Publicly-elected premier a non-issue

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It really seems like just yesterday when the birth of Canada’s newest territory was fast approaching the horizon of reality, and consensus government (and if I may) of, for and by the people was set to reach new heights in Nunavut (Our Land).

It was to be a territory of one voice for the people, with the majority having its say on all major political decisions that shaped the future of our territory.

It was, of course, in this age of majority rules, wishful thinking and, today, in many ways, Iqaluit has simply replaced Yellowknife in the role of the evil empire that gets far more than its share of what the territorial government has to offer.

The dream, as Mr. John Lennon so aptly put it four decades ago, is over.

And, today, if we are to take a huge step toward the American style of state governance with our premier being separate from the legislative assembly – my two bold predictions are that the first publicly-elected premier will be from the Baffin and it’s only a matter of time before we have our own version of a Mr. Doug Ford or (love him, or despise him) Mr. Donald Trump heading our territory.

It doesn’t appear on the surface that former premier Paul Quassa has much support within the ranks of the Government of Nunavut (GN) for the Nunavut-wide plebiscite he proposes on the question of whether Nunavut’s premier should be elected directly by the public.

If we must vault this higher on the priority scale than the many legitimate concerns and challenges the GN should be dealing with during its time together – it cannot even be considered without an absolutely infallible fail safe (not as easy as you might think) in place to remove a premier who has gone power mad, or has misplaced his/her moral compass, and we cannot ignore the imbalance of power when it comes to the potential voting numbers in Nunavut’s three regions and how they favour the Baffin.

The move to a publicly-elected premier would also serve to tie one hand behind the back of our elected MLAs in dealing with governmental matters, who have a difficult time enough as it is in representing the constituents of their many small communities.

And, when one looks at Canada as a whole, our premier is at the bottom of the list when it comes to the power he/she wields in the provincial and territorial governments they preside over.

So, if we’re going to have a conversation on changing that, better our time is taken-up discussing a move to party politics and the tweaking of the first-past-the-post system that governs our elections.

In consensus government, one of the most overlooked – yet of paramount importance – duties of our elected MLAs is to provide the proper checks and balances when it comes to the policies and decisions of the GN.

That duty cannot be removed or weakened no matter which direction the GN ultimately decides to take with this matter.

To do so would be Nunavut starting to lay the pavement on its own ultimate road to ruin.

If there’s something history has tried to show us time and time again it’s that power corrupts, human beings often give-in to the power of temptation, and the road to ruin truly is paved with good intentions.

I’ve purposefully tried to avoid using the word dictator in this piece, as some words just have the inherent strength in their meaning to inspire fear, but, make no mistake about it, without the proper fail safes in place, moving a publicly-elected premier to the front burner of our territorial cooker will have a pot of dictatorship slowly begin to simmer out of sight on our back burner.

From suicide to a housing crisis, food insecurity, rampant unemployment and health care and education systems in disarray (to be polite), the GN has more pressing issues to concern itself with than something that is, basically, a non-issue.

Even if it was all sunshine and tuktu in Nunavut, there is no need for time and money – and it will be a lot – to be wasted on the creation of yet another popularity contest that comes with the stacked deck of the numbers superiority of the Baffin electorate.

Food for thought!