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Nunavut’s cabinet censured, leadership forum for new cabinet member to be held Friday

Nunavut MLAs moved Monday to censure cabinet, after Premier Joe Savikataaq took away Pat Angnakak's cabinet portfolios for breaching cabinet confidentiality.

NNSL file photo
Premier Joe Savikataaq, seen here voting for premier after Paul Quassa's ouster in June, took fire from MLAs for stripping Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak of her cabinet portfolios Oct. 29 prior to a motion being carried to censure him and his cabinet.

A censure is a public reprimand to communicate disapproval.

Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet MLA Cathy Towtongie introduced the motion, citing a "double standard."

"I do not accept, or have difficulty accepting, the explanation from the premier that the breach of confidentiality by the former minister and member for Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu and the breach of confidentiality by the Minister of Education are not the same," she said.

Angnakak, who was minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corporation and the Qulliq Energy Corporation, read from a confidential cabinet communication to respond to a question in the assembly. Meanwhile, the public learned that in September a staff member for Education Minister David Joanasie breached confidentiality, with no fallout for the minister.

"I believe that all of the cabinet shares the blame for what I believe is a double standard and that is why all members of cabinet are being censured," said Towtongie.

Angnakak resigned from cabinet Oct. 25, once again joining the ranks of regular MLAs.

"Let’s be clear, I did not commit a breach of cabinet confidence," she said at the time.

"I did not breach national security, commit an act of treason, hurt or put anybody in danger. 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. I simply shared forward looking comments about items the government would consider in relation to staff housing."

The motion to censure carried after some discussion, with Lorne Kusugak the only minister to vote for the motion which resulted in 13 for the motion, six opposed, with one abstention.

Aggu MLA Paul Quassa, who was ousted as premier in June, added his voice.

"I have been hearing my constituents that speak of equality and fairness to all and to see a unified strategy from our government and its leaders.  I myself am not satisfied that this is currently being provided," he said.

This is not the first time Savikataaq raises cabinet confidentiality. Following Quassa's ouster, he refused to offer details regarding his disapproval of Quassa's leadership style.

"There's not a whole lot I can say.  I hope you understand that. If I breach cabinet confidentiality then I’d be gone," he said at the time.

Meanwhile, Angnakak, after clarifying that she was not responsible for the motion to censure cabinet, referenced the previous week's "drama", and noted, "the premier has once again gone out of his way to try and exploit that."

She said she was simply trying to honestly answer a question in the assembly when she shared the information from the cabinet paper, and that she had raised the issue with Savikataaq while holding that same document.

"I'm not trying to upset the apple cart, but I wouldn’t be telling the full truth if I pretended that I wasn’t frustrated or disappointed with the premier’s leadership, or still somewhat bitter about the level of control and blatant abuse he allowed a few senior officials to get away with," said Angnakak, adding she believes the lack of balance between elected officials and bureaucrats is shortchanging Nunavummiut.

"This motion speaks to providing opportunity to allow members to censure this government due to requirements to follow the law, to respect other people and to not misuse authority as a government, or even as fellow citizens," said Netsilik MLA Emiliano Qirngnuq.

Savikataaq took the opportunity to defend his decision, saying the cabinet backed his decision when he spoke to each of them, though Kusugak would later vote in favour of the motion to censure.

"There is accountability … Yes there is accountability, but there are different levels of accountability depending on what the situation is," Savikataaq said about the difference between the treatment of the Angnakak breach and the Joanasie staff breach.

As for Angnakak's answers to questions in the assembly, Savikataaq said, "We did not tell her she couldn't talk about the issue. We just told her, this is advice that was given to cabinet, therefore, she could talk about it, but not the specifics. She was given that advice."

Angnakak was answering questions about staff housing policies, divulging information Savikataaq said cabinet had not yet decided on. Savikataaq then read the oath ministers take regarding cabinet confidentiality.

Clerk of the assembly John Quirke announced Wednesday that a leadership forum will be held Nov. 2 to select a new minister.