IQALUIT, Nunavut – Recently elected members of the Nunavut legislature have chosen Peter Taptuna as the territory’s next premier.
Taptuna is a former oil rig and mine worker who held several posts in the previous government, including deputy premier.
He’s also been involved in municipal politics.
Taptuna beat out Paul Okalik, who became premier when Nunavut became a territory in 1999 and led until 2008, and longtime northern politician Paul Quassa
Eva Aariak, who was Nunavut premier in the previous administration, lost her seat in last month’s election, although she had indicated before the vote that she would not run again for the top job.
Under the rules of the territory’s non-partisan, consensus-style government, elected members pick the premier and who they want to see in cabinet. The premier then assigns portfolios.
The remaining members serve as a kind of opposition.
As in a municipal election, candidates in territorial elections run as individuals with no party affiliations.
Taptuna takes over what might be the toughest political job in Canada.
“Nunavut has its very own unique set of tough issues unlike any other jurisdiction,” he said recently. “There’s a lot of things to do.”
Other daunting challenges include turning Nunavut’s huge resource potential into an environmentally sustainable economy and dealing with social challenges such as Canada’s worst rates of suicide, sexual assault and high-school graduation.
“Education is a key to getting out of poverty,” Taptuna said.
Nunavut does have some good news on the horizon.
By 2015, two new mines are expected to be under construction. The Conference Board of Canada predicts the territory could be enjoying an economic growth rate of 3.7 per cent by then.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said the premier picks the cabinet.