Feds ready to further support Nunavut if needed during COVID-19 pandemic, minister says
“If we need to do more for the needs of Nunavut, we will”
Canada’s minister of northern affairs, Dan Vandal, says Canada will support the Government of Nunavut during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq criticized the federal government’s recent funding announcement for the territories, saying the Government of Nunavut was “shortchanged” in its request for federal funding to help prepare for and deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $130 million to support northern communities dealing with COVID-19. Of that money, Nunavut will receive $30.8 million, plus up to $5 million for air services.
The GN had originally asked for $42 million for Nunavut, Savikataaq said.
Vandal said he will continue working with his federal counterparts to ensure Nunavut receives what it needs during the pandemic.
“I totally understand the concerns of the premier. He made his concerns very clear. And I also told him we just need to continue communicating, continue talking. I will continue to advocate for his priorities and his views at the cabinet table,” Vandal told Nunatsiaq News.
The $35.8 million for Nunavut includes $17.6 million for critical health-care system needs and mitigation efforts, $13.2 million for accommodation and other costs related to isolation, and $5 million to secure air services to ensure essential resupply and access.
As of April 14, the GN had spent around $2 million on isolation hubs in the south for Nunavut residents returning to the territory. The GN is also currently providing $2.25 million weekly to Nunavut’s airlines.
Tuesday’s federal announcement also included $15 million to support small businesses in the territories through the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency. Vandal said more details about how that money will be distributed will be unveiled soon by Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly.
Savikataaq also criticized the long wait to receive federal funding, having submitted the GN’s request on March 18. Savikataaq said he had already expressed his disappointment to Vandal.
“He knows my disappointment that not only did it take so long, but we’re behind now on the stuff we could have spent the money on,” Savikataaq said. “We’ll just be reimbursing some of that and we still have all these expenses we’re incurring.”
Vandal said the federal funding was coordinated with all three territories.
“We were coordinating with three territories and some of the money came from different federal departments, such as CanNor, such as Transport Canada, which provided the aviation funding … and we wanted them to coordinate everything to make sure that it was comprehensive, but at the same time we knew it was important to move the money quickly. I know for sure that it’s not perfect, and there are going to be improvements made,” Vandal said.
Right now, Vandal said his priorities are making sure Nunavut receives its share of personal protective equipment and continuing conversations with the Government of Nunavut.
“We’re working together with the Government of Nunavut to ensure that the virus doesn’t get established there. We are purchasing millions of pieces of PPE. We want to make sure that Nunavut gets its share. That’s my priority now and the Government of Canada’s priority. And [I’ll] continue the conversations with the Government of Nunavut to help [get] through this crisis. I know these are very difficult times,” Vandal said.
“I know that this crisis is not going to end next week and if we need to do more for the needs of Nunavut, we will.”