Arviat’s Joe Savikataaq is Nunavut’s new premier after a non-confidence vote ousted former premier Paul Quassa this past Thursday, June 14, in Iqaluit.
Savikataaq came out ahead of Rankin Inlet’s Lorne Kusugak in the second round of voting to name a new premier.
The event marked the first time a Nunavut premier was ousted by a non-confidence vote, with Quassa only seven months into his term.
It also marks the first time a Kivalliq representative has been named Nunavut premier.
Quassa lost the vote to the motion to have him removed by a count of 16-3, with only finance minister David Akeeagok and Kugluktuk MLA Mila Kamingoak voting against the motion along with Quassa, who now becomes a regular MLA.
Members Margaret Nakashuk and Joelie Kaernerk abstained.
Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main chaired the regular member’s caucus and brought the non-confidence motion forward.
Main said bringing the non-confidence motion forward and the subsequent effects of that action was a taxing time for everyone involved.
“It wasn’t a happy occasion when it came to the non-confidence motion,” said Main. “It was quite sombre, which should be apparent from everyone’s remarks, but we did what we felt was right and only time will tell if it was the right decision for Nunavut or not.”
Much was made about the reasons orated by the members for bringing the motion forward, with many Nunavummiut expressing concerns on social media that not enough information behind the reasoning was made public.
Main said the issue of overspending at the Northern Lights Conference and Trade Show in Ottawa would not have been enough on its own to justify the non-confidence motion.
“But, at his point in time, there was a collective feeling that it was the right thing to do and, hopefully, time will prove us correct,” he said.
He said he wouldn’t have voted the way he did if the only issue had been the conference, which saw the government of Nunavut spend more than $572,000 to send dozens of officials to the four-day event in February.
“It wasn’t about any one issue, or any one project, or any one department or any one pet project – it was about leadership,” said Main. “Leadership is this big nebulous thing that is so multifaceted and, having the utmost respect for Mr. Quassa, a collective decision has been made to not delve into each individual issue because, at the end of the day, we’re still going to have to work with Mr. Quassa in his role as a regular MLA.”
“The vote speaks for itself in that the issue was leadership, and leadership is about how you conduct yourself in the office, how you make decisions and how you communicate with others. It’s a big thing.
“I’ll just leave it at that.”
Main said it’s still too early to express his thoughts or feelings on Arviat South MLA Joe Savikataaq being named premier.
He said the past week was so intense, he’s not really feeling much about anything right now.
“It’s like I’m still in a bit of shock. It was all so stressful that I don’t think I’ve really processed it all in its entirety yet,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for Mr. Quassa in terms of his experience and what he’s helped to do for Nunavut, so, in that regard, it’s still a bit too soon in terms of my feelings on the new premier.”
Between the three candidates who put their names forward to become premier (Savikataaq, Kusugak and Patterk Netser – all Kivalliqmiut), the leadership forum was a healthy exercise with even the candidates who didn’t get the job as premier making some good points, he said.
“I think there was a bit of consensus building through that exercise with all three candidates answering along the same lines to a number of questions, so you could see during the leadership forum that all ready in the house we are starting to heal from this – and that is what’s going to have to happen because there were a lot of raw emotions and hurt feelings involved during the process,” said Main. “At the end of the day we’re just people, and we try to keep that in-mind in the house and be respectful of one another because if you can’t realize that, you’re doing something wrong.”