again if not would of won in a landslide.

      A few of you are just looking to get money handed to you just like that, by not getting that you are angry.
      Time to move on, it’s not healthy being like that.

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  12. Posted by Truestory on

    I hope you don’t do a “Poor Job” Akeearok by going against Mary River expansion 2 and 3 projects. Think of Nunavut’s economy. Not just income support collectors.

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  13. Posted by A King and A Savior on

    so did anyone see the question from the Member of Netsilik?

    apparently he made a video which he said “it went viral with over half a million hits about suicide. and I not only saved one life but maybe hundreds of lives. does that make me a king or a savior?”

    Wow.

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    • Posted by Delusions on

      Yeah. Wow.

      I checked out his tiktok videos after he said that. The guy seems to mean well and is wholesome. No red flags there.

      But holy crap way to start off on the wrong foot with your colleagues. He’s in a room with people who’ve probably actually done some good in their communities (ya ya ya politicians don’t do anything but sit on their ass harharhar).

      It’s ok to be proud of something you did, even if it’s a tiktok video that touched some people. But what’s your plan after that? Calling himself a saviour tells me that he let the success of one flukey video go to his head. I hope he changes course because he’s a good young man with a positive outlook on life.

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    • Posted by Crystal Clarity on

      LOL I guess we can already see where that guy is going. New MLA’sshould learn to keep quiet until they test the waters other wise they start out doing stupid things from the get go.

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  14. Posted by Interesting times ahead on

    Should be an interesting new cabinet. I thought Joe was going to win it but once things started rolling you could tell he was on the defensive. The same momentum that propelled Joe to Premier is very similar to what happened to PJ last night.

    Joe is a solid politician and it’s too bad that he had to be the sacrificial lamb, but that’s the way things played out. Even a brilliant politician couldn’t fix this territory in 4 years. Joe surrounded himself with great advisors, but no once can fix poverty and mental health in this territory….It’ll take at least a generation.

    Keep an eye on who the new Premier hires as advisors. Will he surround himself with the cream of the crop like Savikataaq did? Or will he pull a Paul Quassa?

    Hickes as a regular member is such a waste of talent. The guy is a heavy weight and can handle the tough departments. This government is going to struggle right out the gate without him. But they might do ok without him depending how portfolio assignments are handled.

    The beeeeeest thing about Hickes as a regular member is that we get to see Hickes destroy Lightstone (likely minister of finance) with questions. It’s going to be a bloodbath.

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    • Posted by Pork Pie on

      I see no qualities in Adam Lightstone that would justify him being a cabinet Minister. I do look forward to someone, perhaps George, exposing him for the empty pantaloon he really is.

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      • Posted by SORE LOOSER on

        You sound like a sore looser! Quit it! Adam Lightstone is a smart cookie with great integrity! Exactly what we need in Nunavut! Go ADAM!!

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      • Posted by taaa on

        karma Hickes
        wonder if he will repeat the Quassa ousting thing because he didn’t make it into cabinet.
        Dirty tricks and tantrums display

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        • Posted by Paul on

          Joe wasn’t that great as our Premier, he also doesn’t speak very well, with Hicks he got what he deserves, plays dirty in the back rooms and a puppet for his staff. You can bet those same staff will be working overtime to see how they can put their puppet back in cabinet.
          Joe and George worked for their bureaucrats and not for Nunavut.

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          • Posted by Iqalummiut on

            Tasiluk riding, you better put your foot down and call for action against your member if he misbehaves! No more tearing down Gov’t for the sake of their own greed!

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        • Posted by Quassed on

          Quassa screwed himself over. Anyone who knows what really went on during his tenure (I’d share but it would have to be censured in the comments) knows that it went way beyond the Northern Lights debacle. You can blame the Lightstones and Mains (along with the Hickes’) for not telling us what really went on there and why they wouldn’t tell the voters. They did Quassa a huge favour by not spilling all the beans.

          Hickes and Savikataaq were definitely friendlier to bureaucrats than your average Nunavut politician would be (or would pretend to be). Thinking like a bureaucrat can be a good thing in moderation. If you become a minister and you go in swinging for all the directors heads, you’ll probably hurt the government (and the services it tries to provide) and in turn hurt your constituents. If you want to be the “anti red tape” minister there’s a way to do it without burning the place down. You have to know how bureaucracies think and behave in order to innovate or reenergize them. Were Hickes and Savikataaq capable of doing that? Maybe, maybe not but they were half way there. I wouldn’t bet on any of these new ministers to be able to do much better (though Main might have some new ideas). Worst case scenario with Hickes in your cabinet is that he’s a pure red tape bureaucrat and saves the GN money. Whoever replaces him has big shoes to fill. Big deal if he played dirty tricks to get rid of the worst Premier in Nunavut’s short history. If he actually did that he did us all a favour.

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          • Posted by Fran on

            Sure sounds like the bureaucrats have a lot of power in our government, maybe that is the problem with our government?

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    • Posted by One Step Forward, Two Steps Back on

      An absolute travesty that George is not in Cabinet. He is responsible for procuring an additional ~$75 million per year for the territory from the feds regarding medical travel. That’s not chump change, that’s somewhere around an additional 3% to the entire territory’s budget.
      .
      The disrespect of this assembly to ignore that accomplishment is so disappointing.

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      • Posted by Tissinaq on

        Boohoo! Cry yourself to sleep! I’m sure these politicians know more than you think! Good choices!

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      • Posted by Piitaqanngi on

        His goading about what he accomplished during his years as MLA/Cabinet Minister was his downfall during his campaign to be elected to Cabinet. He sounded smug and basically told the MLA’s ‘I did that’ , though not in those exact words. That wasn’t a pretty sight to watch.

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    • Posted by LOL on

      The “cream of the crop”?

      LOL.

      Someone is lobbying to hold onto their job in the Nunatsiaq comments…

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    • Posted by uvanga on

      I had hoped that George Hickes would still be on. He has lots of experience, is a people person (to employees) and he knows how the ball rolls. I am extremely sorry to see him go. Either way, I hope the new ministers will help each other out in more ways than one!

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  15. Posted by Concerned Member on

    Please select a Health and Suicide prevention aware Minister. Unlike the last one.

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  16. Posted by Yup on

    Lets see if these changes make any difference in the molasses like government we created.

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  17. Posted by anonymous on

    Congratulations PJ! You have come a long way, our family used to see you & your parents during Christmas in Edmonton years ago. Continue doing what you are doing for the Nunavutmiut!

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  18. Posted by For Nunavut on

    We are extremely happy for the PJ Akeeagok and the ‘New’ Cabinet, we are all so proud of all of you! You bring us so much hope for the future once again!!!
    WHOOHOO!!

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  19. Posted by I live in the Arctic on

    Congratulations, I hope you work for all Nunavummiut.

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  20. Posted by Manapik on

    Government would run smoothly and efficiently, if, all civil servants and anyone employed by GN, start showing up for work and on time and also leave their cellphones at home.

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  21. Posted by Referendum on Joe and George on

    To have Joe and George not even cabinet is a major surprise. They were the most visual leaders throughout the pandemic. Crazy. Deputy Ministers are all shaking in their boots now about who is going to be replaced!

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    • Posted by Jen on

      You know some of the DMs will try and pull a Quassa on PJ to get Joe and George back on,

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    • Posted by Visible does not mean leader on

      Joe did nothing during pandemic besides press conferences. Very weak leadership during major outbreak.

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  22. Posted by Speak with oomph and tangible facts on

    PJs has been ambitious and wanted to be DM in the gov but saw it was too slow to get to that. He chose politics in a lil organization. What he says often sounds empty and shallow. It is often about process and nothing substantial. This is due to lack of education and work experience. Being a president of a small org with advisors doesn’t give you the smarts. He will come off as a tentative leader in no time if he doesn’t think and speak on his own two feet while weighing in on advice.

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  23. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Not surprised at the P.J. Akeeagok’s election as premier, and absolutely dumbfounded at the choices made for Cabinet. The MLAs voted the two most incompetent Ministers back into Cabinet and kept out George Hickes, who was the only stalwart in the last government. Nunavut now has a government made up of attention seeking glory hounds, complete rookies who have no idea what they are doing and the flotsam and jetsam from the last Cabinet table. Good luck trying to make that work Premier Akeeagok!

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    • Posted by Leave C&H to Flotsam, not EDU on

      Is Joanasie Flotsam or Jetsam?

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    • Posted by Sore loser on

      How do you know these rookies have completely no idea what they’re doing? Are you just being a sore loser? Old boys didn’t do anything for the future of the territory. Maybe these rookies have a better outlook about the future.

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      • Posted by Northern Guy on

        Because of the three new faces at the Cabinet table only one has any experience as an elected official and that is at the municipal level. They are in over their heads.

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        • Posted by Sore Loser on

          So the only qualification to become a cabinet minster is to have 4 years experience of being an MLA? What a narrow minded view. I feel sorry for you.

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  24. Posted by Supporter on

    Good for you Pj, young and ambitious. Attended NS, learned about our culture and needs and went forth to become a politician before the age 40, you make a great role model!
    Them old ” politicians” started when they were young too. I’m sure over the years they learned alot more then they knew then…. so can you. If anything they should support you.
    Stand your ground.

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  25. Posted by Inuk Person on

    Some people are sofa king mean and pessimistic! Many of them probably didn’t even vote.

    The constituents need help, and we need to support our MLAs! These MLAs are going to have to make some tough choices while trying to work with the little they’re given, and they’re going to try their best to use it wisely!

    Let’s just hope we won’t have any early resignations or no shows.

    All the best newly acclaimed and elected MLAs!

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    • Posted by boris pasternak on

      two rookies at the top no more three amigos but two amigos, sad day for Nunavut, a quitter and a rookie’ lot of new guys, did the premier elect know there is a full fledge economic major from sfx? and he s not even at the right post as minister….

  26. Posted by kataisee on

    ᐅᐱᒍᓱᑦᑎᐊᖅᑐᖓ ᓂᕈᐊᖅᑕᐅᔪᐊᓐᓅᒐᔅᓯ ᒪᓕᒐᓕᐅᖅᑎᐅᓂᕐᒧᑦ. ᓂᕆᐅᓂᖃᖅᑎᐊᖅᖢᑕᓗ ᐊᔪᖏᓐᓂᕆᔭᓯ ᑲᔪᓯᑎᓐᓂᐊᕋᖦᓯᐅᒃ.. ᐃᓐᓇᑯᓗᒃᐳᑦ ᐃᒃᐱᒋᔭᐅᑦᑎᐊᕐᓂᖅᓴᐅᓗᑎᒃ, ᐃᓕᓐᓂᐊᕈᑏᓪᓗ ᐃᓄᒃᑐᑦ ᐅᐃᕖᑎᑐᑦ ᓴᙱᓂᖃᕐᓗᑎᒃ ᓂᕆᐅᓂᖃᕆᕗᒍᒃ ᐃᓕᓐᓂᐊᕐᕕᒃᑕᖃᕆᐊᖃᓕᕐᓂᖓ ᐃᓄᒃᑐᑦ ᓄᓇᕗᒻᒥ. ᑕᒪᕐᒥᐊᓗᒃ ᓂᕈᐊᖅᑕᐅᔪᑦ ᑕᑯᓪᓗᒋᑦ ᐅᐱᓐᓇᑦᑎᐊᖅᑐᓯ ᖃᐅᔨᒪᓪᓗᑕᓗ ᐊᒃᓱᕈᕐᓗᓯ ᓄᓇᕗᒻᒥᐅᓂᒃ ᑭᒡᒐᖅᑐᐃᓂᐊᕋᖦᓯ. ᐸᐅᓗᓰ ᐅᐱᒍᓱᒃᐳᒍᑦ ᓯᕗᓕᙳᖅᑐᐊᓐᓄᒐᕕᑦ. ᐊᕐᓇᓪᓗ ᓴᖏᓂᖏᑦ ᐅᖃᕈᓐᓇᑦᑎᐊᕐᓂᖏᑦ ᐃᓕᓴᕆᔭᐅᖕᒥᖕᒪᑕ ᒐᕙᒪᑖᕆᔭᑦᑎᓐᓂ ᖁᔭᓕᔾᔪᑎᒋᒋᕙᒃᑲ. ᐊᐅᓚᓂᖃᑦᑎᐊᕐᓂᐊᕋᔅᓯ ᑕᓯᐅᖅᑕᐅᖏᓐᓇᕐᓂᐊᖅᖢᓯᓗ ᖁᔭᓐᓇᒦᒃ ᐅᐱᓐᓇᖅ ᓂᕈᐊᖅᑕᐅᒐᔅᓯ.

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