Nunavut MLAs get ready to pick premier, cabinet
As members of Nunavut's third legislative assembly prepare to decide who will lead the territory for the next four years, rumours and intense lobbying abound in the contest for the top job.
Eighteen MLAs, either newly elected or re-elected in the Oct. 27 territorial election, will meet in Iqaluit on Friday morning for the Nunavut Leadership Forum, where they will select a speaker, cabinet and premier among their own ranks.
The forum, a characteristic of Nunavut's consensus style of government, has been a pivotal part of its politics since Nunavut was created in 1999.
Paul Okalik has been premier since 1999, and he has made it clear that he wants to secure an unprecedented third term.
"When I started out on my first term, I said I'm not in it for the short haul," Okalik told CBC News on election night, as his re-election was confirmed.
"I'm here to produce some results, some long-term results," he added.
Other MLAs rumoured to be challenging Okalik include veteran politician Tagak Curley, who was acclaimed in the Rankin Inlet North constituency this year, and newly elected MLA Eva Aariak of Iqaluit East.
But as speculation swells, the MLAs vying to be premier or a cabinet minister are working behind the scenes this week to shore up support from their fellow MLAs.
"Most people don't know each other, so you're trying to get a feel for who each other are, what their backgrounds are, how they might fit in as a cabinet member or work as a team," Keith Peterson, who won his second term as Cambridge Bay MLA by acclamation, told CBC News on Wednesday.
"So [to] try to figure all of that out in a short period of time is very, very stressful."
The lobbying starts as early as election night, said former Iqaluit MLA Ed Picco, who decided not to seek re-election this year.
"Someone who might want to be a premier might say, 'OK, what would you like to be? If you're lucky enough to get into cabinet, and I'm the premier, and if all those things happen, would you like to be education minister, would you like to be health minister?'" Picco said.
Hunter Tootoo, who has represented Iqaluit Centre since 1999, said a lot of lobbying is going on in between the orientation sessions for new MLAs, which began last week.
"People are paraded in and out of people's offices and being sugar-coated, and I would imagine [being] promised things," Tootoo said.
The clerk of the legislative assembly said no guidelines exist on what can be said or promised in the period leading up to a leadership forum.
The forum will begin at 10 a.m. ET Friday at the legislature. The event is open to the public, and it will also be broadcast live across Nunavut on local community cable channels.
The speaker will be selected first that morning. Then the MLAs running for premier will make speeches and answer questions from other members before the MLAs, excluding the speaker, vote by secret ballot.
After that, a similar procedure will take place for MLAs vying for six of seven cabinet spots.
MLAs decided last week to leave one of the seven cabinet spots unfilled until early next year, so that the MLA for Akulliq could take part in the race for that seat. The Akulliq MLA will be elected in a byelection scheduled for Dec. 15.