Nunavut MLAs will vote Thursday on whether to remove Quassa as Premier

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Seven months after being elected premier after one round of votes, Paul Quassa will see MLAs debate and vote on whether he should be stripped of his powers June 14.

photo courtesy of Michel Albert
Veteran politician Paul Quassa, seen here moments after MLAs chose him to be Nunavut’s fourth premier after one round of votes at the Nov. 17 leadership forum, may not be premier past Thursday if Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main and other regular members pass a non-confidence motion.

Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main, who is chairperson of the regular members’ caucus of the legislative assembly, gave notice Tuesday, June 12 that he will make a motion to remove Quassa from the executive council.

The motion is seconded by Gjoa Haven MLA Tony Akoak.

Regular members have been hard-hitting this spring session, raising questions about the government’s expenditures at the Northern Lights conference held earlier this year in Ottawa, its stance on the Grays Bay road and port project, domestic abuse and sexual assault, and generally calling into question Nunavut’s leadership on a variety of issues.

While Main did not divulge his reason for the motion, it’s the Northern Lights conference expenditures, which Main first raised in the legislative assembly in March, that seemed to receive repeated attention. It has since been revealed the GN spent $572,000.

Specifically, on June 11, in what appeared to be an organized offensive, regular MLAs asked ministers one by one, “Were you directed to attend the Northern Lights Conference, yes or no?”

Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA Georges Hicks asked Minister of Economic Development and Transportation Joe Savikataaq. Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Lightstone asked Minister of Justice Jeannie Ehaloak. Aivilik MLA Patterk Netser asked Minister of Community and Government Services Lorne Kusugak. Rankin Inlet North – Chesterfield Inlet MLA Cathy Towtongie asked Finance Minister David Akeeagok. Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk asked Education Minister David Joanasie. Main asked Health Minister Pat Angnakak.

Minister of Family Services Elisapee Sheutiapik was absent on that day.

All cabinet members replied in various ways in the affirmative.

The topic first arose at the previous sitting in March, when Quassa declared the Northern Lights Conference, co-organized by the Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Labrador North Chamber of Commerce, a success.

“This year there was a strong Government of Nunavut contingent to promote economic development, tourism, environment and industry developments in our territory at various conference sessions and trade show events,” said Quassa.

“Each of our cabinet ministers attended Northern Lights to participate in conference sessions and to capitalize on the opportunity to meet with federal counterparts and key stakeholders while in Ottawa.”

Two days later, on March 9, Main asked Quassa who made the decision that all of cabinet should attend the Ottawa conference.

“As we’re aware, as the Nunavut government, the funding is insufficient every fiscal year. Constituents are waiting for more housing and infrastructure. We lack all of it. When we come here to represent the people in our constituencies in the legislative assembly, this is our very concern to make sure we’re managing our funds properly,” said Main.

“There are hungry people in my communities and to feed 600 people in Ottawa (on Nunavut Night) on the government dime, I think, needs to be well-justified. All of our expenditures need to be well-justified.”

There are 13 regular members and eight  members on the executive council, including Quassa. Speaker Joe Enook votes only in the event of a tie.

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Michele LeTourneau first arrived at NNSL's headquarters in Yellowknife in1998, with a BA honours in Theatre. For four years she documented the arts across the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Following a very short stint as a communications officer with the Government of the Northwest Territories, Michele spent a decade at a community-based environmental monitoring board in the mining industry, where she worked with Inuit, Chipewyan, Tlicho, Yellowknives Dene and Metis elders to help develop traditional knowledge and Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit contributions for monitoring and management plans. She rejoined NNSL and moved to Iqaluit in May 2014 to write for Nunavut News. Michele has received a dozen awards for her work with NNSL.