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.
"It's a motion of non-confidence," Main said Tuesday.
He was unwilling to immediately discuss the reasons for the motion.
"In terms of the motion and the reasoning behind it, that will all be discussed in the house," he said.
The motion could have a good chance of succeeding.
Main is chairman of the regular members caucus, which — under the rules of Nunavut's consensus government — consists of all members of the legislature who aren't in cabinet. He said the motion was widely discussed in that caucus, which functions as a kind of opposition.
"There's a degree of confidence (in the vote)," he said. "It's not something that would be brought up on a whim without consideration of available options and voicing of opinions within the caucus."
A simple majority of the legislature's 22 members would be enough to bring Quassa down. There are 13 regular members.
Quassa declined requests for an interview.
If the motion succeeds, a new premier will have to be selected. In Nunavut, the premier and cabinet are chosen by vote from among all members.
Normally, that happens shortly after a general election. That's how Quassa was chosen premier last November.
The process could happen quickly, said John Quirke, clerk of the legislature.
"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.
"That's the type of decision that would be made in full caucus," said Main.
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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. The legislature is also debating important bills on subjects such as marijuana legalization.
"We have our hands full," Main said.
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.
The Northwest Territories, which also uses consensus government, has had five non-confidence votes between 1998 and 2009. The only premier forced from office was Don Morin in 1998.
A negotiator of the Nunavut land claim
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.
Since then, Quassa has led the group that administers the claim. He spent the better part of a decade as a CBC journalist. He's worked for Isuma Productions, an award-winning film and video studio in his home town of Igloolik.
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.