Nunavut MLAs keep beavering away at next year’s capital budget
GN seeks non-government partners for elder care
Despite the recent political conflicts that grabbed most of the headlines last week, Nunavut MLAs have been quietly beavering away at the Government of Nunavut’s capital spending plans for the next fiscal year, 2019-20.
So far, they’ve looked at GN plans for new community health centres, a fibre-optic telecom link, public housing construction and mould remediation, as well as numerous small pieces of municipal infrastructure.
They also received confirmation that the GN wants to create badly needed new elder care centres by teaming up with non-GN partners, such as corporations, Inuit organizations, hamlets and local societies.
Through Bill 9, the vessel that contains next year’s capital estimates, the GN wants MLAs to approve $177.5 million worth of capital spending for the 2019-20 financial year, which starts next April 1.
The biggest-spending departments and agencies are the Nunavut Housing Corp., with $47.1 million in proposed expenditures, the Department of Community and Government Services at $39.9 million, and the Department of Health at $35.6 million.
New health centres on the way
The Health Department’s biggest capital priority remains the replacement of Nunavut’s aging stock of old community health centres, Health Minister George Hickes told MLAs in committee of the whole last week.
To that end, the Health Department’s construction wish-list includes new health centres in Sanikiluaq and Cape Dorset.
This means the people of Sanikiluaq will likely see their new $30.2 million health facility up and running by September of 2020, Hickes said.
That project has already cost $17.65 million in past spending, and for the upcoming year, the GN asks MLAs to vote another $12.3 million, with an additional $250,000 for 2020-21.
And in Cape Dorset, the GN wants to award a contract for construction of a new $33-million health centre well in advance of the 2019 sealift season, Hickes said.
“Currently the detailed design phase of the project is nearing completion, with the construction tender package scheduled to be issued before the end of January 2019, permitting contract award in advance of 2019 summer sealift scheduling,” he said.
To make that happen, the GN wants $18.5 million for 2019-20 and will request $12.8 million in 2020-21, with another $250,000 in the following year.
In developing replacement health centres, Hickes said the GN has learned from the construction of new health centres in Naujaat, Taloyoak, and Arctic Bay.
That includes incorporating spaces to “assist in the management and treatment of tuberculosis as well as providing secure calming rooms to facilitate acute mental health services for those in immediate need,” Hickes said.
The next replacement health centres on the GN’s future to-do list are set for Qikiqtarjuaq, where planning work will be done by March 2019, with planning work starting later for Baker Lake and Kugluktuk.
Also, the GN wants to expand existing health centres in Rankin Inlet and Arviat in 2023-24 and 2024-25 respectively, he said.
GN seeks partners for elder care
As for the construction and operation of new extended care homes, a major issue in last year’s territorial election and a big priority for the current territorial government, Hickes said the government is still looking at “options.”
But he made one point clear: the GN will not, by itself, own and operate any new elder care centres.
Instead, the GN will look for partnerships with societies, corporations, municipalities and Inuit organizations, “using a fee-for-service model like is done everywhere else in the country,” Hickes said in reply to a question from Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone.
He said that’s because it would be financially imprudent for the GN to get into the business all on its own.
As for the Hamlet of Kugluktuk’s $21.4-million proposal to build a 24-bed extended care home for elders in their community, Hickes was non-committal when asked about it by Kugluktuk MLA Mila Kamingoak.
But Hickes didn’t say no either.
“I’m looking forward to working with my cabinet colleagues and our process to seek out partnerships with, like I said earlier, hamlets, municipalities, corporations, and Inuit organizations to provide elder care,” he said.
The Hamlet of Kugluktuk had committed $1 million of its own money and was prepared to complete construction of its centre by 2019, and then operate it under a fee-for-service contract with the GN.
But the GN said last May they want to put out a request for proposals first.
Hickes said cabinet has made no decisions on elder care yet, but has been digesting information provided by a company the GN contracted to look at the issue.
The war on mould continues
Lorne Kusugak, the minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corp., asked MLAs to approve $49.1 million in capital expenditures for the NHC.
That represents GN spending only, and does not include carryovers of money voted in previous years, or new contributions from federal pots of money like the National Housing Strategy.
One of those carryovers is a $14-million fund for “public housing modernization and improvement.” Much of that fund appears to be going into mould remediation.
“Recent mould remediation activities are rapidly bringing down the balance,” Kusugak said.
In response to questions from Aivilik MLA Patterk Netser, Kusugak said the housing corporation is looking at its housing designs, including ventilation, and is trying to understand what causes so many mould infestations in Nunavut.
And he said the NHC is trying to inform tenants on how to get rid of mould and has trained 196 employees of local housing organizations in mould remediation.
“We want to eliminate mould in our houses. This work will not just stop,” Kusugak said.
He also said the NHC will build 19 new staff housing units and, with the GN capital funding money to be voted during this sitting, 35 new social housing units.
However, the actual number of social housing units to be constructed next year appears likely to exceed that amount, due to the use of carry-over funds and money from the federal government.
“With this construction, as well as new funding that will be coming to the NHC from the federal government, through the National Housing Strategy, we are steadily working to address Nunavut’s severe housing crisis,” Kusugak said.
A document on public housing allocation among Nunavut communities, dated Sept. 28 and tabled at the legislature his session, said the NHC anticipates building as many as 100 new housing units next fiscal year.
The allocation by community would work like this: Iqaluit, 20; Kugaaruk, 10; Igloolik, 20; Arviat, 20; Gjoa Haven, 10; Rankin Inlet, 10; and Cambridge Bay, 10.
Those allocations are carried out on the basis of need—by comparing the total housing stock number in a community with the total number of applications on the housing wait-list.
Iqaluit, with a total housing stock of 540 units and a wait-list of 360 applications, has a need equal to 67 per cent, the highest in Nunavut.
While wearing his other hat, as minister of community and government services, Kusugak fended off questions about a plan to spend $5 million on a future fibre-optic telecom link that would potentially connect Iqaluit and three other communities with Nunavik and Greenland.
Kugaaruk school to be finished next year
As this article was being prepared, MLAs had just started looking at the Department of Education’s $20-million capital budget.
They heard Education Minister David Joanasie confirm that in Kugaaruk, where the former school was destroyed by a spectacular fire in 2017, a replacement school will be completed by August 2019.
Also, Igloolik’s new high school is nearly completed.
And the GN is also designing a replacement for the mould-ridden Sakku School in Coral Harbour and planning an extension to the École des Trois Soleils in Iqaluit to eliminate the need for space-sharing at Inuksuk High School and Aqasarniit Middle School, Joanasie said.