Paul Quassa has been voted out as premier of Nunavut during a recall motion Thursday.
Under Nunavut’s consensus government system, regular members can remove a premier with a majority vote.
Now that Quassa is out, the Members of the legislative assembly will meet later Thursday afternoon to discuss the next steps.
Given Nunavut is not allowed to be without a premier, a leadership forum is likely to follow soon.
While previous premiers in Nunavut have faced similar leadership reviews part way through their term, this is the first time a recall vote has been debated in the territory’s assembly.
It is also the earliest a premier has faced such a challenge – Quassa only took office in November 2017.
Quassa’s government has faced questions on spending throughout this term, the highest profile one being the Northern Lights Trade Show spending.
The Nunavut Government spent $570,000 to send 73 staff and officials to the bi-annual trade show in Ottawa.
Part of that tab was a $7,000 car service to shuttle the Premier around Ottawa.
Regular members, the de facto opposition under Nunavut’s consensus system of no political parties, have questioned the spending.
Quassa defended the expense in the assembly, saying “you have to spend money to make money” and calling the meetings in Ottawa important for the government to establish relationships and pursue funding.
He defended the car service by pointing out that in order to access Parliament Hill by car, you need a service with a level of security clearance.
Another spending issue has been front and center in this recent assembly sitting, this one about money not spent.
The current government pulled funding for a proposed road connecting Grays Bay, Nunavut to an existing mining road in the Northwest Territories.
While initially claiming that the federal government denied funding first, it has come out in the assembly that the Nunavut government was the first to reverse course on the 227 km all season road.
The project had moved ahead under Peter Taptuna’s time as premier, but died under Quassa’s.
Taptuna is from the Kitikmeot region in western Nunavut where the road would be created.
Quassa is from Baffin Island in the east, and western MLAs have become frustrated with what they perceive as the abandonment of a vital economic driver for the region.
Finance Minister Joe Savikataaq defended the decision as the new government sticking to its priorities, saying in the Assembly, “all our money comes from one pot. If we spend here, we have none for there.”
The motion to remove was made Tuesday morning by Arviat MLA John Main, on behalf of the Regular Member’s Caucus. There are 13 members of that caucus, and only 8 members of the cabinet including Premier Quassa.
While those numbers may be daunting to Quassa, Nunavut politicians have a history of letting them continue.
Nunavut’s three previous premiers, Paul Okalik, Eva Aariak and Peter Taptuna, have all faced leadership reviews at the request of the assembly.
All three held on as premier.
The difference, in this case, is that those reviews were held halfway through their term as a legislated part of the consensus system.
This review is unique as it is the earliest and the first ever presented as a recall vote.
If successful on Thursday, the vote would trigger an immediate leadership forum where a new premier would be chosen.