No sign of a commissioner
Spring election may have taken priority -- Anawak

by Mark Sproxton
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 07/97) - The appointment of an interim commissioner for Nunavut is months behind schedule, but it doesn't appear to be near the top of Ottawa's "things to do" list.

"It's not a case of being ignored, it's just a matter of everything happening at one time," said Nunatsiaq MP Jack Anawak, considered by some observers to be a frontrunner for the job.

"I'm not privy to anything but there seems to be a lot of excitement about a spring election," he said.

The commissioner was to be appointed by the federal government last year. But Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Ron Irwin reportedly hasn't got past the short-list stage.

The Prime Minister's Office offers no excuses for the delay, but now that a federal election may be called for early June, the chances of a quick decision are dwindling.

That excuse does not sit well with John Amagoalik, chief commissioner with the Nunavut Implementation Committee.

"I don't like the delay," he said. "From what I've been told the appointment hasn't been on the agenda of cabinet."

Pressure form the commission and other Northern leaders appears to have had little effect. "There's not much guys like us can do about it," Amagoalik said.

Anawak said there may be more to the issue.

"The only thing I cam think of is that they're having a hard time deciding," he said. "As far as I know it's with the minister. I really have no involvement setting it up."

Selection of an interim commissioner, who will be responsible for overseeing the creation of a Nunavut bureaucracy by April 1, 1999, was to have been last year.

With the selection now several months late and with less than two years remaining to complete the task, some observers are now wondering if the job can be done properly on time.

If there is an election call, Parliament would be dissolved, leaving Anawak free to accept the post if offered to him.

However, the longer Irwin waits to choose a commissioner, the less time members of the Liberal riding association in Nunavut will have to choose a successor for Anawak.

Another complicating factor is Irwin's recent announcement that he won't be seeking re-election. If he doesn't choose a commissioner before the election is called, it could be months before his successor make a choice.