Members of Nunavut's legislature have removed Premier Paul Quassa from office over concerns about his leadership style.

Some members of Quassa's own cabinet supported a non-confidence motion that ended with 16 votes in favour and three against.

There were two abstentions in the 22-seat legislature. The Speaker does not vote.

Quassa will keep his seat.

"This is about leadership," said Arviat MLA John Main, who presented the motion. "This is not about any one project, any one dispute, any one issue."

Under the rules of Nunavut's consensus government, the premier and cabinet are selected by fellow members of the legislature shortly after a general election. That's how Quassa was chosen premier last November.

Members outside of cabinet retain the power to remove the premier. On Thursday, after a short debate almost entirely in Inuktitut, that's what they did for the first time in Nunavut's 19-year history.

Quassa had been criticized during his short tenure for spending more than $500,000 for Nunavut representatives to attend an Arctic trade show in Ottawa. He had also taken flak for his government's decision to withdraw its support for a request to Ottawa for millions to build a road from the central Arctic coast into the mineral-rich heart of the territory.

Main — and others who rose in the legislature — criticized Quassa's leadership style.

"There's not been a lot of team effort among the members under this premier," he said. "There's been a tendency to an autocratic style of leading, which clashes with our consensus style of government."

Main said Quassa also misled the house.

George Hickes, who represents an Iqaluit riding, supported the non-confidence motion.

"It's about leadership," he said. "Every one of us has a say on who sits on which side of this house."

Adam Lightstone, another Iqaluit MLA, said his constituents were telling him Quassa had to go.

"They've spoken of the direction that this government is moving in and fear of how it may impact our territory."

Quassa spoke almost entirely in Inuktitut, but added in English that he respects the will of the house.

"I respect each and every elected MLA," he said.

Quassa did not immediately respond to an interview request.

The territorial legislature was to head immediately into a leadership forum. Elected members who put their names forward for the job are given 20 minutes to speak before answering questions from their colleagues.

Legislature clerk John Quirke said Nunavut was likely to have a new premier by Thursday evening.

It's not clear what happens to cabinet ministers, who are chosen by the members but assigned portfolios by the premier.

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 will revisit those priorities.

It's also not clear what will happen to the territory's budget, recently tabled by Quassa's cabinet and being debated in the legislature.

Quassa, 66, 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.

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