A wake-up call for Ottawa:the GNWT’s division plans

The government of the Northwest Territories has calculated that Ottawa might have to pay as much as $135.7 million in extra division transition costs between now and the year 2001.


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT The impending birth of Nunavut could cost $135.7 million more than its expectant parents in Ottawa first estimated.

That’s an estimate contained in a detailed transition plan for the creation of Nunavut unveiled this week by the government of the Northwest Territories.

The plan sets out the GNWT’s estimates for how and when 698 new Nunavut government headquarters jobs can be filled, where those jobs may be located and when, and how much it will cost to provide those workers with office equipment, computer systems and furniture.

Those estimates also include the costs of transferring Baffin regional staff to Igloolik, which will replace Iqaluit as the regional center for Baffin.

The plan, announced Wednesday in the legislative assembly by Finance Minister John Todd, estimates that most of the $135.7 million in extra Nunavut transition costs are probably not covered within the $150 million financial commitment announced in the spring of 1996 by former Indian Affairs Minister Ron Irwin.

“This is one-time expenditures that are required to get us to the point where we have a functional government so we can carry on and get a decentralized government in place over a period of time,” Todd said in an interview this week.

Todd also says Ottawa made it’s $150-millon commitment without knowing all the transition costs involved in making sure there’s a functioning Nunavut government in place by April 1, 1999.

“While this funding was and is extremely important in moving the process forward, it is important to point out that the federal government had to allocate this funding without the detailed information that we now have at hand for both the east and west,” Todd told MLAs on Wednesday.

That detailed information includes many costs that will either fall on the Nunavut interim commissioner’s office or on the Nunavut government after April 1, 1999.

More money from Ottawa essential

The report itself suggests that the division process could flounder if Ottawa isn’t able to provide the extra money.

“[W]ithout establishing the order of magnitude of these costs and confirming the willingness of the federal government to fund them, the orderly creation of two new governments could be in jeopardy,” the report says.

Those extra costs include a $13-million bill for setting up Nunavut government computer systems, $20.4 million over the next four years for Nunavut government recruiting, $7 million for Nunavut office furniture, $18.65 million in costs associated with moving regional staff, and many other expenses.

Quick action needed?

The report also says that Interim Commissioner Jack Anawak must act quickly to recruit essential Nunavut government headquarters staff including deputy ministers and must make quick decisions about how the Nunavut government’s internal computer systems will be set up.

“Timing is a critical issue at this point,” Deputy Preimier Arlooktoo said. “Everybody needs to take action now.”

Todd added that Indian Affairs and Northern Development Minister Jane Stewart has agreed to sit down with officials from the interim commissioner’s office, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc, and the GNWT to review the report.

“We’re hoping the interim commissioner’s office will move quickly to call a meeting on this very issue so we can come to some consensus as to how we proceed,” Todd said. “This should be done very quickly.”

GNWT still committed to decentralization

Nunavut won’t have a decentralized government by April, 1999 because the office and staff housing buildings needed to accomodate employees in communities outside of Iqaluit, Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet aren’t expected to be completed in some communities until 2001.

But Arlooktoo dismissed fears that a decentralized model is in jeopardy. Last week, Premier Don Morin announced that Arlooktoo is the minister responsible for Nunavut transition planning.

“This document is a step towards decentralization because we’ve identified what is required, as far as planning and costing, and these things were not there before,” Arlooktoo said.

But no matter how committed the GNWT is to the decentralized model, it’s still up to the federal government to approve the funding to make it happen.

“I’m certainly not assuming that she (Stewart) will not come forward with the costs,” Arlooktoo said. “Once they come up with the funding, we’ll be right there.”

The report identifies about $18 million in post-division transition costs created by decentralization.

“The federal government is now aware, which perhaps they weren’t a year and a half ago, of what the costs are to do that,” Todd said.

He’s confident the federal government will cover these post-division costs.

“We fundamentally believe they simply will, just by the fact that we’re not going to be able to include everything by April, 1999.”

The GNWT also says some essential Nunavut government functions may have to contracted back to the western NWT government until the Nunavut government is able to hire and accomodate the staff needed to deliver those services on its own.

“Everybody recognizes it is not humanly possible to get the government fully functional as the GNWT is by 1999. It’s just not possible. Clearly some administrative functions have to be contracted out,” Arlooktoo said.

“The most logical choice in our view would be the western government, but that’s up to the interim commissioner and the willingness of the western government.”

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