If there was any backroom conspiracy to bring down former premier Paul Quassa, cabinet wasn’t part of it, says the politician who succeeded him.
“If he (Quassa) truly believes he was blindsided with the motion (to remove him) then we were too. Cabinet was not aware that the motion was going to be what it was. We had no idea of it either,” said Joe Savikataaq, who served as deputy premier and a cabinet minister under Quassa.
John Main, Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA, introduced the non-confidence motion that led to a 16-3 count in favour of evicting Quassa from the premier’s office on June 14. The only cabinet member to vote in Quassa’s favour was David Akeeagok.
The overwhelming outcome of the vote reveals that all was not well, said Savikataaq.
It was Quassa’s leadership style that convinced Savikataaq to cast a ballot in favour of ousting the premier, he said.
“It wasn’t functioning well. There was issues with his leadership style. To make it very clear, this was not a vote against Paul Quassa the person, it was on his style of leadership and how he was leading the government,” said Savikataaq. “I figured that there was definitely issues, but after the vote I went to shake Paul Quassa’s hand and I told him that there was no winners in this vote.”
Asked whether he had personally communicated his disapproval of Quassa’s leadership style to the premier himself prior to the vote, Savikataaq replied, “I may or may not have,” but then cited cabinet confidentiality.
“There’s not a whole lot I can say,” he said. “I hope you understand that. If I breach cabinet confidentiality then I’d be gone.”
He offered some praise for his predecessor.
“He’s done good work. I’m not here to put him down. I’m not going to say, ‘He said/I said,” and all that,” said Savikataaq. “He’s going to say what he wants, and all I can say is the vote should speak for itself.”
Savikataaq pledged to be “more of a team player” who will improve communications overall.
“You have to have everyone on the same page and then we can get to our common goal,” he said.
The new premier said he’s comfortable with Nunavut’s governance system and knowing that he too is subject to suddenly losing his status.
“That’s the conditions we work under, yes. It’s consensus government. At any time if the regular members so choose to remove the premier, or any one of the ministers, or the speaker, that’s one of their rights,” he said. “They (the regular MLAs) have the majority votes.”
Savikataaq reiterated that he feels humbled and honoured to serve as premier.
The Turaaqtavut mandate, established during Quassa’s tenure, is still in place, he added. Under Turaaqtavut, these are the goals the GN has committed to working towards from 2018-2021:
-working towards the well-being and self-reliance of Nunavummiut through Inuusivut
-developing our infrastructure and economy in ways that support a positive future for our people, our communities, and our land through Pivaallirutivut
-providing education and training that prepares children, youth and adults for positive contributions to society and for meaningful employment through Sivummuaqpalliajjutivut
-strengthening Nunavut as a distinct territory in Canada and the world through Inuunivut
-working in partnership to advance the goals and aspirations of Nunavummiut through Katujjiqatigiinnivut