The cabinet review: what was said

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

ANNETTE BOURGEOIS
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT Cabinet ministers are too secretive and must be more forthcoming to the legislative assembly and the public at large.

That was the message MLAs sent to cabinet ministers during a two-day review of their performance last week.

“Charges asking and demanding ministerial resignations, answered with a deafening silence, is not acceptable,” Iqaluit MLA Ed Picco told Premier Don Morin early in the review process last Wednesday. “Public money, spent for the public good, has to be transparent and accountable.

“The premier has to work on making this government more open and transparent. The innuendo of ongoing RCMP investigations, of sole-sourced contracts awarded to friends, of jobs being filled through nepotistic means, has to end.”

Groenewegen offered the same advice to Health Minister Kelvin Ng.

“There are times that either other members or myself ask the minister questions and I do not feel that we get the most direct answer,” she told Ng.

Health board messes ignored

During his time on the hot seat, Ng was grilled on his decision to eliminate the compassionate travel allowance for everyone but those accompanying minors, but few MLAs bothered to question the minister on the recent controversy about decisions made by both the Keewatin and Baffin regional health boards.

MLAs instead wanted to know the status of issues such as the midwifery program and the status of bringing home patients from southern institutions, which they raised during the past two years.

In relation to Finance Minister John Todd’s performance, Nunakput MLA Vince Steen voiced his dissatisfaction about budget cuts that were made to balance the books.

“I question whether this government really has the backbone to face up to issues that really need to be addressed,” Steen said.

“There is no doubt we had the backbone to cut small guys, and cut jobs. That was no problem at all. We cut programs and services, but not big guys. And we still have not done it. I am not really all that optimistic that I am going to see any new changes to this particular government in the next two years.”

But when Todd took the hot seat, the questions dealt with his report tabled in the legslative assembly outlining transition costs leading to the division of the territories. MLAs wanted assurances that the federal government would live up to its agreement to provide the necessary funding.

“The federal government committed to reasonable incremental costs,” Todd answered. “Our task has been, and mine has been, to identify what those incremental costs are going to be.

“I have got to assume, and I know there is always a danger of assuming, that our arguments are strong enough that the federal commitment is strong enough that we will be able to move forward to reach the level of financing and the level of comfort we all need that will bring the incremental costs to the new formulas and ensure services continue at the level we have been used to.”

Arlooktoo grilled on Keewatin pipelines

MLAs were more enthusiastic when questioning Public Works Minister Goo Arlooktoo about a request for proposals for the construction of pipelines in four Keewatin communities.

Members complained the minister has, for the most part, excluded the public from the process.

“The minister admitted there has been consultation,” said Kivallivik MLA Kevin O’Brien. “It is obvious it is not satisfactory because we would not have the Keewatin Chamber of Commerce, along with the mayors of Arviat, Baker Lake, and other communities saying well, wait now guys, just hang on a second here. We would like to study this more.”

Arlooktoo fended off a barrage of questions for nearly two hours.

In his remarks, Premier Morin admitted not everyone has agreed with the decisions his cabinet has made.

“Overall, I know that some of you may not agree with some of the decisions we have made or with the way we have done things, but there are no right and wrong answers. We can only do what we believe is the right thing at the right time and I believe the thing is that we respect each other and continue to trust in each other just as our constituents trusted in us.”

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