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Nunavut members of the legislature to vote on whether to remove Premier Paul Quassa

Nunavut members of the legislature to vote on whether to remove Premier Paul Quassa
Canada
IQALUIT, NUNAVUT—Nunavut could have a new leader before the week is out — less than a year after Premier Paul Quassa was chosen.

John Main, who represents the community of Arviat in the territorial legislature, has told the assembly that he will be introducing a motion Thursday that would require Quassa to step down.

“If the motion is successful, a new premier has to be selected,” John Quirke, clerk of the legislature, said Tuesday. “That would entail us having a leadership forum.”

Under the rules of Nunavut’s consensus government, the premier and cabinet are selected by fellow members of the legislature.

Normally, that happens shortly after a general election. That’s how Quassa was chosen premier last November.

Main has not given reasons why he will introduce the motion. He will have 20 minutes on Thursday to explain himself to his fellow legislature members.

But most of them are likely to know already. Main is chairman of the regular members caucus, which includes all members not in cabinet and serves as a kind of opposition.

Quassa was not immediately available to comment.

Quirke said another leadership forum would be held immediately if Main’s motion to remove Quassa from executive council is successful. A simple majority would be enough to end Quassa’s term.

“I envision it happening Thursday afternoon, Thursday evening, with a new premier in place by Friday morning,” Quirke said.

New Nunavut premiers traditionally huddle with their colleagues at the start of their first session to determine the government’s priorities for its term in office. It’s not clear if a replacement premier would reset those priorities.

It’s also not clear what would happen to the territory’s budget, recently tabled by Quassa’s cabinet and being debated in the legislature.

Quassa would retain his seat.

If the motion succeeds, it would be the first time a sitting premier has been removed in Nunavut’s 19-year history. Quirke said one cabinet minister has been removed in that time.

Quassa, 65, was born near Igloolik on the Melville Peninsula, a member of the last generation of Inuit leaders to be born on the land. At the age of six, he was taken to a residential school in Churchill, Man., where he was to spend his next 13 years.

He was one of the negotiators of the Nunavut land claim and his signature is on the document.

He was the education minister in the last Nunavut government and oversaw an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to modernize territorial legislation to promote fully bilingual students.
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