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Nunavut legislature saw 'more openness' in winter sitting, says MLA

Nunavut MLAs are heading back to their communities after an eventful winter sitting, where a new MLA was sworn in, a veteran lawmaker resigned from cabinet and several ministers gained new portfolios.

Regular members getting better answers from cabinet ministers, says Pat Angnakak

Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak says MLAs were getting better answers from cabinet ministers in this sitting. (CBC)

Nunavut MLAs are heading back to their communities after an eventful winter sitting, where a new MLA was sworn in, a veteran lawmaker resigned from cabinet and several ministers gained new portfolios.

Last sitting, Jeannie Ugyuk failed a confidence vote and resigned from the Nunavut Legislative Assembly, causing two MLAs — Joe Savikataaq and George Hickes — to be appointed cabinet ministers and given portfolios.

"The view is quite different," said Savikataaq about his first sitting on the other side of the chamber as minister of Community and Government Services. 

"It was hard at times, but I've dug hard into my department and learned all the stuff I need to know."

The sitting, which touched on controversial issues such as a proposed beer and wine store and Nunavut's new position on protecting caribou calving grounds, also saw members of the cabinet show "more openness," according to Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak. 

"One of the problems that we felt earlier, before Mr. Savikataaq and Mr. Hickes became ministers, was that we didn't feel we were getting the answers," said Angnakak.

"But now with their help and now that the old members are perhaps more at ease in their own jobs, this sitting, for myself personally, I have felt that we've seen better replies which tell us where things stand."

'They will get an answer'

Savikataaq said when he asked to be minister he pledged to be open and provide answers whenever possible. 

"I'm doing my best to do that," he said.

Joe Savikataaq, minister of Community and Government Services, said he's doing his best to be open and provide answers to regular MLAs, as he pledged before being selected to cabinet last fall. (CBC)

"Hopefully, the members that ask them are satisfied with the answers that I get. They won't all be satisfied, because it might not be the answer they want, but they will get an answer."

Once Paul Okalik resigned from cabinet earlier this month, he began pushing hard for answers on a number of issues, including caribou management and sustainability projects — many of which have a territorial focus, rather than a direct connection to his Iqaluit constituency. 

Over the course of this longest sitting of the year, the committee of the whole did a line-by-line review of the Main Estimates for each government department.

Savikataaq said that experience challenged his knowledge of the department. 

"That committee of the whole was a good grilling and I thank the members for the good questions they had," he said. "It took, I think, it was three and a half days."

MLAs return home

Now, the MLAs will head back to their home communities to catch up on the work in their constituencies, said Angnakak. 

"We're very busy in the mornings reviewing bills and reviewing draft main estimates and then in the afternoon we come into the house and then we ask all those questions."

The next sitting is set to begin May 30. 

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