In explosive speech, Pat Angnakak resigns from Nunavut cabinet
Will stay on as regular MLA, portfolios removed after premier accused her of breaking cabinet confidentiality
Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak has resigned from Nunavut's cabinet, one day after being stripped of her duties as the minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corporation and the minister responsible for the Qulliq Energy Corporation.
Angnakak announced her resignation Thursday afternoon in Nunavut's legislature, giving an explosive speech questioning the leadership of Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq.
On Wednesday, Savikataaq announced that Angnakak had been stripped of her portfolios, saying that she had breached cabinet confidentiality when answering questions in the legislature Tuesday about staff housing for government employees.
"Yesterday represented the worst day of my political and working career," said Angnakak. "To have the premier publicly declare ... I cannot be trusted, and put our consensus-based government in jeopardy, is something that really shook me."
This matter snowballed into borderline hysteria and a few individuals reacted with venom.- MLA Pat Angnakak
In her speech, Angnakak said she spoke with Savikataaq before question period Tuesday, and that he told her to check with his staff on what she could and could not say.
After meeting with staff, "I proceeded to the legislature with the understanding that I could share the information as discussed," she said. "However, since then this matter snowballed into borderline hysteria and a few individuals reacted with venom.
"Given the toxic environment and the reactions created, it appears the premier's staff no longer recall our discussion, and as the premier told me, he needs to be seen taking action on this now, so that he can't be criticized by any of our colleagues later."
Angnakak will stay on as a regular MLA, she said.
'I believe a double standard is in effect'
During her remarks, Angnakak referenced an August cabinet shuffle, where she was moved from minister of health to her housing and energy corporation responsibilities. Angnakak blamed the shuffle on "an effort by a few senior officials" to have her removed from the health portfolio.
"At that time, the premier told me he was going to strip me of my portfolio and suggested I simply resign because he believed a senior official and I were having too many policy disagreements and that I looked 'tired' and exhausted,'" she said.
"I let him know that I did not accept that premise and that I would not resign under those circumstances."
Angnakak said she was "incredibly disheartened with the whole turn of events ... and the lack of explanation or legitimate rationale for the shuffle."
I doubt [the premier] would use those words with one of our male colleagues. And in that regard, I do believe a double standard is in effect.- Pat Angnakak
"In my view, if you're doing your job ... serving in a portfolio as crucial as health, you probably should look tired. However, I doubt he would use those words with one of our male colleagues. And in that regard, I do believe a double standard is in effect."
In an interview with CBC News, Savikataaq was adamant he does not treat Angnakak any differently because of her gender. He did admit to telling her that she looks tired, but suggests she misinterpreted the comment.
"I did tell her she looks worn out," he said.
"But that's because I care about all my ministers. It wasn't in terms of, 'You're so tired out, I think you should resign.' It was more, 'I know you're working hard' ... it was a gesture of caring."
At the time of the shuffle, Savikataaq said that his decisions were made after determining "the strengths and abilities of all members of cabinet" following his first two months as premier.
"Let's be clear," said Angnakak. "I did not commit a breach of cabinet confidence ... I gave honest answers to my colleague's questions in the House. I did so after directly raising the matter with the premier and his staff."
Savikataaq defends decision
Earlier on Thursday, Savikataaq defended his decision to strip Angnakak of her portfolios, comparing her situation to that of Education Minister David Joanasie, who breached cabinet confidentiality in September when a memo was sent to Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. outlining plans to amend the territory's Education Act.
Savikataaq said Joanasie's breach was different than Angnakak's, in that it was out of his control — saying that the memo was sent by a staff member without Joanasie's knowledge — and Joanasie promptly apologized and owned his mistake.
Angnakak, in contrast, made the choice to breach cabinet confidentiality, Savikataaq said.
Former premier Paul Quassa, who was removed from his post earlier this year, asked Savikataaq whether ministers are held responsible for any breach, before saying that Angnakak was not treated fairly.
Savikataaq responded by saying accountability is different, depending on the circumstances.
"If the minister is in control and the minister chooses to do it, whether it was a misunderstanding, or they just chose to do it, I see it as someone who's not in control of the situation," he said, as Angnakak sat beside him.
It worries me.- MLA Paul Quassa
In an interview with CBC News, Quassa said it was good to hear the other side of the story from Angnakak. He called for consistency in the way cabinet breaches are dealt with.
"I'm just wondering how many more breaches are going to take place within the life of this government?" he said. "It worries me. Worries me as to how they will be treated individually. Will it be consistent?"
According to Savikataaq, there will be a leadership forum where MLAs can put their names forward to join cabinet, and caucus will vote. A date for that hasn't been set.
With files from Nick Murray