MLAs Qavvik and Kaernerk elected to Nunavut Executive Council

MLAs Daniel Qavvik and Joelie Kaernerk were elected to serve on Nunavut's Executive Council at Saturday's Nunavut Leadership Forum. (Nunavut Legislative Assembly - image credit)
MLAs Daniel Qavvik and Joelie Kaernerk were elected to serve on Nunavut's Executive Council at Saturday's Nunavut Leadership Forum. (Nunavut Legislative Assembly - image credit)

Nunavut MLAs Daniel Qavvik and Joelie Kaernerk were elected to the territory's executive council on Saturday at the Nunavut Leadership Forum.

The two beat out Kugluktuk MLA Bobby Anavilok in a secret ballot by their fellow members of the Legislative Assembly. Uqqummiut MLA Mary Killiktee was also nominated, but she declined.

The leadership forum was called due to Joanna Quassa and Craig Simailak resigning from the executive council for family reasons.

Qavvik, who represents Hudson Bay, is a former conservation officer who was first elected in October 2021.

Kaernerk, who represents Amittuq, was first elected in 2017. He previously worked for Nunavut's Department of Justice and Baffinland Iron Mines, and was a Sanirajak municipal councillor.

Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA George Hickes chaired the forum. Deputy Premier Pamela Gross was there, despite being on parental leave. She voted by proxy for Speaker Tony Akoak, who was absent.

"I'm feeling overwhelmed and lots of joy," Qavvik told CBC News after the results were announced.

"A lot of big [work] ahead."

Nunavut has a consensus-style government, meaning there are no political parties. The members of the executive council, or cabinet, are elected by other members via secret ballot after giving a short speech and answering questions about a variety of issues.

The premier decides what portfolios executive council members will hold.

Premier P.J. Akeeagok says that the two new members add a sense of excitement as his government pushes ahead to the second half of its mandate. While he says while his government has made progress on key files, there is still lots of work to do.

"We all have different experiences, different strengths...We've always taken the sixth assembly as a team. So I'm really excited to welcome the two new members that were just selected here," he said.

He added he'll be meeting with the new members and the executive council this weekend to talk more about their portfolios, which will be announced on Monday.

Speaking after the election, both MLAs said they were interested in portfolios they have experience in. Qavvik said he would be interested in the environment portfolio, while Kaernerk says he would be interested in justice or heritage.

The ministerial position is a chance for Kaernerk to turn over a new leaf.

In June 2022, MLAs suspended him from the legislative assembly for several days for being intoxicated in the legislature. At the time, he said he was seeking help.

While Kaernerk didn't specifically address the incident during his speech to MLAs Saturday, he did say that he has made mistakes and learned from them.

"I'm excited and I will put every effort into this new role that I have been given," he told CBC News after he learned that he had won.

Qavvik said he hopes to be a voice for the smaller regions at the Executive Council.

"Sanikiluaq is one of the smaller communities compared to the three regions and I believe that smaller communities in Nunavut need to be represented within the Executive Council," he said.

During their speeches, Kaernerk spoke about the need to repatriate Nunavut's elders, while Qavvik spoke about the need to improve the childcare system and the Financial Assistance for Nunavut Students (FANS) program.

Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson was also seen watching the proceedings in the gallery.