Who will be premier?
The race for top dog gears up

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

IQALUIT (Feb 22/99) - Many in Nunavut had Goo Arlooktoo, the politician from Baffin South, pegged as a shoe-in for the job of premier in the Nunavut legislative assembly.

But after the people of Nunavut stretched their democratic limbs and kicked him out of office, the hot question in the East is who will fill the position of top dog?

While several analysts have named former interim commissioner and Rankin Inlet North MLA Jack Anawak as a likely candidate for premier, others say that's not necessarily the case.

"There's a good chance that it will be Jack, but the 19 MLAs will choose that," said Tagak Curley, a former politician from the Keewatin region.

"He's been quite obvious in wanting that job, but the weakness there is that tends to put off the more down to earth people."

Jose Kusugak, the president of Nunavut Tunngavik, also thought Anawak might not be welcomed with such open arms.

"I think Jack will show interest, but for Jack this is a totally different game. This isn't party politics anymore. This is a consensus government and you just can't toe the party line anymore. People might look at it that way and say that arrogancy has no room in the new Nunavut."

Kusugak said he had faith in both the seasoned politicians and the inexperienced fresh faces to choose an appropriate leader for the assembly. He suspected that such a leader might hail from the territory's capital.

"Somebody like Paul Okalik or Edward Picco, if they talked to each other and one of them decided to run, there's a real chance of getting people behind them to support one another."

The role of the legislature's speaker also has to be filled and while the race for premier heats up behind the scenes, residents around the territory have turned their crystal balls on the cabinet.

John Quirke, the clerk of Nunavut's legislature, said that at this point, it was anybody's game for one of the ministerial positions. He explained that the first order of business was for the 19 representatives to decide on the number of positions that will form their cabinet.

"Six seems to be the magic number, but it's up to them to decide."

While he was hesitant to make any predictions on the temperament of the cabinet, Kusugak said that he hoped the 10 portfolios that are up for grabs would be filled by hard, conscientious workers who weren't afraid of a good fight.

"If you're going to run for Nunavut politics, you've got to have that ability to fight. You're not going to love your way through politics. If you're going to approach Ottawa, whose immediate goal is to say there's not enough money, they're not going to hand it over because you're such a nice guy."