Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Hardie and Madam Chair.
Minister Garneau, it's good to see you here.
First, I want to thank you for the five new terminals throughout Nunavut that were announced a few weeks ago. The replacements were badly needed. It's greatly appreciated.
The Government of Nunavut had submitted some other projects under the national trade corridors fund, being the airport relocations in Pangnirtung and Kimmirut as well as a winter road from Kivalliq down to Manitoba. I know they were turned down. I'm wondering why, and if there's any advice we can give to the Government of Nunavut to reapply or look at a different pool of funds to apply to for them.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Hardie.
Welcome, Minister Garneau.
I only have one question on this, and it's an issue that's been brought up a couple of times this summer in Iqaluit.
As you know, Nunavut is quite different from the rest of the country. We don't have dealerships. I know of one case where a recall was ordered for a vehicle and another case where there was a warranty the dealer was fixing automatically on his own. Because there's no dealer there, and they're saying an authorized dealer of the vehicle has to do the work, they're being told they have to put their vehicle on a ship, ship it out, get the work done down here, and then wait until next year to get it back.
I'm wondering if anything in here could help address that concern, where we're forced to utilize dealers. We have garages in the communities up there, but they're not authorized dealers. They have licensed mechanics. We need to address that so that work can get done. There are people who can't be without a vehicle and people have to pay for the shipping of their vehicle down south to get it fixed and get it back so they are still using those vehicles with those defects. There's no opportunity to change that. I'm wondering if there's something in the bill to help address that issue.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Ferguson.
Another thing you mentioned in your report is that if the infrastructure is not maintained, it becomes very costly to repair and upgrade. If memory serves me correctly, it's actually through the Government of Nunavut that funding is flowed, through its territorial formula financing agreement with the Department of Transportation and the Arctic airports to maintain those airports.
In your work as auditor for the Government of Nunavut and with this report, do you think there may be issues with providing adequate resources to the Government of Nunavut to maintain the existing infrastructure that's in place?
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Ferguson.
You also noted in your report that just in Nunavut alone, with its 25 airports, close to $500 million in 2014 dollars is needed, and a little over $75 million is needed to relocate two airports in order to meet Transport Canada safety regulations.
With all these deficiencies that you pointed out in your report, and the quality of infrastructure and information that's there for pilots, if those conditions existed in an urban airport, for example, do you think they would still be allowed to operate?
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)
It's just a matter of being able to afford to go out and harvest. A lot of people in Nunavut right now can't afford the equipment or the ammunition. They're more worried about having to spend what little resources they have just trying to buy the food they need. They can't afford to buy the equipment, gas, ammunition, and other stuff to go out and harvest.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Long, and Mr. Chair and committee members, for giving me this opportunity.
I think you can guess I'm going to focus specifically on Nunavut, as we have Aluki here.
Mr. Robillard asked about the housing situation. When I was housing minister in Nunavut, probably about five years ago, we needed about 3,300 units just to meet our current demand. That was growing with a forced growth that I think is now between 75 and 90 units a year. That's over a billion dollars just to meet our current demand right now, and that was a number of years ago.
On top of that you have the other issue that was mentioned, the declining funding from CMHC on the social housing agreement. That's putting an extra burden on the jurisdictions to be able to maintain the units.
My question for Aluki is this. You mentioned long-term, stable funding. I know that's something that the Government of Nunavut has always been pushing for, to allow for better planning and expenditure of those resources, and not just with housing. Do you see the lack of what you called “social infrastructure” in the communities as partly the result of a flawed funding model, not only for Nunavut but for NWT as well?
Basically, the funding over the years has been allotted on a per capita basis. You have a jurisdiction with the highest cost of any kind of living, a small population, and one-fifth of the land mass of Canada. Do you see the inadequacy of historical funding as contributing to the lack of social infrastructure and making it difficult for Inuit people to get out of the poverty that we're stricken with?
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Another thing I want to touch on that has been mentioned a few times here is the nutrition north program. I was at the indigenous affairs standing committee and there was a consensus that the program was like the analogy of the chicken and the egg. Everyone knew that egg was going to be scrambled before the program even started. That's how wonderful it is.
Do you feel the program should be just for nutritious food, or should it be adjusting and giving people the opportunity to be in line with the rest of Canada for basic needs. I mean things that you buy that you need every day, like toilet paper, diapers, toothpaste, different things like that? The program used to cover some of that stuff, and now that they've changed it just to cover nutritious food, it's more of a step backwards. The subsidy that there used to be for some of the basic things that you use every day has disappeared, and the price of that stuff has gone up.
Do you think that the program should focus on just the basic needs that everyone has on a daily basis, or should it be expanded?
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Don. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Minister, for coming.
I want to start off by saying I fully appreciate the direction that this government and you are taking to move forward on the needs for indigenous people, including Inuit. Also, I'd offer a special thanks for helping save the Mamisarvik program here in Ottawa this year.
In your opening comments, you talked about a needs-based approach. I know in the north, not only in Nunavut but in the NWT and the Yukon as well, we're in the dire situation that we're in because of years of per capita funding. You mentioned in your comments, education and family violence protection, child and family services, housing, all those things. There's funding that's been announced for first nations, which is long overdue.
How do you plan on meeting that commitment for Inuit? We're not on reserve—the way I look at it, Nunavut is one big reserve—but everything flows through the Government of Nunavut. They provide those services to the population.
Maybe I can get an idea of how you plan on seeing that flow through to Inuit through the Government of Nunavut.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thanks again to everyone for coming here.
What you've heard this afternoon and tonight are a lot of the same things that Maatalii pointed out and that the indigenous affairs committee heard when they were here. It's true and it's recognized here that it's hard for Inuit to move forward. Basically, we're living in third world conditions. You have to have your basic needs met in order to move on.
As one of the guys asked, “What's more important: what I am going to eat, whether I am going to be safe, where I am going to sleep, or electoral reform and the date of the next election?”
Look at the idea of proportional representation. I think it was pointed out that no one from here is too supportive of that idea. If you look at the way funding has been doled out in the past, you'll see that it's on a per capita basis.
We have such a huge infrastructure deficit. We're very far behind as a result of that already. Per capita funding is something you can look at to see how it has affected us here. It would basically end up being the same in the electoral system.
From what I know in my previous capacity as a member of the Legislative Assembly, there were a couple of electoral reform and electoral boundaries committees struck to look at that. It may be a suggestion for your research staff to contact the Legislative Assembly to get those reports, as well as some previous amendments that speak to our Elections Act.
The goal of any election is 100% turnout. I think in my first one I had 101% turnout. That's when they had those old outdated lists that nobody wanted to go on.
There's been some really good stuff here. If you're able to get hold of someone at the Legislative Assembly, that could be helpful to you, especially given the unique challenges that we face here. That should be helpful to you in looking at some modifications to try, such as mobile polls. It might make it a little bit easier for you.
I'd like to thank everyone for coming and participating.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome, everybody.
I would especially like to welcome my colleagues from the standing committee to Iqaluit for this very important issue that we deal with here in Nunavut and across the north. I think it's an important issue that has been called a crisis here in Nunavut, and hopefully you will have some very good discussions and presentations here today, and I look forward to the report you come out with. Hopefully there will be some strong recommendations for the minister to come up with some programs and some funding to be able to help alleviate this issue we face here in Nunavut.
I look forward to presenting to you in Ottawa at a meeting there.
Welcome to Nunavut. I wish the weather were a little better but the hospitality is always warm here, so I hope you have a great visit, and thank you very much for coming.
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