Premier refers conflict of interest allegations to integrity commissioner

Unnamed Nunavut cabinet minister accused of signing off on household member’s appointment to department’s second-highest position

Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok followed up to questions from two MLAs about an alleged conflict of interest on Tuesday. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

By Mélanie Ritchot

Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok has denied his involvement in an alleged conflict of interest, where someone who lives with a cabinet minister was assigned to be the acting deputy minister of the minister’s department.

“I did not endorse the acting assignment,” Akeeagok said in the legislative assembly on Tuesday.

He said he plans to bring the issue to the Nunavut’s integrity commissioner Katherine Peterson for review and will seek her advice on the next steps.

Allegations of a conflict of interest first came up on Monday, when George Hickes, the MLA for Iqaluit-Tasiluk, asked Akeeagok about someone who lives in the same home as a minister being appointed the acting deputy minister of the same department.

Deputy minister is the second-highest position in a Government of Nunavut department, working directly under a department’s minister, who is an elected official.

“I was floored,” Hickes said on Monday.

“I’ve never heard of that happening in any other jurisdiction and was quite taken aback.”

MLA Joe Savikataaq, who represents Arviat South,  asked multiple times if Akeeagok could confirm he appointed an acting deputy minister who lived in the same household as a minister, to work under that minister.

Hickes and Savikataaq did not specify which minister or department they were referring to. 

On Monday, Akeeagok  said as far as he knew, no policy has been broken, but he would look into the issue.

The next day in the assembly, Akeeagok said he had looked into it and provided some details about how these assignment processes usually work.

“I would like it to make it clear that the premier does not usually sign off on acting deputy minister positions unless it involves a portfolio,” Akeeagok said.

Typically, deputy ministers recommend a qualified person to act in their place if they go on leave, he said.

In some cases, the minister of a department will sign off on this position and other times it is handled by someone else in the department, Akeeagok said.

“But the Minister is always made aware of the acting assignment,” he said. 

This means the minister of the department where the alleged conflict of interest happened would have known their household member was assigned the acting deputy minister position.

Akeeagok confirmed the appointment took place in December 2021 and was active for about five days.

But, he said could not say which minister or department the issue involved for privacy reasons.

Akeeagok confirmed the person was the acting deputy minister between Dec. 16 and Dec. 20 of last year.

“When I learned of the potential appearance of conflict of interest, I took steps to ensure that the acting assignment was retracted,” he said.

A different staff member was assigned the position the following Monday, he said.

On Monday, when the concern was first brought up in the legislature, Hickes, a former finance and justice minister in the previous government, said the government’s human resource policies are “very clear” on conflicts of interest.

the Government of Nunavut’s code of ethics says a conflict of interest exists when an employee has a private or financial interest that could affect their work and preferential treatment can’t go to family or friends in the workplace.

The code states “a public servant may not work in a direct reporting or supervisory relationship with a member of his or her immediate family or a person with whom he or she is in an intimate relationship.”

On Tuesday, Akeeagok said his government will take immediate steps to eliminate any gaps in the policies around the deputy ministers’ acting assignments.

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(49) Comments:

  1. Posted by Arnold McGillicuddy on

    Oh that wacky Dept of HR…

  2. Posted by Open secret on

    It’s widely know that the department in question is HR.

    I don’t think there was anything nefarious here by the Premier, Minister and acting DM. But I do think it was incredibly short sighted. How did any of the people involved think this would slide under the radar. The optics look bad.

  3. Posted by Kivalliqmiut on

    Hah, Geo and Joe start their attacks early. Personal attacks for being ousted from their previous positions. You could see this coming before both Adam and Pj were elected to their current positions.

    • Posted by hermann kliest on

      this smells fishy to me, $$$ do many things stupid, but wanting to have power is the root of the real evil.

  4. Posted by After the fact on

    If the premier says all rules were followed why then did he retract appointment of the acting deputy minister. If rules are being followed then there is nothing wrong and no conflict exist. There must have been a conflict if the acting role was given to another person after the fact. Makes me wonder now what other conflicts are there that we are not aware of.

  5. Posted by delbert on

    Why do things like this continue to happen. A new government with a new young leader. The hope was he would bring change. But the House has only been sitting for two days. Now we have the stink of corruption. Is this what we can expect for the next four years. Clean this mess up and move the people out who created it. Nunavut requires better leader ship than this.

    • Posted by Ms. Information on

      There’s no evidence of corruption. A safeguard against corruption was neglected. That’s not good, but it does not follow that there was corruption. If you don’t wear a seat belt when you drive to work one day does that mean you had an accident? The proof of the pudding is in the eating – if the acting deputy minister did anything inappropriate while in that role, let’s talk about that.

      Hickes’ pearl-clutching is hilarious. He should take that show on the road. “I do declare, never would I have dreamed of such an abomination!” (pass the smelling salts)

  6. Posted by Come on News on

    Come on Nunatsiaq, you’ve gotta be able to figure out who they’re talking about. Maybe the government can’t say, but I think this is the job of the media, is it not?

  7. Posted by Poetry in motion… on

    Nice to see George embracing his new role in the Legislature with such gusto! Should make for an interesting and enlightening session 😉

    • Posted by Correction on

      George still bitter about not getting in…so he and Joe tag team

      • Posted by Machiavelli on

        If PJ had more attuned political intuitions he would bring these men into the fold. As it stands he has two very experienced opponents with plenty of ability and not much better to do for the next four years than hold his feet to the fire, embarrass him, and savour every moment of it with relish.

        You may not like it, but I expect it will lead to some great theater.

        • Posted by Offensively Moderate on

          They’re going to use “gotcha” tactics to try to oust PJ, just like they did Quassa in 2018. Their playbook is pretty transparent.

          What they may not see is that this is going to drive Nunavut into party politics as the only way to shield Premier and Cabinet from this kind of attack. Our “consensus-style” system depends on a measure of goodwill, forbearance and a rejection of Machiavellian tactics. Those things are quickly evaporating.

          • Posted by Machiavelli on

            You could be right about Party Politics, though that may be inevitable either way. I don’t know.

            Also, I don’t know the situation with Paul well enough to say if he deserved the ouster, but I do believe the fact that the majority of members voted to have him removed indicates that whatever it was, was serious enough and not frivolous. Maybe you know more?

            Isn’t it the job of regular members to hold the government to account? To keep them transparent and on their toes? There is nothing inherently Machiavellian about that.

  8. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    Nothing to see here folks. Let’s fight this virus.

    Send money to Ukraine.

    Can we give more money away? Nothing to see here folks.

  9. Posted by Name withheld on

    Drain the swamp

    • Posted by Kpik whapmarapik on

      What swamp were do you live all Inuit are always thinking there all corrupt only cus there family is against them

  10. Posted by Aulajaaq on

    I knew it! George ans Savikataaq would team up to find fault, I guess can’t ger over loosing. Wheb will Hicks speak for his constituency? Never!

    • Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

      Sir, you may want to rethink your position. ALL of the MLAs are there to represent ALL of Nunavut not just their own constituency.

      Do you really believe this conflict of interest would have been brought up otherwise?

      Thank you Joe and George for keeping the Legislature honest.

    • Posted by Aupaqtuq on

      Joe an G can’t get over losing…

      • Posted by WWJSD? on

        That was then, all I see now is winning…

  11. Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

    There is absolutely no reason for the department, the Minister, and the DM who “recommends” the appointment not to be named publicly. To say it’s for privacy reasons is ridiculous and an attempt to cover up. Mr. Premier, optics sir optics.

    • Posted by Bob your Uncle on

      Hiding behind privacy concerns in a public government. Another typical example of transparency from the Liberal playbook that PJ is following.

  12. Posted by Integrity on

    The Department of HR should follow the Human Resources Manual related to Conflict of Interest as they are (or should be) the experts in that area.

    It is noted to contact the Director, Employee Relations if you have any questions related to this subject. Oh wait, could this be the person that put themselves in a conflict of interest situation? Thanks to the two MLA’s for bringing this to the public’s attention. It is about time to be called out for their lack of integrity and ethics. This Minister would have a field day with this when he was a regular member, now the tides have turned. Should get interesting.

  13. Posted by Absolute Nonsense on

    When individuals are appointed to SENIOR MANAGEMENT it is not a privacy issue at all. No where in ATIPP is this confidential. Yes let’s swipe under the rug a conflict of interest and then cover it with baseless privacy arguments. These people are so incredibly clueless. How many friends and meritless appointments to senior management have we seen already, here’s another one. Now they go to the ethics commissioner who had the luxury of living and working in the south lol. I’m sure he will be really keen to risk his cushy appointment on this.

    • Posted by First but not the last on

      Well, not counting this one, there have been two full time appointments into senior level roles.

      Let’s not forget the newly appointed deputy for a small department that happens to be a blood relative of one of the advisors or another newly appointment senior manager that just so happens to be friends with quite a few of the Minister’s. Boot the previous person out and fly in a friend to take over. Sounds pretty on point to me.

      • Posted by Boys club on

        Boys club. Just like QIA. Almost all of the member are men.

  14. Posted by Uvanga on

    There goes Savitaaq again, wanting to get back in as premier due to a technicality like he did the last time he became premier… not again Savitaaq, not again.

  15. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    Hickes was a good and competent minister so it was probably shortsighted not to give him a portfolio in this legislative assembly. Savikataaq was also competent but not without his own little issues including the back room dealings to oust Quassa, flying in and out of Nunavut at the height of the pandemic when there was a travel ban etc….. and then back peddling when he was found out, to mention a couple of things. I don’t know why we keep ramming the idea of IQ principles and Consensus government down everyone’s throats when you have situations like this where it is obvious that people are going for the jugular trying to humiliate, and embarrass people. If there is a conflict of interest fine, deal with it but don’t waste hours of question period with the issue. Leave it to the appropriate watch dogs to investigate and deal with. We have far more pressing issues which need to be dealth with. Get on with the business of governing.

    • Posted by Waiting to hear from Crystal Clarity on

      I always look forward to hearing your take on things.

      • Posted by No Moniker on

        Me too, I always enjoy Crystal’s commentary.

      • Posted by Northern Light on

        Pat yourself in the back some more.Lol

        • Posted by No Moniker on

          Not even!

          She’s too into the Liberals for my liking, lol… still enjoy her commentary though

          • Posted by Crystal Clarity on

            I think Jean Charest might give the Liberals a run for their money if he wins the conservative leadership race. He is a good leader.

            • Posted by No Moniker on

              I can’t believe we are talking about Jean Charest in 2022. I remember him surfacing as a promising leadership Candidate back in the early 1990s. He seemed like a promising character at the time. Unfortunately for him the Party never recovered from the devastation of 1993.

              I suppose it is consistent with ‘conservatism’ to see an elder statesman surface to lead the party. Unfortunately, elder statesmen accumulate a lot of baggage over the years. That and the tendency to fetishize youthfulness, which is really an expression of the desire for something new, and ‘better,’ give Pierre Poilievre a slight advantage (deserved or not).

              I admit Charest is more the brand of Conservative I would prefer, but for me the party needs someone completely new, someone moderate and not interested in fighting lost cause culture war issues (which is to say, not Poilievre). But I don’t think the conservatives are ready for that.

              On the other hand, I can see a Poilievre leadership win and a possible electoral win too, driven almost entirely by the growing contempt toward Trudeau’s reliance on and exploitation of identity issues, marked as it has been by much sanctimony and little substance. This worked well in the immediate aftermath of the grim Harper years, but I believe many Canadians on both sides of the spectrum are seeing through the emptiness of it.

  16. Posted by Let’s Go Brandon on

    HR minister does not know his own policies, he should step down, other Ministers were stripped of their portfolios for minor infractions, why is the Media and the Premier protecting the said Ministers name?

    Lets GO Adam!

  17. Posted by Manapik on

    As long as the Dm is a Nunavut Beneficiary, I have no issues. If A person of his calibre has no place to stay, it reflects on the real issue of homelessness.

    • Posted by Upside Downs on

      Imagine a bar so low that even a Deputy Minister position can be handed out to just any ole’ one, provided they have an NTI card.

      It is truly stunning how backwards we are in Nunavut.

  18. Posted by Icarus on

    Thank you George for standing up. You should have been Premier. This would never have happened on your watch. It is relieving to see Joe as an ally in this fight against this corruption. Make room in the big tent for these leaders of integrity for they are the voice of some of the people. George will fly high with Savikataaq under his wing.

  19. Posted by disappointed voter on

    Our elder’s want to hear the truth!

  20. Posted by Truestory on

    Yo politicians……you can Google “Politician” meaning. And “conflict of interest” etc, also, may make you a better political playas.

  21. Posted by Disappointed on

    It baffles me that people are, once again, turning a blind eye to this sort of thing, even defending it? While maybe, the accusations coming from Hickes and Savikataaq make it seems the two are bitter, they are not wrong. It would be interesting to know what the other ministers and members think of what happened. This was a, albeit, stupid mistake to make, I don’t understand how something like this could even happen in the first place and think would go unnoticed? Just wish people would be accountable for their mistakes and just own up to it at this point. It would be nice to have a government that is transparent for once.

    • Posted by Ms. Information on

      I wouldn’t defend it, and I think those responsible should own up to the gaffe. But I think the insinuation of ipso facto corruption is ridiculous. We’re talking ignorance of rules (not good) or maybe flouting of rules (bad) but there is at present no reason to believe that this was done for the purposes of facilitating nefarious activities.
      It’s a small government in a small territory located in a small capital city and run by a small public service. It was for a week right before Christmas in a department that is notoriously (and ironically) understaffed. If there was corruption hopefully the Integrity Commissioner roots it out, but I would be surprised.

      • Posted by Disappointed on

        I agree with you that the possibility of corruption tailed to this incident is very unlikely. My argument is that I just don’t understand how a mistake like this could happen in the first place? It’s common sense that placing a family member, let alone, one that lives in the same household as the minster, is a conflict of interest, even if it was for a couple of days. Was there really no one else to fill the position in the interim? I doubt that’s the case since the mistake was fixed in a matter of days and they were quickly replaced with someone else. I had high hopes for this new government, but maybe I need to re-evaluate my expectations. These elected officials are paid a large salary and I feel like they need to be held more accountable, especially since its the people who choose to put them there. Let’s hope this is the only silly mistake that was made, and this government continues to grow and eventually thrive.

  22. Posted by Optics on

    The optics here really do suck for obvious reasons. Not only do we have the political issue at play for the newly appointed Minister and DM who have their own conflict of interest rules but it is appalling that we have a civil servant who should be held to a higher standard, given the role they play also breaking the conflict of up interest rules that apply to them. Talk about double whammy. That folks is what we call leadership

  23. Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

    I have a question that I can’t answer immediately, so I will go to you the public.

    There appears to be a group out there willing to hang the HR staff out to dry over this incident.

    The DM positions are clearly a Premier’s appointment. So where and how does HR get involved in anything related to the appointment?
    And how does HR get involved (if at all) in the appointment of the acting DM position?

    If HR has nothing to do with these appointments why the public hangings?
    Are these anti HR contributors looking for anything to hang on the staff?

  24. Posted by Name withheld on

    P J forgot its not QIA anymore

  25. Posted by Name withheld on

    I remember when other Ministers, Premier were stripped of their portfolio and now this Minister is an exemption. Please tell me why??

    When you become elected official. Please understand that you gave up your rights to having privacy. This includes you PJ.

    You need to be truthful, and treat everyone accountable.

  26. Posted by Tooma on

    People make mistakes and learn from their mistakes. Step by step, more knowledge of the system includes all agreements. Background knowledge and hard work supports it all and you people is that. Keep it up.

  27. Posted by Latest results are easy to see. on

    Saviqaatuq, you just have one savik now, who is no better than monk. So stop try to us all that. You will get over that.


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