Herb Nakimayak blames weather, bad timing, other job for MLA absences

A first-time Northwest Territories MLA has racked up a long list of absences early into his term and has resigned as chair of one committee.

Member for Nunakput says he does call in for meetings when he can't be there in person

Nunakput MLA Herb Nakimayak missed 21 committee meetings during a three-month span earlier this year, partly for 'personal reasons.' (CBC)

A first-time Northwest Territories MLA has racked up a long list of absences early into his term and has resigned as chair of one committee.

Herb Nakimayak, the MLA for Nunakput, was absent from one legislative assembly session and 21 meetings of the following standing committees between Feb. 19 to May 27, according to a report tabled in the assembly late last week:

  • nine meetings of the Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning;
  • six meetings of the Standing Committee on Government Operations;
  • five meetings of the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment, the committee Nakimayak chaired;
  • and one meeting of the Standing Committee on Social Development.

Nakimayak, who lives and has a constituency office in Paulatuk, recently resigned as chair of the economic development committee, says Barbara Abramchuk, a communications advisor for the legislative assembly.

In a brief email statement, Nakimayak blamed his absences on a combination of bad weather, bad timing and his other job as a vice-president of international affairs for the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC).

"Some days I'm weathered in at home," he said. "My region has limited flights out of the communities and most days it takes two travel days to get to and from the Nunakput communities [Tuktoyaktuk, Ulukhaktok, Sachs Harbour, and Paulatuk].

"Some meetings are scheduled when I'm in my constituency, so flying to Yellowknife for a one-day meeting isn't justifiable. I do call in when this is the case."

MLAs who call in to meetings are listed as being present, confirmed Abramchuk. 

Of his position with the ICC, Nakimayak added, "I represent 160,000 Inuit from Greenland, Chukotka, Russia, Alaska and Canada at the international level on issues such as the environment and human rights and it usually entails travel to other countries." 

He has also been absent from three session days since the legislature's summer sitting began on May 31.

"As an elected official, I take my role in representing the people of Nunakput very seriously, and am committed to working towards improving the lives of not just the residents in my riding, but all Northerners," he later added.  

Also a rep for Inuit Circumpolar Council 

After being elected by a four-vote margin following a recount in late November, Nakimayak posted solid meeting attendance up to mid-February, when his attendance began dropping off.

Among the three approved reasons for missing a meeting, "personal reasons" were cited for six of his absences, and "duty as a member, minister, premier or speaker" for the other 16 absences. 

According to Abramchuk, the latter category can refer to constituency work (like attending high school graduations) and duties as assigned by a minister, such as attending First Nation assemblies.

"Some of [his] absences were miscategorized and will be changed to personal reasons since he was involved with the Inuit Circumpolar Council of Canada," said Abramchuk.