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Updated: Fri, 15 Nov 2013 20:47:17 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Peter Taptuna wins job as Nunavut's new premier



Peter Taptuna, MLA for Kugluktuk, was chosen as Nunavut's third premier at a Leadership Forum in Iqaluit today. Grant Linton/CBC

Peter Taptuna, MLA for Kugluktuk, was chosen as Nunavut's third premier at a Leadership Forum in Iqaluit today. Grant Linton/CBC

Nunavut's premier-elect Peter Taptuna says he's relieved he won the top job after many sleepless nights.

MLAs voted for Taptuna as Nunavut's new premier in a secret ballot Friday afternoon. The territory operates under consensus-style government, where there are no political parties in the legislative assembly; MLAs select the premier, cabinet and Speaker from among themselves.

Taptuna said his top priorities will be education, economic development and housing. When asked if social promotion (the practice of moving kids up a grade in school when they haven't mastered the skills) ends now, Taptuna replied, "it has to." Taptuna also said he'll be "strategic" when it comes to negotiating for funding from the federal government.

In the Nunavut election last month, Taptuna was acclaimed to a second term as the MLA for Kugluktuk, Nunavut’s westernmost community. He was first elected to the legislature in 2008, where he served as minister of economic development and transportation and minister responsible for several corporations, including the Nunavut Housing Corporation. Before his election, Taptuna worked in the oil and gas industry in the Beaufort Sea, at the Lupin Gold Mine and in local and regional politics.

3 candidates vied to become premier

At the leadership forum held today in Iqaluit, Amittuq MLA George Qulaut was acclaimed Speaker, after being nominated by Netsilik MLA Jeannie Ugyuk.

Two other MLAs were also nominated for premier: former premier Paul Okalik and former land claims negotiator Paul Quassa. The three candidates had 20 minutes each to make remarks. (See full profiles of all the candidates in the election here.)

Okalik focused on education and mental health, suggesting standardized testing for high schools and filling mental health nurse vacancies. Quassa spent half his time giving background on himself before calling for more support from the federal government for infrastructure. Taptuna focused on economic development and housing.

Each MLA then had a chance to ask candidates two questions. They asked the candidates their positions on topics such as decentralization, Inuit employment, housing, and search and rescue.

Cabinet also selected

Following the selection of premier, MLAs selected the new cabinet. It will include:

- Monica Ell, Iqaluit-Manirajak

- Paul Okalik, Iqaluit-Sinaa

- George Kuksuk, Arviat North-Whale Cove

- Johnny Mike, Pangnirtung

- Keith Peterson, Cambridge Bay

- Paul Quassa, Aggu

- Tom Sammurtok, Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet

- Jeannie Ugyuk, Netsilik

The premier assigns portfolios to the ministers.

1 seat still vacant

The number of MLAs in this legislative assembly increased to 22 from 19. One seat is still vacant because of a tie in the Oct. 28 election. A byelection will be held in the constituency of Rankin Inlet South in the new year.

And the fate of one MLA is still unclear. Samuel Nuqingaq, MLA for Uqqummiut on eastern Baffin Island, showed up late to today's event, after missing two days of orientation training.

The CBC's Jane Sponagle live-tweeted from the Nunavut legislative assembly this afternoon. 

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