Infrastructure, housing, economic reconciliation and healthcare are among the top priorities for Nunavut MP Lori Idlout and Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson in their 2023-24 federal pre-budget submission to Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s deputy prime minister and minister of Finance.
“Nunavut faces major challenges related to geography and a lack of transportation, energy and communications infrastructure,” the submission reads, citing Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated’s Nunavut Infrastructure Report, The Arctic and Northern Policy Framework and news coverage.
Infrastructure projects Idlout and Patterson would like to see the federal government invest in include the Grays Bay Road and Port Project, a proposed 227-km, all-weather road and deep-water port connecting the Kitikmeot Region to the NWT. Another is the Kivalliq Hydro-Fibre Link, which aims to build energy and internet transmission lines from Manitoba to Kivalliq communities and an additional $2.1-million investment to complete the expansion and upgrade of Iqaluit’s sewage system, which would support population expansion in Nunavut’s capital.
The two are also seeking top-up investments adjusted to inflation to North Baffin communities as promised under the Tullarutiup Imanga Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement (IIBA), which includes $26.3 million from Parks Canada for multi-use facilities in Arctic Bay, Pond Inlet, Clyde River, Grise Fiord and Resolute. Another $10 million is wanted from each the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Baffinland for a regional training centre in Pond Inlet; $76.5 million from Transport Canada to the Government of Nunavut for community harbours in Resolute and Grise Fiord, as well as further commitments for small craft harbours in Arctic Bay and Clyde River.
Airport infrastructure is also needed in the territory, which has only two paved runways compared to the 32 gravel runways. To address that, Patterson and Idlout are seeking the re-establishment of the Small Communities Fund, aimed at supporting communities that have fewer than 100,000 people.
“Housing remains a critical challenge in the territory overall,” wrote Patterson, who referred to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Northern Housing Report, which identifies the Government of Nunavut’s plan to build 3,000 housing units by 2030.
The MP and senator endorse NTI and the Government of Nunavut’s Oct. 31 request for $250 million each to tackle Nunavut’s housing crisis as well as $30 million over five years from the federal government for mould remediation work needed for close to 150 public housing units.
Updating Nunavut’s water infrastructure is also needed, according to the pre-budget submission. That was identified as a top issue for Nunavut communities following a December 2021 Nunavut Association of Municipalities (NAM) meeting. The MP and senator endorsed NAM’s recommendation that the Government of Canada assess the total cost of upgrading Nunavut’s water infrastructure.
The Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) is another area “in dire need of reform,” according to Idlout and Patterson.
“Currently the program is not supportive enough to individuals in Northern and rural communities who require transportation to access healthcare,” the submission reads, citing a dire lack of healthcare professionals in the territory while Nunavummiut are unable to find providers in the south who are familiar with and directly bill NIHB. Patterson and Idlout recommend having a publicly available list of healthcare providers who bill to NIHB and to financially support medical travellers.
In addressing staffing issues in Nunavut health facilities, they look to the federal government to cooperate with the Government of Nunavut to find a per-capita approach to maintaining and hiring medical professionals.
The development of Nunavut’s fisheries or “blue economy” is also important according to the submission, with the majority of Nunavut’s jobs either only in government or mining. Idlout and Patterson are asking the federal government to provide long-term funding for fisheries research from the Northern Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative in Areas 0A and 0B in the Qikiqtani region.
Other recommendations include exploring alternative methods for filing taxes, with Nunavummiut having a non-filing rate of 28.5 per cent, compared to the 14.8 per cent national average and have it available in Inuktitut.
An expected $4.9 billion in NORAD military defence spending over the next 20 years should be a source of economic reconciliation, they propose.
“It is essential that Inuit participate more meaningfully in the conversation on NORAD modernization,” the submission from Patterson and Idlout reads.