Nunavut MLAs scold ministers for not answering questions quickly or clearly

The Nunavut Legislative Assembly in Iqaluit. Nunavut MLAs say ministers need to give full, clear answers to questions from regular members. (Jane George/CBC - image credit)
The Nunavut Legislative Assembly in Iqaluit. Nunavut MLAs say ministers need to give full, clear answers to questions from regular members. (Jane George/CBC - image credit)

Nunavut's regular MLAs made an unusual motion in the Legislative Assembly Monday — to admonish the executive council for not answering questions properly or in a timely manner.

The motion was made by the chair of the regular members, Aivilik MLA Solomon Malliki, who said the MLAs have a duty to hold the cabinet accountable for their actions and decisions.

He said the ministers have not been giving answers to the members, and that the executive council has not been responding to other forms of communication, including emails.

"All ministers are expected to have a deep and detailed knowledge of their portfolios," Malliki said.

"All the ministers are expected to provide candid and clear and comprehensive answers to the member questions in the house."

Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada
Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada

Malliki said concern about the lack of proper or timely answers from ministers has been raised by several regular members.

"We just want to wake the government up that we need answers because these questions are from our constituents," he said. "When they ask us to ask those questions they are waiting for answers. We want answers for them too."

Malliki's motion was seconded by Alexander Sammurtok, MLA for Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet.

Arviat South MLA Joe Savikataaq said he supported the motion too.

"Sometimes when we get answers, we get lots of data and other information thrown at us, but at times we don't get a clear candid answer," Savikataaq said. "We ask these questions for our constituents."

Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster, MLA for Iqaluit-Sinaa, also gave her support to the motion. She said she wanted to make it "abundantly clear that the regular members took serious consideration on this motion."

Matisse Harvery/Radio-Canada
Matisse Harvery/Radio-Canada

"We collectively agree that we are here to be the best constituency MLAs that we can be. And that putting our constituents first is what leads us. And therefore it's our responsibility to put them first by asking questions of executive council," Brewster said.

"What we all agreed on is that we're not getting clear answers. They're not concise. Sometimes we have to wait until the blues [transcripts of assembly sittings] come so that we fully understand whether or not our questions were fully responded to."

Brewster also said there's been an "unacceptable length of time" between members putting concerns forward to executive council and hearing responses.

"That reflects not just on the executive members, but it also reflects on us because our constituents are left with the impression that we're not advocating for them, that we're not doing our job," she said.

Motion a surprise to premier

Premier PJ Akeeagok said he did not expect to see the motion.

He said his government has proven to be open by hosting executive meetings in different areas of Nunavut, and that his government has worked hard on some of his priorities, like elder care, housing and working with the Inuit organizations.

Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press
Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press

"I really hope that we can move forward working together. We have mentioned in our mandate quite clearly that half way through our term in November next year, that we review where we are standing now," he said in Inuktitut.

"Using this mandate, we will work hard to ensure we are developing changes."

In Nunavut, premiers and cabinet ministers all face a review by the assembly halfway through their mandate, at the two-year mark.

Akeeagok's government will face this review in November 2023.