Paul Quassa removed from Nunavut premiership

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Nunavut MLAs voted Thursday to remove Paul Quassa from the premiership, with ministers backing the regular MLA caucus motion in a 16-3 vote.

Veteran politician Paul Quassa is no longer Nunavut’s premier after a June 14 vote.
photo courtesy Michel Albert

Chair of the regular members’ caucus Arviat North – Whale Cove MLA John Main said there were two reasons – management and leadership. Main said the move was not made on personal grounds, but on professional grounds.

“There’s not been a lot of team effort,” Main said. “There’s been a tendency toward autocratic leadership. The second thing is integrity.”

“Statements were made during the leadership forum that created expectations and those expectations have not been met,” said Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA George Hickes. “It’s about leadership. We agreed not to hold a midterm leadership review – leadership is reviewed every day.”

Quassa is a long-time Nunavut MLA and minister, and the negotiator of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. This is the first time a Nunavut premier has been removed from office.

MLAs raised concerns about various issues, including overspending at the Northern Lights trade show. Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet MLA Cathy Towtongie pointed at Northern Lights limousine use as a sore point.

“On Northern lights, perhaps we spent too much and I apologize for that,” Quassa said.

He made a last-minute pitch to remain in the role, jabbing at the way this motion was brought forward with few details in the public.

“Nunavummiut have elected us to serve for for years,” he said. “Consensus is not working behind closed doors. It’s working in consensus.”

Main said the reasons were available in black and white in the hansard – the parliamentary record of proceedings – for all to read. The assembly will choose a new premier immediately.

More details to follow.

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Casey has worked in journalism for more than 20 years, and with Nunavut News since 2011. His work has taken him across the North: to every community in Nunavut's Qikiqtani and Kivalliq regions; to Yellowknife, NWT; to Whitehorse, Yukon, for the 2012 Arctic Winter Games; and to Fairbanks, Alaska, for the 2014 Arctic Winter Games. Casey is the two-time recipient of Canada's top national award for community newspaper reporting, most recently in 2015 for his work covering Iqaluit's dump fire. He was the project developer for NNSL's 2016 Arctic Winter Games website and app, which won regional honours for best online project. His editorial criticizing the GN's approach to bilingual education was named best in Canada in 2018.