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Education key to progress, self-reliance, says premier

Premier Joe Savikataaq, the first from the Kivalliq region, made his first stop in Rankin Inlet since assuming the territory’s top position this past week.

Savikataaq officially opened the Kivalliq Regional Visitor's Centre and addressed the members of the Kivalliq Chamber of Commerce during his brief, but busy, stop.

Premier Joe Savikataaq, the first from the Kivalliq region, makes a point while addressing the Kivalliq Chamber of Commerce in Rankin Inlet on June 18. Darrell Greer/NNSL photo

Savikataaq tossed his prepared speech to the side and addressed the Chamber members from the heart.

I'm so proud that I was elected premier and I'm extra proud that I'm the first Kivalliq premier,” he said. “I will do my best to make sure that Nunavut prospers. I have a different style than the previous premier – that's neither good nor bad, just a fact – a different perspective on stuff and a different way of doing things.”

The Government of Nunavut (GN) will be continuing with its current mandate, he said.

It just wouldn't make any sense to deviate from it,” said Savikataaq. “Even though four years can seem like a long time, at times, in the world of government it's not. It's a snap of a finger. By the time you plan stuff, and then want to do stuff, you're almost at the end all ready, so we're going to go with that (current mandate).”

Savikataaq told the chamber the government is here to support them and that chamber members play a vital role in employment and economics in the various communities. He spoke about the need to train citizens to take advantage of opportunities in the mining industry.

The mining industry is only growing here and in order for us to get the jobs that are coming, we have to train people to be ready for them,” he said. “If we wait, we'll miss the boat and our opportunities to get employment will be gone, or dramatically lessened.”

After finishing his chamber address, Savikataaq consented to his first personal print interview as premier in his home region with Kivalliq News.

Savikataaq said it had only been a relatively short period of time since the chaos of the previous week that saw former premier Paul Quasa lose a non-confidence vote, which allowed him to become Nunavut's first Kivalliq premier – but from this point on, he said, things can only get better with both cabinet and caucus members.

We haven't had much time to talk because they all left the very next day,” said Savikataaq. “But I did tell them that I'm a team player, and I'll be working with them in what I believe will be a good working relationship.”

Savikataaq declined to discuss one of his first official acts as premier, which was the removal of Paul Okalik as Nunavut's chief negotiator of devolution, and restoring Simon Awa back to the position he had held for four years before being removed by Quassa just a week earlier.

He said his top priorities are to bring the elders home to be cared for in Nunavut and to have mental health, trauma and addictions centres established in the territory.

Another of my priorities is to get more housing, which has been an issue since the creation of Nunavut,” he said. “We just don't have enough housing and it's very stressful for so many people in small areas.”

Savikataaq said he's confident the majority of Nunavummiut will still have confidence in the government following the non-confidence vote on Quassa.

Everyone saw the numbers in the vote, and it was pretty decisive in the assembly itself with the MLAs,” he said.

When asked if he had one message above all for Nunavummiut as he begins his term as premier, Savikataaq said, “Help us in the government to get Nunavummiut employable.”

Go to school, stay in school, get training – get yourself educated so you can come to work for the government, or anyone else you want to work for,” he said. “The key is to get yourself educated so you can get the good jobs that are there. And when I say education I don't mean just Grade 12, which is just a stepping stone to becoming a nurse, a doctor, a carpenter, an accountant, any of the trades – whatever you want.”

Education truly is the key to forward progress for Nunavut to gain good self-reliance, and for many more Nunavummiut to feel good because they support themselves and their families – and when you feel good, your outlook on life is much better."