Vote by MLAs adds 2 new members to cabinet
Joelie Kaernerk, Daniel Qavvik elected; premier expected to announce portfolios Monday
In a rare Saturday meeting, Nunavut legislative assembly members elected Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk and Hudson Bay MLA Daniel Qavvik as the territory’s new cabinet ministers.
In Nunavut’s consensus government, MLAs choose during a leadership conference who will serve in cabinet, and then the premier assigns the portfolios.
Kaernerk and Qavvik, along with Kugluktuk MLA Bobby Anavilok, were nominated and each gave their pitches about why they wanted to join the executive council.
Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA George Hickes chaired Saturday’s proceedings, allowing each of the three candidates to make a five-minute speech.
Uqqummiut MLA Mary Killiktee was also nominated, but declined to enter the race.
Over the course of the hour-long session, MLAs asked the three potential ministers questions about a number of topics, including health policy, moving to Iqaluit for work, lessons from elders and conflict resolution.
After that, members submitted their ballots.
Cambridge Bay MLA Pamela Hakongak Gross, who is on ministerial leave following the recent birth of her child, was present and submitted a proxy vote on behalf of the absent assembly speaker Gjoa Haven MLA Tony Akoak.
The vote totals were not read aloud, and the ballots were sent to be destroyed at the end of the meeting.
Both newly elected ministers thanked their families and communities for their support as they accepted their appointments.
Premier P.J. Akeeagok told reporters after the proceedings that he will meet with the newly elected ministers and figure out by Monday which portfolios they will be assigned.
“I’m really excited to welcome the two new members,” Akeeagok said.
“I just want to thank them as well as their families for allowing them to serve in this very honorable opportunity that we’re in.”
While the portfolios are not yet assigned, Kaernerk said he is eyeing the justice and heritage positions.
“I worked at the justice department and started out as a public trustee first and that’s where my experience [comes] into play,” he said.
Qavvik said he’s interested in being minister of the environment, as well as minister responsible for Nunavut Arctic College, which was his alma mater.
Both new ministers highlighted the importance of having their small home communities represented in cabinet: Kaernerk is originally from Sanirajak and Qavvik is from Sanikiluaq.
“I believe that smaller communities in Nunavut need to be represented within the executive council,” Qavvik said.
“It’s our responsibility to work together to achieve wants and needs.”
The legislative assembly will readjourn for its fall sitting starting Oct. 19.