Nunavut's political circles buzzing about changing consensus government

The discussions in the Northwest Territories about changes to the way consensus government works has some in Nunavut wondering about making similar moves.

‘I think it’s an idea whose time may be coming,’ says Jack Anawak

'I totally support the discussion that’s happening now,' said Eva Aariak, Nunavut’s second premier, 'and I hope that these discussions continue.' (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

The discussions in the Northwest Territories about changes to the way consensus government works has some in Nunavut wondering about making similar moves. 

In the N.W.T.'s recent territorial election many candidates campaigned on demands for more transparency, less power in the hands of the executive and a more collaborative approach to government.

And in a major innovation this year, candidates for N.W.T. premier stepped forward and made their pitches to the assembly on Wednesday, a week before the MLAs will vote by secret ballot, instead of on the same day. That change is making it possible for MLAs to consult their constituents on whom to choose as premier.    

These debates in N.W.T have ignited discussion in Nunavut's political circles.

'There would be more accountability by the governing party,' said Jack Anawak. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)
"We need to eventually find a system that best works for people and that is engaging them with a direct vote," said Tagak Curley a former MLA in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Curley said he would like to see Nunavut eventually adopt a party system that allows people to vote for premier.

A consensus-style government is not ideal as it makes it difficult for the government to have a cohesive plan of action, said Curley.

'Not sure whether Nunavut is ready'

"I think it's an idea whose time may be coming," said Jack Anawak, a former Nunavut MP who was involved in the establishment of the Nunavut government. 

"There would be more accountability by the governing party."

Anawak added that it's hard to hold the government accountable when every MLA is an independent.

Eva Aariak, Nunavut's second premier, said she's not surprised that these conversations are happening in the territory.

"I totally support the discussion that's happening now and I hope that these discussions continue," she said.

She added that in her travels she comes across many people from other jurisdictions who see Nunavut's consensus government as an asset.

Aariak said the party system may be alienating to some older voters who may not be familiar with a partisan government.

"I am not sure whether Nunavut is ready," she said.

Overall, Aariak said more discussion has to happen in terms of logistics to ensure that the transition works for Nunavut. 

With files from Jane Sponagle