Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut September 29, 2017 - 7:59 am

Nunavut cabinet minister Keith Peterson says no to another term

"Sometimes you just have to step aside"

JANE GEORGE
Keith Peterson, seen here in the doorway of his Cambridge Bay home, is leaving Nunavut political life. Peterson, minister of finance and justice, decided after 14 consecutive years as MLA that he would not run again for re-election in the Oct. 30 election. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Keith Peterson, seen here in the doorway of his Cambridge Bay home, is leaving Nunavut political life. Peterson, minister of finance and justice, decided after 14 consecutive years as MLA that he would not run again for re-election in the Oct. 30 election. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

CAMBRIDGE BAY—When the Nunavut Legislature convenes again in Iqaluit after the Oct. 30 election, a familiar face will be missing from the assembly chamber—that of the veteran cabinet minister and Cambridge Bay MLA, Keith Peterson.

Peterson said he made the hard decision not to put his name forward for re-election after serving nine years in cabinet and 14 years as MLA for the western Nunavut hub.

His length of service makes Peterson the MLA with the greatest number of consecutive years in the Nunavut legislature and the longest-serving finance minister in Canada.

He will continue to serve in cabinet as finance minister and justice minister until the new legislative assembly chooses a new cabinet, likely in mid-November.

“Sometimes you just have to step aside. You just get a feeling that it’s time to move on and let someone else step in with new directions, and ideas and that kind of thing,” said Peterson at his home in Cambridge Bay Sept. 28—a day before the close of the nomination period for the upcoming election.

Looking back at his years in public office, Peterson said he feels he had the best job in Canada, because it allowed him to help his community and the territory.

But it was time to leave “on my own terms,” Peterson said.

As for being finance minister, it’s a serious portfolio, he said.

“It’s not a job for the faint of heart. You have to have a lot of courage and backbone. You have to stand up and say ‘we can’t do this we can’t do that,’” he said, by way of advice to the incoming minister.

“You have to make tough decisions and people aren’t going to like you.”

Peterson laid out a pack of cards on his kitchen table that he had received as a joke gift at a government Christmas party, called the “just say no” cards.

Various cards bear printed messages on them like “it’s just not possible in the current economic situation,” or simply, “no”— a word he had to say often as finance minister.

When Peterson started as finance minister in 2008, the department was not in good shape, he said.

That changed over the nine years he served in that portfolio.

“I’m very proud we got our finances in order and got our public accounts out on time,” he said. “It’s very critical to have a good credit rating, so we can actually do stuff.”

That also allows, for example, the territorial government to find money when disaster strikes, such as when Kugaaruk’s school burned down last February.

Finding the money to replace the Peter Pitseolak School in Cape Dorset school, which burned down in 2015, was more critical, Peterson said, “as we found out it was uninsured, meaning we had to pay 100 per cent of the replacement cost which is roughly $35 million-plus.”

The Government of Nunavut was able to act quickly, he said, which was not the case when the school in Cambridge Bay burned down in 1998 and the construction of a new school took four years.

Peterson, who also served as health minister and, after 2016, as justice minister, faced different challenges in those two departments where the focus was on people, rather than on figures.

As minister of justice, he also experienced some disappointment, too, when the Corrections Act which was not passed before the legislature dissolved, despite changes and additional incorporation of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit.

But Peterson said he always concentrated on the “small victories.”

“I’m the eternal optimist,” he said.

After being involved in public office for years, as a Cambridge Bay hamlet councillor, then mayor in the early 2000s, before becoming a MLA in 2004 and minister in 2009, Peterson said he doesn’t have another job lined up.

“This is uncharted waters for me,” said Peterson, now 61, of his new life. He says he’s worked since he was a boy, starting out delivering papers and collecting beer bottles to return for deposit money.

When asked about his immediate plans, Peterson said he would like to travel a bit, although his home will remain in Cambridge Bay where he has lived, with some breaks for schooling, since 1968.

And he will be ready and able to provide advice, if asked, to the incoming MLA for this community of about 1,700 after Oct. 30.

Peterson said he hopes he has left things a bit better than they were.

“You can look back with pride… [but] the people will be the judge,” he said.

The deadline for candidates to file declarations of candidacy falls at 2 p.m. local time Sept. 29. As of the morning of Sept. 29, Elections Nunavut had accepted Jeannie Ehaloak and Pamela Gross as candidates for MLA in Cambridge Bay.

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(28) Comments:

#1. Posted by Bert Rose on September 29, 2017

Thank you for your service Keith.

#2. Posted by Crystal Clarity on September 29, 2017

You were a great Finance Minister and an all round wonderful person. Thank you for all your years of service and all the best to you and your family in your future endeavours.

#3. Posted by Stephane on September 29, 2017

Thank you Keith for your dedication and drive.

#4. Posted by a prediction come true on September 29, 2017

For the first 12 years of life, surrounded by support, stability, quality of life, affordable food, easy education, freedom to be all that you want to be, was the first years of life lived.

The “no” word did not take away or hold back the stability, quality of life, with all needs met.

What happened in Nunavut over the years where the Finance Minister, and pride of accomplishments brought separation to Inuit from their needs, quality of life, and stability?  The most recent alcohol and beer store which has nothing to give the people in need of healing and quality of life.

“No” was used loosely when housing grew to be a major problem, homelessness, affordable food and the list is long.  “No” made the quality of life more difficult to attain, which is unhealthy and unjust.

The numbers explain more clearly about the best job in Canada.  The result of those numbers show the lowest quality of life in Canada for the people of Nunavut.

#5. Posted by Northern Inuit on September 29, 2017

Keith, although I did not always agree with some of your choices, you have always been approachable, caring, considerate and a wonderful Representative for your Constituents.

be proud of your years of service and enjoy your time off.

#6. Posted by Jason T on September 29, 2017

Thank you Keith for the many years of service to the community of Cambridge Bay, and to the territory of Nunavut, you were a shining example of a strong, healthy and dedicated leader. Many accomplishments were had as a result of your leadership. may you enjoy the fruits of your hard work and enjoy the next chapter in your life.

#7. Posted by eskimo joe on September 29, 2017

job well done. take a good well deserve leisure time. koana

#8. Posted by Vicki Aitaok on September 29, 2017

Thank you for your service Keith. I always appreciated your openness and approachability. Indeed you were a great example of a healthy leader who served with kindness. Best of luck in your future.

#9. Posted by Crystal Clarity on September 29, 2017

#9 Most of the things you list are issues that need to be addressed by Hamlet Council. As for housing the GN does not have a bottomless pit full of money to build houses. No matter what we want in life whether it is personal, local government, territorially or federally, there’s only so much money to pay for these things. If you go to buy groceries and you have $200 to spend are you going to be able to come out with $300 worth of groceries? Not likely. If the GN has $30,000,000 to spend on new housing they can’t go out and spend $50,000,000 because they don’t have it. So as hard as it is to swallow you have to say no to some of the requests.

At Christmas when your kid wants a $400 game console plus another $200 worth of games to play on it but you only have $200 to spend on her Christmas gift what are you going to say?

#10. Posted by sled dog on September 29, 2017

Best wishes on your future endeavors Mr. Peterson. Clearly you have served well given the cards you had to work with from capacity issues to resources.

#11. Posted by All the best on September 29, 2017

Many of us get to know our politicians well. We see their strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, too many times in Nunavut we have had to witness the shameful behaviour of politicians play out publically like our MP’s recent fall from grace after 6 months on the job. Thankfully for 10 plus years no one has ever had to worry about that with Keith.

I can’t think of one person who works harder, understands the job and has more integrity than Keith Peterson. Keith is the consumate professional and a role model for future Nunavummiut.

Keith always managed to do what was necessary and did it with class despite the haters. He lead us through major economic challenges like the Housing crisis and various recessions. It’s quite a career given the challenges. He should be remembered for that alone but he will most likely be remembered for treating us like adults and giving us the freedom to buy a case of beer at a much lower price.

I’ll hoist a pint to that. Cheers to MKP!

#12. Posted by Nunavut Volunteer on September 29, 2017

Thanks Peterson. It’s time for local Inuit of Cambridge Bay to come forward.

#13. Posted by Northern Inuit on September 29, 2017

when you are in a fight sometimes you want to go up against the reigning champ, but even they would like to leave with grace and honour which is what Keith chose to do.

best of luck to Jeannie and Pamela, we have a few hours to see if anyone else jumps in the ring but until then.

best wishes to Keith again.

#14. Posted by Heather on September 29, 2017

I met Minister Peterson once. A very kind and considerate gentleman. All the best of luck in the future Mr. Peterson.

#15. Posted by Knockout Ned on September 29, 2017

Thank you for your service. When you did things I didn’t agree with, you didn’t earn my praise, but you did earn my respect in how you conducted yourself.

#16. Posted by Paul on September 29, 2017

Minister Peterson you should be MP for NU after that present joker gets shown the door next year. With you in Ottawa as MP the credibility and respect factor of NU would be increased exponentially! For crying out loud! you have been the Finance Minister for what in effect is a 3rd world country within Canada’s own borders.

#17. Posted by Jobi on September 29, 2017

Everytime I go to the beer and wine store I always think about K. Peterson. Everytime! Only mla who has guts to bring Nunavut into present times instead of keeping us in past. People should think about that when voting in election. Who is going to be a leader instead of chicken mla.

#18. Posted by Sanity has left the building on September 29, 2017

To all who thought the Legislature was dysfunctional last session, it’s about to get much, much worse.

#19. Posted by Patti Bligh on September 29, 2017

Keith, we hope you have more time now to come to Cafe Asia and linger over coffee so i can still convince you to wander down to my class for some great political commentary. You did a great job representing your home. Enjoy your next adventure with Sandra, you deserve it.

#20. Posted by Thank You - Well Done Keith on September 29, 2017

Thank You - Well Done Keith!
You were/are a consummate professional and performed great service to the people of Nunavut; very few know actually how hard you did work…...many,many hours in order to actually move things forward, incoming MLA’s and some of your current colleagues could learn a lot from you…..enjoy the next chapter of your life!

#21. Posted by Thank you Keith on September 30, 2017

Thank you for your dedication and great service to the Government of Nunavut. You are a person with a happy disposition and have shown kindness and compassion all these years. You are not only a leader who does not hesitate to say “no” when making tough decisions but also a distinguished person who is not afraid to do things that will make people disagree with you. Not everyone is going to like you but your sacrifices and achievements will leave a mark on the present and future politicians of Nunavut. To be a politician is not a joke! You have one of the toughest jobs here in the whole world. Best wishes on the next chapter of you life Keith!

#22. Posted by Thank you Keith on September 30, 2017

Thank you for your dedication and great service to the Government of Nunavut. You are a person with a happy disposition and have shown kindness and compassion all these   years. You are not only a leader who does not hesitate to say “no” when making tough decisions but also a distinguished person who is not afraid to do things that will make people disagree with you. Not everyone is going to like you but your sacrifices and achievements will leave a mark on the present and future politicians of Nunavut. To be a politician is not a joke! You have one of the toughest jobs here in the whole world. Best wishes on the next chapter of your life Keith!

#23. Posted by Bram Sikma on September 30, 2017

Thank you Keith for your many years of Service to Nunavut and Cambridge Bay. It was always a pleasure to see and talk to you. Enjoy the new chapter in awesome career.

#24. Posted by Toonik's Grandfather on September 30, 2017

Thank you for all that hard work, you are a true politician, caring person and talk to ordinary people at their level.  Too bad NOT too man MLAs look at your great leadership.  Enjoy retirement…..but we need you in Ottawa.

#25. Posted by Eric Howe on September 30, 2017

Keith-I still fondly recall the first of my visits. You were mayor. Your enthusiastic tour of Cambridge Bay was cool. You took evident pride in your community. Thanks for your years of service.

#26. Posted by Paul Murphy on September 30, 2017

For what it’s worth Keith, I agree with # 16.

We need a strong person in Ottawa. Go for it and I’ll vote for you in a heartbeat (as long as you are in the Conservative party - LOL)

#27. Posted by Matt on October 01, 2017

Def agree with #26 and #16. NU needs a reputable MP in Ottawa. The current and previous reps from NU are & have been sorely lacking in substance & quality. Peterson could be a significant asset both to NU & Canada. Bonus that he isn’t that old too. Looks great in the pic!

#28. Posted by Lots of Positives on October 02, 2017

Agreed, there are lots of positives about the Honorable Keith Peterson.

but very disappointing in his role as the Minister responsible for the public service act and unionized employees.

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