Anawak’s future in cabinet lies with fellow MLAs

Rankin Inlet MLA faces non-confidence vote in legislature



MLAs were to decide yesterday whether to remove Jack Anawak as a member of the executive council of the legislative assembly.

On Tuesday, Iqaluit Centre MLA Hunter Tootoo made a notice of motion, seconded by Kugluktuk MLA Donald Havioyak, to put the matter to a vote.

According to legislative assembly rules requiring two days’ notice before motions are introduced, the matter was to be heard on Thursday, after Nunatsiaq News’ press deadline.

“He’s entitled to make his motion,” Anawak said at the close of sitting on Tuesday.

“If I really thought this was being done because of a moral wrong I’ve committed, I wouldn’t be questioning it.”

The Rankin Inlet South MLA said he would use the 20 minutes allotted to him on Thursday to defend himself, but he would not fight a decision to remove him from cabinet.

“This is more of a technical issue. If this is how the Government of Nunavut is going to operate, then we’re betraying the people who fought so long for Nunavut,” he said.

In mid-February, Premier Paul Okalik stripped Anawak of his responsibilities for the department of culture language, elders and youth.

The move was a public reprimand for Anawak’s opposition to a cabinet decision to move the 13 employees of the petroleum products division of the department of public works to Baker Lake from Rankin Inlet.

But reducing Anawak to “minister without portfolio” was the extent of Okalik’s power. Only caucus as a whole can remove him from cabinet.

In late February, Tootoo told Nunatsiaq News that if no other MLA made a motion to remove Anawak from cabinet, he would do it himself.

“What Jack did was a breach of trust that all members of the assembly put in him by violating an oath that all cabinet ministers take. If he wants to be critical of the government and have the luxury of doing that, he can be a regular member,” Tootoo said.

Tootoo said he supports Okalik’s demotion of Anawak, and he believes that most MLAs will too.

“They all knew going into cabinet, and he should know more than anybody, that you have to support the decisions of the government when you’re in cabinet. To me, he seems to be very hypocritical in his behaviour.”

Four years ago this week

According to a transcript from the Nunavut Leadership Forum on March 5, 1999, Anawak knew what he was getting into by accepting a nomination for cabinet.

“We have to give our ongoing support to our premier because the premier is not only representing us but also the people of Nunavut,” Anawak said at the time.

But what Anawak really wanted was to be premier. Earlier that day — exactly four years ago this week — he told MLAs that as territorial leader he would work for the good of all Nunavummiut, not just his constituents.

“We each have our own constituents as members-elect but we all have to keep in mind that our first priority will be the people of Nunavut as a whole. This is what we have been talking about,” he said.

“As long as we have Nunavut as our priority, we won’t be making mistakes. Some of us will say, ‘I want my constituency to get this or that,’ because we also have to pay attention to our constituencies but we have to focus on Nunavut as a whole.”

He also spoke out in favour of decentralization, though he came to oppose the decentralization of PPD.

“When we were setting up our government we were told by the planners that this is going to be a decentralized government. So we have 10 communities that were identified to be bases for the Nunavut government departments,” he said.

“We have decentralization so the government will be closer to the people of the communities.”

Of course, Anawak lost the top job to Okalik, and held several portfolios in cabinet before being assigned to CLEY in a cabinet shuffle last year.

The move was seen as a demotion for Anawak, as CLEY is the smallest department in the GN. At $9 million, it’s budget represents only one per cent of the government’s total budget.

With files from Jim Bell in Iqaluit.

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