Declaration short on specifics

GN picks quality of life as top priority


Nunavut in 2030 will be a place of "healthy, secure and responsible individuals, families and communities" if the territory's new cabinet has its way.

Setting quality of life as the top priority for the new government, Nunavut's cabinet emerged from a weekend retreat in Cape Dorset pledging to fight poverty and employing "community-based solutions."

But like the Pinasuqtavut document of 10 years ago, which laid out the aspirations of Nunavut's first government, there's little in the way of specifics.

"We were focusing on the broad topics…and where we want to go in the next couple of decades," said Eva Aariak, the premier, in a telephone interview. "And the specific how-tos will be the next step."

For example, how to better incorporate Inuit culture into the Westminster-based parliamentary model all provincial and territorial governments, Nunavut included, are based on.

It's a process that began with Nunavut's first two governments, and one that Aariak wants to continue.

"We would really like to continue that and go even further, looking into certain legislation perhaps, as to how [Inuit values] would be more incorporated," she said.

"This is an exciting phase I think we are at where we will be doing consultations with the public" to seek out ways to do that.

Aariak also reasserted her proposal for a so-called "report card" on government operations: a year-long review process that would study everything from the inclusion of Inuit values in government, hiring practices, budgets, and studying how effective GN programs are.

Nunavut's coming 10th birthday is the perfect time for such a review, Aariak said.

"As you go along, you need to evaluate where and how things are going," she said, adding work on the report card will begin as quickly as possible and could include a status report halfway through.

The cabinet also wants to increase government capacity "by changing the hiring process;" creating an office to help the most vulnerable, visit every Nunavut community, and improve "two-way" communications with Nunavummiut and the wider world. She also pledged more public consultation.

Aariak said one way to increase the number of filled jobs is reducing the long delays between when government jobs are posted and when they're filled. But she said Nunavut's education system must produce the kind of trained graduates the Government of Nunavut needs to be fully staffed.

One in every four GN jobs is unfilled. Just over half of the staffed positions are filled by Inuit, well short of the government's goal of 85 per cent.

"We will always need expertise from all over," Aariak said. But she added: "That is a priority, making sure we are producing well-educated, qualified individuals that will be employed by all sectors and institutions."

There's no detail on what an "office to help the most vulnerable" would do, or how it would be structured.

Aariak said Nunavut would also continue to press Ottawa for a devolution deal, and for more money for infrastructure, particularly small craft harbours.

The next sitting of the legislative assembly is scheduled to start March 17.

A source said MLAs likely won't have any major reform legislation to deal with, but they will have to pass a capital budget. That's normally done in October, but the territorial election forced it to be put off. MLAs will also have to pass an interim appropriations bill to cover government operations until they can pass an operations budget in June.

There's also talk MLAs would like to prorogue the house March 31, triggering a throne speech on April 1, Nunavut's 10th birthday. If that happens, any bills that haven't passed would die on the order paper.

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