In the Nunavut legislative assembly this week
MLAs question, demand and bicker
MLAs vote for audit of QEC
Nunavut’s legislative assembly voted unanimously this week to ask the Auditor General of Canada to examine the Qulliq Energy Corp.
Iqaluit West MLA Paul Okalik introduced the motion to the Legislative Assembly on March 22, citing concerns about contracting, leasing, and the fact that Qulliq Energy has not tabled a business plan since 2007.
“We have no idea what they are planning to do,” he said.
Okalik referred to Qulliq’s plans to build a new office in Iqaluit despite the headquarters of the company being in Baker Lake.
Responding to Okalik’s motion, the minister responsible for the Power Corp., Hunter Tootoo, pointed out he had made a similar motion in 2005 when he was a regular member of the previous government.
At the time, the Okalik government defeated Tootoo’s motion, coming only a year after the auditor general’s last audit of QEC.
Okalik said since it’s now half a decade since the last audit, another one was due. He suggested a new audit could consider how the corporation has improved in response to the 2004 audit.
Nunavut unveils help-line for tobacco quitters line
Health and Social Services Minister Tagak Curley this week introduced his department’s newest scheme for helping Nunavummiut quit smoking.
This April, Nunavut’s tobacco quit line goes live, with counsellors waiting to take calls from people who want to quit smoking.
“As with any addiction, you can’t make people want to stop smoking,” said Curley. He went on to say the important thing is to support people who want to quit.
Initially the service will use English-speaking counsellors, and a three-way conference call with an interpreter if the caller is unilingual.
But Curley said the long-term goal is to train counsellors who speak the Inuit language.
Counsellors will be trained to point callers toward other materials helpful to quit, and focus on positive reinforcement, not criticism.
It will be a confidential service.
Curley said callers can be reminded of some of the reasons to quit smoking: it makes you a better role model for youth, it’s better for your health, you live longer, and you save a lot of money.
A bridge too far?
Iqaluit West MLA Paul Okalik grilled Economic Development and Transportation Minister Peter Taptuna in the legislature on March 22, asking why Iqaluit wasn’t included in the federal government’s bridge-building program in Nunavut.
The Access Roads program offered by the the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs will help build access roads and bridges in many Nunavut communities, but not Iqaluit.
Taptuna said Iqaluit is already getting a new bridge over the Sylvia Grinnell River, which was debated in the Legislative Assembly in 2009.
Okalik pointed out the planned bridge will not allow ATVs, a fact Okalik criticized last year.
Okalik said at the time he was told another bridge could be built at another location on the Silvia Grinnell that could allow ATVs.
Taptuna said the EDT department has no plans for another Sylvia Grinnell bridge.
Taptuna said the previous bridge included emergency features so ATVs can cross.
However, Environment Minister Dan Shewchuk told Nunatsiaq News that Taptuna was in error.
Shewchuk wouldn’t give a concrete time-line about when the bridge construction might start except to say it would not take place after the 2010 sealift.
The Department of National Defence, whose army engineers are to build the project, is stretched thin with commitments in Afghanistan and Haiti.
No new doctor yet for High Arctic
Pond Inlet hasn’t had a permanent doctor in two years, and its MLA wants to know when a new one is coming.
Tununiq MLA James Arvaluk said a doctor in Pond Inlet would be able to serve the five communities of the High Arctic: Igloolik, Clyde River, Pond Inlet, Arctic Bay, Resolute and Grise Fiord.
Health and Social Services Minister Tagak Curley said the doctor’s position had been moved to Iqaluit and he could not comment on when a new doctor would be assigned to Pond Inlet.
There are 11 doctors on contract all over Baffin Island, Curley said.
A handout for homeowners
Amid much desk-pounding from his peers, Housing Minister Hunter Tootoo introduced a new grant from his department to help homeowners face the rising cost of heating their homes.
The Nunavut Housing Corporation is offering grants worth up to $5,000 for people who want to replace heating oil tanks and associated components.
Applicants must be at least 19 years old. All levels of income are eligible.
Tootoo said the new program is an example of the Government of Nunavut working to help prevent environmental contamination.