Wildlife board survives funding flap, learns lesson
NWMB fends off attempt to change contract with feds
The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board wants a better way to get its money each year, after a terse legal standoff with the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.
“A contribution agreement is not the right transportation method for funding,” Jim Noble, assistant director of the wildlife board said this week after receiving assurances from Ottawa that its $4.7 million operating budget would be restored.
Bureaucrats with DIAND had wanted to change provisions of its implementation contract with the Board by inserting a termination clause in the funding agreement. The clause would have permitted DIAND to end the agreement on 60 days’ notice.
No such provision for a termination clause was negotiated in the implementation contract.
The wildlife management board argued that any tampering with existing funding provisions would violate the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and the implementation contract.
Breach of contract?
Lawyers for Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. described the move by DIAND as a breach of contract which placed unfair restrictions on Nunavut’s wildlife-management authority.
“In effect, if you take away our money, we’re dead,” Noble said. “DIAND would have the power to terminate something that’s legislated by the Constitution of Canadathat’s what we were fighting.”
Last week, Board president Ben Kovic appealed to NTI, which finally convinced DIAND to restore funding by the following Friday, April 11 under threat of court action.
“I don’t think it was some evil dark conspiracy,” said Bill Sackett, spokesman for NTI.
“I think it was more a routine bureaucratic thing, where these termination clauses are routinely added to certain types of contracts. Someone apparently thought they should do it with this contract because they do it with others.
“But whoever made that decision has since been told that that’s a decision they’re not allowed to make.”
Mickey Mouse money
The whole episode illustrates how much everyone still has to learn about the status of new territorial agencies in Nunavut, NWMB’s Noble said.
Contribution agreements, a “Mickey Mouse way of getting funds every year,” are subject to pressures from the Treasury Department and therefore incompatible with the Land Claims Agreement, he said.
“Especially the four main co-management boards, because they’re really institutions of public government,” Noble said.
The wildlife management board had been prepared to ask NTI for financial assistance in the event that DIAND did not agreed to remove the 60-day termination clause.
Meanwhile, the wildlife management board and DIAND have begun the search for a better way to get money each year that suits the agency’s mandate. Noble characterized the mini-crisis as a learning experience.
“They’re human too and I don’t think they (DIAND) understand all the ins and outs of this claim, as we don’t either,” Noble said.