New Nunavut premier: P.J. Akeeagok to focus on child care, housing, mental health

·2 min read

IQALUIT — Members of Nunavut's legislative assembly have chosen the territory's next leader in a secret ballot.

P.J. Akeeagok will be the new premier of the territory of about 40,000 people. He is to be sworn into the job on Friday.

Akeeagok, 37, is from Nunavut's most northern community of Grise Fiord and represents an Iqaluit constituency in the legislative assembly.

"I am humbled," he said in Inuktitut after the voting results were announced Wednesday.

"I look forward to the four years and we will have a huge load. I will be turning to elders on a constant basis, and to you."

Akeeagok is new to the legislative assembly and served seven years as president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, the organization representing Inuit on Baffin Island, before resigning this year to run in the Oct. 25 territorial election.

In a speech in the assembly earlier Wednesday, Akeeagok said that as premier he would focus on access to child care, affordable housing and mental health support in the territory.

In keeping with Nunavut's consensus-style government, Akeeagok was to later assign cabinet portfolios to members of the legislature who have been picked by their peers to be ministers.

There are no political parties in Nunavut and territorial elections occur every four years.

Prime Minister Justice Trudeau congratulated Akeeagok.

“As we build back from the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to take action and shape a future where northern and Arctic communities are thriving, strong, and safe," Trudeau said in a statement.

“I look forward to collaborating closely with Premier Akeeagok and the Government of Nunavut on important priorities, including addressing the impacts of climate change in the North, providing Nunavummiut with affordable housing and child care, and advancing reconciliation with Inuit and other Indigenous partners."

He also wished the best for the territory's former premier, Joe Savikataaq.

Savikataaq and former health minister Lorne Kusugak were also vying for the job. The three candidates were questioned for five hours by fellow legislature members before the vote.

Akeeagok had said it was time for change and new leadership.

"It’s time to propose actions and tangible solutions," he said.

“I have always looked at ways to gain allies and achieve goals through true co-operation. I believe Nunavut needs a leader to break down the silos between different levels of government."

Gjoa Haven MLA Tony Akoak was chosen as the territory's new Speaker.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Emma Tranter, The Canadian Press

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