Nu­navut premier ousted

National Post (Latest Edition) - - NEWS - ADRIAN HUMPHREYS

The premier of Nu­navut, leader of the north­ern ter­ri­tory’s un­usual con­sen­sus gov­ern­ment, has been ejected from of­fice by a wide ma­jor­ity of his col­leagues, in­clud­ing al­most all of his own cab­i­net mem­bers.

Paul Quassa, a vet­eran Inuit politi­cian and for­mer CBC North broad­caster, was only sworn in as Nu­navut’s fourth premier in Novem­ber.

The non-con­fi­dence vote re­mov­ing him as premier passed with wide sup­port: 16 of the 21 vot­ing mem­bers of the leg­is­la­ture sup­ported the mo­tion — in­clud­ing six of his seven cab­i­net mem­bers, the deputy premier among them. Three voted against the mo­tion (in­clud­ing Quassa) and two ab­stained, ac­cord­ing to John Quirke, clerk of the assem­bly.

Quassa re­mains a mem­ber of the assem­bly.

Mem­bers of the leg­isla­tive assem­bly picked Joe Savikataaq, the deputy premier in Quassa’s cab­i­net, to re­place Quassa. He promised to work with his col­leagues.

The un­prece­dented move un­furled with lit­tle fan­fare.

On Tuesday, John Main, a rookie MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove, who chairs the non-cab­i­net mem­bers cau­cus, stood in the leg­is­la­ture and gave no­tice that on Thursday he would ask that the premier be re­moved from of­fice.

To which the speaker of the assem­bly sim­ply replied: “Thank you. No­tices of Mo­tions. Mov­ing on.”

That no­tice for a non­con­fi­dence vote was re­quired be­fore Thursday’s vote.

The brief de­bate over the vote pro­vided few specifics of why mem­bers were so riled up.

“This is about lead­er­ship,” said Main, “this is not about any one pro­ject, any one dis­pute, any one is­sue.

“There’s been a ten­dency to an au­to­cratic style of lead­ing, which clashes with our con­sen­sus style of gov­ern­ment.”

Main said Quassa also mis­led the House.

Ge­orge Hickes, who rep­re­sents an Iqaluit rid­ing, sup­ported the non-con­fi­dence mo­tion.“It’s about lead­er­ship,” he said.

“Ev­ery one of us has a say on who sits on which side of this House.”

Adam Light­stone, an­other Iqaluit MLA, said his con­stituents were telling him Quassa had to go.

“They’ve spo­ken of the di­rec­tion that this gov­ern­ment is mov­ing in and fear of how it may im­pact our ter­ri­tory.”

Quassa ad­dressed mem­bers al­most en­tirely in Inuk­ti­tut, but added in English: “I re­spect each and ev­ery elected MLA.”

He did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment prior to dead­line.

Quassa has been crit­i­cized for spend­ing more than $500,000 for rep­re­sen­ta­tives to at­tend an Arc­tic trade show in Ottawa and for with­draw­ing sup­port for a re­quest to Ottawa for mil­lions to build a road from the cen­tral Arc­tic coast into the min­eral-rich heart of the ter­ri­tory.

The Nu­navut leg­is­la­ture, branded a con­sen­sus gov­ern­ment, has no po­lit­i­cal par­ties. Each of the 22 mem­bers is elected as an in­de­pen­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tive and then gather to se­lect a premier, speaker and cab­i­net mem­bers from among them­selves.

The premier then as­signs port­fo­lios to the mem­bers cho­sen for cab­i­net. That process was re­peat­ing on Thursday.

Quassa, 66, was first elected in 2013, rep­re­sent­ing the con­stituency of Aggu. He was pre­vi­ously the min­is­ter of education, min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for Nu­navut Arc­tic Col­lege and gov­ern­ment House leader.

In the 1980s, he worked on the mas­sive land claims ne­go­ti­a­tions and was a sig­na­tory of the his­toric 1993 claims agree­ment and the for­mal cre­ation of Nu­navut as a sep­a­rate en­tity from the North­west Ter­ri­to­ries in 1999.

In Fe­bru­ary, af­ter his se­lec­tion as premier and a full cau­cus re­treat, Quassa un­veiled his gov­ern­ment’s pri­or­i­ties.

In his an­nounce­ment, he said the plan “re­flects a col­lab­o­ra­tive and col­lec­tive ap­proach to defin­ing our gov­ern­ment’s man­date.”

The pri­or­i­ties em­pha­sized: “com­mu­nity and so­cial well-be­ing”; de­vel­op­ing the econ­omy; strength­en­ing education; rec­og­niz­ing Nu­navut as a dis­tinct ter­ri­tory; and build­ing closer part­ner­ships with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and Inuit or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Main said at the time: “My col­leagues and I look for­ward to work­ing with the gov­ern­ment to achieve mea­sur­able re­sults for Nu­navum­miut” (the peo­ple of Nu­navut).

PAT KANE / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

Nu­navut MLA Paul Quassa was ousted as premier in the con­sen­sus gov­ern­ment which has no po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

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