The current political circus emanating from south of the border has drawn the attention of many Canadians. But breaking news came from Nunavut late Tuesday morning (June 12) indicating we have some political drama of our own– political drama that is very interesting but not featured prominently in mainstream southern Canadian media. Some Nunavut MLAs are attempting to have Premier Paul Quassa removed from his position and from cabinet.
The political maneuvering in this situation is different from what one would see in most of Canada, with the exception of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. These territories have a consensus system of government. With the consensus model, Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) are elected as independents – there are no political parties. Following a general election, MLAs gather together to select the Speaker, Premier and Ministers in a secret ballot election, which the public can observe. The Premier and Ministers hold office by maintaining the confidence of the Legislative Assembly. A motion of non-confidence in a specific Minister, if passed, would result in that Minister leaving cabinet.
A member of the Nunavut Legislature has indicated that he will rise in the legislature this Thursday (June 14) to introduce a motion to have the Premier removed from cabinet. There will be debate on the motion, followed by a vote. If a majority of MLAs vote in favour of the non-confidence motion, the Premier will be removed from his post and from cabinet. This will trigger a new leadership forum to select a new premier, which could also lead to other changes in the existing cabinet.
Canadians and in particular Nunavummiut should watch this situation unfold with keen interest because Nunavut needs serious and strong leadership to address numerous pressing and inter-related challenges. For example, most Canadians would be shocked to know a severe housing shortage in Nunavut leads to some situations where up to 23 people live a three-bedroom house – numbers we referred to in a recent review of the Nunavut Housing Corporation’s budget. Most Canadians would also be shocked to know the rate of tuberculosis (TB) in Nunavut is close to the rate of TB in Somalia.
For the remainder of this week, while watching the political drama south of the border, it’s important to look north as well.