Nunavut MLAs head home
Some switch houses, others take a break

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 29/99) - As the legislature prepares for a cabinet shuffle this week and bids adieu to its Nunavut contingent, certain MLAs will be shuffling right off of the political stage.

The government took time to acknowledge the momentous occasion Friday, also the last day the Nunavut MLAs sat in the house before it becomes an all-Western legislature next month. Speaker Sam Gargan ordered the ceremonial mace be lowered -- placed on a stand closer to the floor -- so presentations and speeches could take place in a more informal atmosphere.

After honouring Clerk David Hamilton and the house's legal staff, Gargan presented the departing MLAs with their nameplates, including one to Cabinet Minister Manitok Thompson -- who goes on to serve as minister of Public works, Telecommunication and Technical Services, and who is the only woman in the inaugural Nunavut legislature.

Several other departing MLAs are also switching legislatures -- Health and Social Services Minister Kelvin Ng becomes minister for Finance, Administration, Human Resources and Workers Compensation in Nunavut; Ed Picco becomes minister for Health and Social Services and the Power Corporation; Levi Barnabas becomes house Speaker; and Kevin O'Brien will serve as a regular member.

But for others, politics is being put on hold -- at least for the time being.

Tommy Enuaraq, Mark Evaloarjuk and Goo Arlooktoo failed in their Nunavut election bids. Arlooktoo, the 35-year-old deputy premier and minister responsible for justice, the housing corporation and Nunavut transitional planning, said he is not sure what his plans will be after tendering his resignation Friday.

"My initial intention is to move to Iqaluit because that's where the action seems to be and opportunities could be there," he said Tuesday. "I still have to feed the kids and pay the bills, so it's off to work I go."

Two MLAs who chose not to run in Nunavut but rather to take a little time off are John Ningark and Finance Minister John Todd.

Todd also said he has no immediate plans. He wants to simply step back for a while and see how his future unfolds.

"Nobody believes me when I say I don't know, but I don't know," he said. "Whether it's politics or whether it's business, I'm going to keep my options open."

In any case, the Scottish-born politician plans to stay in the North.

"It's an exciting place to be," he said, adding, "I've got nowhere else to go."

Ningark, a 10-year legislative veteran, said he'll be very happy to move back to his native Pelly Bay.

"I don't mind the pressure as a politician, but having to stay away from the family for a long time, that was tough," he said.

Ningark said that after taking a fishing trip with his family, he plans to relax for a bit, be a "free agent" and perhaps work for the new Nunvaut MLA, his friend Ovide Alakannuark.

The NWT legislature is expected to swear in new cabinet minsters this week.