By Adam Brickley
Aglukkaq first arrived in Parliament last November after scoring the first-ever Conservative victory in Nunavut, and Harper shocked the nation by immediately installing his star rookie as the head of nation’s powerful Health Ministry. At the time, it looked like an affirmative-action appointment designed to increase the number of women and minorities in the Cabinet (Aglukkaq is Inuk [or Eskimo] and hence an ”Aboriginal Canadian”). While it was not abnormal to see a few newcomers in the Cabinet, and Aglukkaq had previously served as Nunavut’s Health Minister, it seemed like Harper was taking a huge gamble by putting a neophyte in charge of Canada’s massive socialized medical system. Then the swine flu pandemic hit and Harper’s gamble paid off.
Aglukkaq rose to the occasion by rolling out one of most organized responses in the world, far outshining the bumbling of the Obama Administration down South. Under her leadership, Health Canada distributed millions of doses of vaccine around the country, developed guidelines as to who should be vaccinated, and handled the various crises associated with producing and distributing tens of millions of doses of swine flu vaccine. And when Canadians rushed to get the new vaccine and found themselves confronting shortages and long lines, Aglukkaq was the calm, steady voice on TV telling them to be patient and explaining that it takes time to distribute so much medicine.
Even the opposition Liberals praised Aglukkaq as she managed the largest immunization campaign in Canadian history. The star rookie is performing better than anyone could have imagined, and the woman once pilloried as an affirmative-action pick has become one of the strongest ministers in the entire Cabinet. My only question to the Conservatives is this: have you yet realized that this is the woman is not just an over-performer, but the future of your entire party?
Rookie Health Minister fulfils her dream--and then some
The child of a hunter and a respected teacher, Nunavut's Leona Aglukkaq always sought top government work
By Jane Taber
And Mr. Bell knows of what he speaks: He was one of her professors at the Arctic College in Iqaluit, and she was one of his best students.
“She was bright, diligent, hard-working, well-dressed and well-prepared,” he said. “I don't think she was more than 20 or 21 … very ambitious … working on a diploma in management studies.”
And so he asked her what she wanted to do when she graduated; she told him she wanted to make it in the world by becoming the deputy minister.
Ms. Aglukkaq (pronounced Ah-GLOO-cawk), 41, would not be interviewed for this profile.
She is married to Robbie MacNeil, a mental-health counsellor from Cape Breton, N.S., who is referred to in Nunavut as a “southerner.” The couple have a four-month-old boy, Cooper. And like Sarah Palin to the west of her, Ms. Aglukkaq, sticking with the narrative that she is an ambitious and tough woman (also like Sarah Palin), brought her baby to work just after he was born. She was then the Minister of Health in Nunavut and did not want to miss a thing.
First elected to the Nunavut Legislative Assembly in 2004, Ms. Aglukkaq also served as finance minister and House leader. And she was one of only two women in the 19-member assembly. She knows how to work in a male world, which will stand her in good stead in the testosterone-heavy House of Commons.
The major difference seems to be that Aglukkaq cares about health and women's services and government in general. She's in it to serve others, not to serve herself. This is a marked contrast with Palin, who cares only about fame and glory.
For more on Aglukkaq, see Body Bags Sent as Flu Assistance. For more on Palin, see The 2008 Presidential Campaign.