Primer on Premiers – Nunavut

NunavutThe history of the Premiership in Nunavut is extremely brief as Nunavut was only created as a territory in 1999. In that time there has been only two leaders of the Territory. There are no political parties in the Legislative Assembly and the Premier is selected by the other members of the legislature in a form of government called Consensus. The people choose their representatives who then chose one of these representatives to lead the territory as Premier. These are Nunavut’s premiers.

Paul Okalik, 1st Premier

Okalik was a lead negotiator in the land claim discussions that led to the creation of Nunavut as an Inuit territory in 1999. He studied law in Ottawa and became the first Inuk lawyer in the North West Territories/Nunavut. In 1999 he was elected in Iqaluit West and chosen as Premier by the Legislative Assembly.

Okalik’s priorities as premier were to strengthen education, housing, Inuit culture and the economy of Nunavut. Housing was improved, medical facilities built and a great many other improvements were ushered in with the help of funding from the federal government.

In 2004 he ran again, won, and was selected Premier was more, becoming the only Premier of  territory to be elected to a second term consecutively. In 2008, Nunavut went to the polls again and voted all but two members of the government, one successful member being Okalik. In the Premier’s race that followed he was defeated by Eva Aariak. He was later offered a cabinet position which he declined, instead sitting as regular member of the LA.

Eva Aariak, 2nd Premier

Aariak was the Languages Commissioner for Nunavut prior to running for office. in 2008 she ran and won, the only woman elected to the Legislative Assembly. She suggested her status as sole female in the legislative could be a result of a lack of daycare services in Nunavut that prevents women from entering politics. She was chosen over Okalik as premier and became the fifth female premier in Canada’s history. She still serves as the current premier.

Eva Aariak, 2nd Premier of Nunvaut

Primer on Premiers – Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador

In 1949, the Dominion of Newfoundland became the province of Newfoundland as it joined Confederation in Canada. Since then the province has had 9 premiers and this is that history.

Joey Smallwood, 1st Premier

Naming himself the ‘last Father of Confederation’, Smallwood led the charge for Newfoundland to join Confederation during the Newfoundland referendums of 1948. He was successful in convincing the people of Newfoundland of the benefits of joining Canada and in 1949 when Newfoundland because the last province of Canada, the people elected Joey Smallwood, a Liberal, their first Premier.

Smallwood would win six elections as premier and remain in that role for the first 23 years of Newfoundland’s history as a province. In 1971 he fought a seventh election that resulted in a tie and ultimately led to him leaving the Premier’s office in 1972. He was kicked out of his own party and failed at a political comeback in an another party before finally retiring from politics, both loved and hated by the people of Newfoundland.

Frank Moores, 2nd Premier

Moores was chosen as the leader of the Progressive Conservative party in 1970 and tied Joey Smallwood in the election of 1971 before being asked to form government several months later in 1972, ending the long reign of Smallwood. He was reelected in 1975 before finally resigning in 1979, remaining undefeated as Premier.

Brian Peckford, 3rd Premier

Peckford was first elected in 1972 as the Progressive Conservatives, of which he was one, were swept to power. He served as a Minister under Moores until eventual replacing him as the leader of the party. He became premier and was elected to the position later on in 1979. He won election again in 1982 and was largely known for fighting for provincial rights to natural resources throughout his term and during the Constitutional discussions with the other provinces and the federal government. After a decade as Premier, Peckford retired in 1989.

Tom Rideout, 4th Premier

Rideout was originally elected as a Liberal in 1975 but switched to the Progressive Conservatives under Peckford in 1980. He became a Minister and when Peckford retired, was selected as leader of the party, becoming Premier in 1989. In the election that occurred only one month after his selection as leader, he was defeated by the Liberals who had secured less votes but had won more seats. He stayed on as opposition leader until 1991 when he left politics.

In 1993 he returned to politics only to lose the riding race he had entered. Once more, in 1999, he reentered politics and won. He was reelected in 2003 and became the Deputy Premier before being reelected in 2007. He quit politics again in 2008 after a dispute with the sitting Premier on policy.

Clyde Wells, 5th Premier

Wells was first elected as a Liberal in 1966 and became a Minister in Smallwood’s government. In 1968 in resigned from Cabinet and left politics all together in 1971. He returned to politics in 1987 and two years later ended 17 years of PC rule by defeating Tom Rideout in the 1989 election by securing more seats in the legislature.  Wells did not win his own seat and was acclaimed in a different riding where one of his members stepped aside. Wells led Newfoundland during the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords and eventually resigned in 1996, eventually being appointed to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland.

Brian Tobin, 6th Premier

Tobin entered politics at the federal level, first elected in 1980 and reelected each election up to and including in 1993. In 1993, Tobin’s Liberals left opposition and formed a government under Jean Chretien who made Tobin a Minister in the government. When Clyde Wells retired as Premier of Newfoundland, Tobin quit federal politics and easily won the leadership of the Newfoundland Liberals, becoming the province’s 6th premier.

Tobin was elected as premier later that year and reelected as Premier in 1999. In 2000, with the sudden election at the federal level, Tobin quit as premier and ran once more at the federal level where he was reelected. Tobin resigned from federal politics only two years later in 2002.

Beaton Tulk, 7th Premier

Tulk was first elected as a Liberal in 1979 and was reelected in 1982 and 1985. He was defeated in the election of 1989 and became a deputy minister in the government before returning to elected politics in 1993. He was reelected in 1996 and 1999, becoming a Minister and eventually Deputy Premier in 2000. When Tobin resigned, Tulk became the Premier.

His time as premier was short lived as he did not run for the leadership and was replaced by the eventual winner of that race, Roger Grimes. Tulk became Deputy Premier once more until resigning in 2002 to run federally for the Liberals. When he lost, he ran in the by-election called to fill the seat he had vacated but lost that race as well.

Roger Grimes, 8th Premier

Grimes was first elected as a Liberal in 1989 and served as a Minister in the governments of Wells and Tobin. He became Premier in 2001 after winning the leadership contest to replace Tobin. It was also in this year that Newfoundland became Newfoundland and Labrador officially. In 2003 he was defeated by Progressive Conservative leader Danny Williams and resigned as Liberal leader in 2005.

Danny Williams, 9th Premier

Other than Joey Smallwood, there is probably no Newfoundland premier better known than Danny Williams (Tobin is arguably better known for his work at the federal level than as premier).  Williams was not a politician, becoming a wealthy millionaire before deciding in 2001 to enter politics where he won the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives. In 2003, he swept his party to power effectively ending 14 years of Liberal rule in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Williams fought the governments of Paul Martin and Stephen Harper, lowering Canadian flags in Newfoundland in response to federal government actions under Martin and creating a campaign called ‘ABC-Anything But Conservative’ during the 2008 federal election as a rebuke to Harper’s government that was successful and led to no federal Conservatives being elected within Newfoundland.

Williams’ focus was expanding the energy network of Newfoundland and gaining greater control over natural resources for the province. His party was reelected in 2007, gaining more seats and seen as more popular because of Williams’ leadership. During his second term his personal popularity regularly sat around an 80% approval rating, cresting at times into 90%. Even when Williams had heart surgery in the United States instead of Canada while in office, his popularity did not suffer.

On November 25th of this year Williams announced his resignation after securing a major energy deal with Nova Scotia that would bypass Quebec and link Newfoundland with the rest of the North American grid. He selected December 3rd (five days from now) as he last day as Premier. Williams will be replaced by Kathy Dunderdale, Newfoundland and Labrador’s first female premier.

Danny Williams, 9th Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador

Primer on Premiers – Yukon


Yukon first had a leader in government in 1978. This is the brief history of the job of Premier in Yukon.

Chris Pearson, 1st Premier

Served from 1978 to March 1985 under the banner of the Progressive Conservatives. he was elected in 1978, re-elected in 1982 and resigned from officer in 1985. He pushed for further responsible government in Yukon and for a role beyond observation between the provinces and the federal government.

Willard Phelps, 2nd Premier

Served from March until May 1985 as a Progressive Conservative before losing the 1985 election. After losing the election he sat as the leader of the Opposition before the Progressive Conservatives became the Yukon party under a new leader. He eventually became a cabinet minister before resigning from politics.

Tony Penikett, 3rd Premier

Served from May 1985 to November 1992 as a New Democrat. he was elected Premier in 1985 and re-elected in 1989 before losing the election of 1992. He was the executive assistant to Ed Broadbent at the federal level before becoming the President of the NDP while serving as a MLA in Yukon. He eventually led his party to power, first in a minority situation and then to a majority.

John Ostashek, 4th Premier

Served from November 1992 until October 1996 as a member of the Yukon Party. He was defeated in the 1996 election. He instituted welfare reforms and a reduction in public services while in office.

Piers McDonald, 5th Premier

Served from October 1996 until May 2000 for the New Democrats. He was defeated in the 2000 election. His government left a large surplus budget to work with but the fall of world metal prices led to the closure of many Yukon mines and the departure of a large portion of the population from the territory.

Pat Duncan, 6th Premier

Served from May 2000 until November 2002 as a Liberal. She lost the subsequent election. She was the first female premier of Yukon and only one of two females in Canada to win a premiership in an election. Her majority government was reduced to a minority when three caucus members left under her leadership. She then called an election only two years into her term to return certainty to government but the move angered voters and they rejected her leadership. She was the only Liberal to retain her seat in the election. She was then defeated at a leadership convention before retiring from politics.

Dennis Fentie, 7th Premier

Current premier serving since November 2002 for the Yukon Party. He was re-elected as Premier in 2006. Originally elected as a New Democrat, Fentie left to join the Yukon Party and one month later was selected leader. The same year he defeated the government led by Pat Duncan and became Premier. His majority was reduced to a minority when three of his MLAs left to sit as independents. He called an election and won another majority government.

Premier Dennis Fentie