Nunavut Legislative Assembly gets back to work today

Nunavut's Legislative Assembly building in downtown Iqaluit on Feb. 6. The winter sitting begins on Wednesday. (David Gunn/CBC - image credit)
Nunavut's Legislative Assembly building in downtown Iqaluit on Feb. 6. The winter sitting begins on Wednesday. (David Gunn/CBC - image credit)

Nunavut's lawmakers are back in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday to begin the winter sitting. The three-week session will largely focus on the government's operations and maintenance budget for next year, set to be tabled on Thursday.

The government plans to introduce six bills this session, which runs until March 16.

"Four of which will be money bills, so dealing with budgets, and two will be non-money bills," said government house leader David Joanasie.

Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada
Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada

He said one of those "non-money bills" will come from Human Resources Minister Margaret Nakashuk, though he declined to get into more details about it.

Joanasie, who also serves as the minister for Community and Government Services, says many other of the government's priorities will be reflected in the budget, notably with regards to Nunavut's rising fuel prices, which falls under his portfolio and has impacted his department's operations.

"Maintaining government assets and buildings and all the schools and health centres and whatnot," Joanasie said. "The cost to maintain them has increased. So that be will an area that I'm prioritizing."

Federal health transfers

Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA George Hickes has several topics of focus in the coming weeks, including housing and the territory's health care struggles — files he's familiar with as the former minister of Health and of the Nunavut Housing Corporation.

Earlier this month, the three territories signed off on a deal from the federal government which saw a boost to the territorial health transfers, but fell short of what the premiers had asked for.

Hickes is expecting more details on what impact this new deal will have on Nunavut's health care system.

"I think obviously one of the biggest challenges with healthcare delivery is the staffing levels. So I'm very interested to see what the department of health will be able to do to meet their goals and staffing levels across the territory," Hickes said.

The chair of the regular members caucus, Solomon Maliki, says he too has questions addressing Nunavut's healthcare challenges.

"It's hard to say because we wanna see a lot of more progress with health, so it's very hard to say right now," Maliki said, adding, among other things, he's concerned about the lack of services for medical travel patients.

David Gunn/CBC
David Gunn/CBC

Housing and police services

In terms of housing, Hickes hope to circle back to the Nunavut 3000 strategy, an ambitious plan from the Nunavut Housing Corporation and Inuit-owned NCC Development Limited (NCCD), to build 3,000 homes by 2030.

Where the money will come from for such a plan, however, is still unknown.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how that is going to be implemented," Hickes said.

Hickes is also expecting an update from the justice minister on an agreement Nunavut struck with the federal government in November to build on the First Nations and Inuit policing program — which should help recruit more Inuit officers to Nunavut's RCMP force over the next three years.

Hickes says there are still several outlying questions on the agreement, notably what kind of impact the deal will have on the justice department's budget and on the territorial policing contract with the RCMP.