Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Sorbara and Mr. Chair, and welcome. It's always good to see a fellow Nunavummiut here in Ottawa. I have three or four questions, whatever I have time for.
Mr. Premier, you mentioned carbon pricing and the impact on the territory. I think it's no secret that we are unique, and we are 100% reliant on diesel, as you pointed out. Until some opportunities arise for that, that's not going to change. I know the three territories have been discussing with Canada a way to address that uniqueness on carbon pricing in the territories, and I understand you guys were in discussions with Canada on that.
I'm wondering if the goal of those discussions was to recognize the unique challenges and circumstances of Nunavut, and when it does come, that it would be either cost neutral to the territory or have exemptions that take those unique circumstances under consideration. Is that the direction you'd like to see it go?
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Premier. Yes, I think it's no secret that it costs three times as much to operate anything in the north. I always say that a dollar down here is like 33¢ in the north.
I think another important point is the fact that any investment in infrastructure in the north, whether it be housing or any kind of infrastructure, is actually a direct investment in the southern economy, because anything we buy up there to build with comes from the south. You talked about major infrastructure. You mentioned the Grays Bay port and road project. I was in Winnipeg about a week and a half ago for the Hudson Bay regional round table. We just had the 20th mining symposium in Iqaluit this week. There are two major projects there, Grays Bay and the Manitoba Hydro road project coming up into the Kivalliq region.
We all know that in order for the economy to grow...and that's what this is about, economic growth for the territory and the government's commitment to look toward creating a sustainable economy in the north. Canada invested in the roads across the country in the south. They invested in the railway. They invested in the harbours. The only jurisdiction left in Canada that hasn't had that investment is the north, and specifically Nunavut.
Do you think there is a requirement for this type of infrastructure investment to allow for the economy to grow and to have the opportunities there for the territory to create employment, lower the cost of living, and bring in alternative sources of energy? As Minister Savikataaq mentioned, there's also the connectivity with fibre optics. I know it's something that the territory can't afford.
As we know, an investment like this would be high up front, but with dividends would pay for itself in the long run and create that opportunity. What we all want is a sustainable, self-sufficient, self-reliant territory, and these investments would help achieve that.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thanks, Don.
In your comments you mentioned the territorial health funding. I've raised questions in the House before. Actually, if you look at the percentage of the Government of Nunavut's budget that goes towards health care compared with what it receives from Canada it is about 11%. For the rest of the country, the average is around 20% or 21%.
If you look at the social housing agreements and the infrastructure funding in the past, as you mentioned, on a per capita basis, those don't work. I think that's the problem with these national formulas, they don't take into account the unique circumstances that we have in Nunavut.
Do you think there needs to be a different way, a different mechanism, or a way to think outside the box of these national formulas for funding the territories so that the level of services they provide to their residents can be comparable to that in the rest of Canada?
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Premier.
You touched on the mental health funding. You actually declared suicide a crisis in Nunavut. Our numbers are staggering. You talked about the announcement in the federal budget on mental health funding, and my understanding is that this year Nunavut is going to get maybe $300,000 for that. Going forward, for years after, it's $500,000 a year. Given the lack of services available across the territory, there needs to be much more significant investment in addressing mental health challenges to help curb the suicide rate in the territory.
How would you see the way forward to address those sad statistics that we face in the territory?
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Chair. To your suggestion about per capita funding, I think everyone but you would agree that maybe we should move to a land-mass-based formula for funding.
An hon. member: That wouldn't work so well for P.E.I.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
You talked about connectivity, education, and health care. I think you get better service on your cellphone down here than you get in most communities in Nunavut, and again the cost of any project in the north is high. I know one proposal was looking at bringing in fibre optics underwater from Greenland over to Iqaluit, which uses probably between 60% and 70% of the bandwidth of the territory.
How do you see something like that would help not only increase Internet services and connectivity to the rest of the territory, but also bring down the cost of health care and improve educational opportunities for Nunavummiut?
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thanks, Dan.
I'd like to go back to something you mentioned earlier on, looking at your request for $250 million over 10 years to help modernize and maintain capacity in some of the power generation plants that are in the territory. As you said, the majority of those plants were built before I was born. I don't know about you, Joe.
How important do you think being able to modernize is? When they were built back then, there was probably no energy efficiency, not clean. In this request, would that be looking at not only increasing capacity but also incorporating cleaner and more energy-efficient technology into those systems?
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It's good to see you again, Premier McLeod. I see there are two Mr. McLeods here—clan McLeod.
I have three questions that I will try to get through. You mentioned, along with Nunavut and the Yukon, sitting down and coming to a mutual agreement with the federal government in relation to carbon pricing. I think all three of us understand and recognize the uniqueness of the circumstances of the north, which is totally reliant on diesel and already hitting the highest cost of living in the country. Would your goal be to look at coming to some kind of agreement that would mean that for all the territories, this would be a cost-neutral exercise?
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Premier.
The second question I have affects all three territories similarly.
These national formulas that you mentioned on a per capita funding basis historically haven't worked for us, for all three territories. With the huge infrastructure deficit, the low level of services and health outcomes with health care funding and things like that, do you think that these national formulas don't work for the territories and that the government needs to look at thinking outside the box and outside these national formulas in dealing with the unique circumstances of the north?
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I think you hit the nail on the head in your opening comments when you talked about the lack of public infrastructure. To me, that's probably one of the biggest barriers to sustainable economic growth in all three territories. Canada put in the roads across the country. It put in the rail line. It put in the airports. It put in the ports on the east and west coast, but that didn't happen in the north. I think Canada needs to make a significant investment in infrastructure in the north beyond where they are right now.
Increasing your borrowing limit is just like giving you more rocks in a leaky boat. Recognizing that the territories have limited opportunities to generate own-source revenues and that because of the historic way that things have been rolled out we are so far behind, to me, that's an investment. It's expensive for some of the projects, like the Grays Bay project, or the Manitoba road and hydro project, and the deep sea port in Iqaluit. All these types of infrastructure projects cost a lot of money. You have to remember that a dollar down here is 33¢ up there because of the high cost of doing things. Investing in infrastructure in the north, or any investment in the north, as you pointed out, is an indirect investment into the southern economy.
Do you feel that the federal government needs to make a significant investment in infrastructure in the north in order to create a strong, stable, vibrant economy that will lead to the self-sufficiency of the territories and help with your problem of people leaving because there are no opportunities?
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