One ballot is all it took for Nunavut’s newest assembly to elect Paul Quassa as Premier.
The elder statesman was chosen to lead for the next four years over three other candidates: Patterk Netser, Joe Savikataaq and Cathy Towtongie.
“I am out of words,” he said, after his win was announced.
New Speaker Joe Enook directed the leadership forum.
After Quassa’s win, announced around the dinner hour, came the election of seven cabinet ministers from a field of 13. They are: David Akeeagok, Pat Angnakak, Jeannie Ehaloak, David Joanasie, Lorne Kusugak, Joe Savikataaq and Elisapee Sheutiapik.
Quassa’s first task will be to assign each of them the portfolios of government.
The challenging work ahead for this assembly was shown in the pointed questions MLA asked the four candidates for premier over a grueling seven hours, with few breaks.
Recurring issues included: the Education Act, capital spending priorities, infrastructure, service and program delivery to communities, elder care, the GN as a positive workplace, balancing environment and development, the national carbon tax, the state of decentralization in the territory, reducing the territory’s use of fossil fuels, and a representative workforce.
With three of the four candidates for premier from the Kivalliq region, Aggu’s Quassa emphasized his lineage, which he traced to all three regions, stressing his knowledge of the territory as a whole.
“Understanding Nunavut as a whole is important, that’s my strong point,” he said.
Savikataaq, often showing his ease and humour, remained consistent throughout the day, using his past experience both as a regular MLA and as a cabinet minister to make his point that, “It’s not a dictatorship, it’s a team effort.”
Towtongie spoke of her own past leadership experiences at the regional, territorial, national and international level, and provided examples on how she would address territorial issues.
Similarly, Netser, an MLA from 2004 to 2008, drew on past experience to prove his case.
Candidates, on the hot seat to come up with immediate solutions to issues raised during the election, such as housing, mental health and addictions, and elder care, were often vague and ranged off-topic.
Unsurprisingly, the Education Act came up throughout the day, as the current legislation’s deadline for an Inuit language and either English or French for all students by the 2019-20 school year will create problems for the 5th assembly. None of the candidates for premier could supply a ready solution.
The swearing-in ceremony for members of the 5th Legislative Assembly is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Nov. 21, with formal motions to confirm the appointments of the Speaker, Premier and Cabinet scheduled for that afternoon starting at 1:30 p.m.