Iqaluit and territorial government disagree on capital funding
IQALUIT — A fight is brewing between the government of Nunavut and the Town of Iqaluit over capital spending in Iqaluit.
The Town is waiting to hear how much money it will receive from the Nunavut government to pay for capital projects. Iqaluit wants to use this year’s money to pay for a new sewage facility and a major paving project.
But rumours are now swirling to the effect that the Nunavut government may decide to pay for projects that aren’t high up on the municipality’s priority list.
“The priorities of the municipality are not really being considered by the department,” said Denis Bedard, Iqaluit’s director of engineering and planning.
The Nunavut government, through its Department of Community Government, Housing and Transportation, provides capital dollars to municipalities. Bedard said department staff told him they will recommend that Iqaluit’s money be used for different projects than those given priority by town council.
Bedard said he does not know what the community government department’s staff will recommend
Depending upon what the Community Government Minister Jack Anawak decides, Iqaluit’s plans for a new sewage system and road pavement this year could be shelved.
No answers from government
Now Iqaluit town officials and councillors want answers.
Last week, Iqaluit’s development, works and public safety committee directed staff to draft a letter on behalf of town council to Anawak. Bedard sent the letter earlier this week.
The committee decided to send the letter after the department’s deputy minister, Mike Ferris, declined to attend its meeting last week to clear up the confusion.
Ferris declined and said information about capital projects funding is confidential until the Nunavut government’s budget is passed in the legislature.
Finance Minister Kelvin Ng is expected to make his first budget speech next week.
But Town Councillor Matthew Spence said he was “disappointed” by Ferris’s refusal to attend and said he expected the process of allocating funds to be more open.
“Just explain to him that we’re very interested in co-ordinating with his department in terms of the capital plan and that this works better if we have open communication,” Spence said.
Spence now hopes Anawak will instruct his staff to meet with Iqaluit officials after he receives the letter. Anawak will not comment on capital project funding until after the Nunavut budget is tabled.
Iqaluit’s top two priorities for this year are a new $7 million sewage treatment facility, and road paving, Bedard said. The Town must replace the sewage lagoon to comply with Nunavut Water Board regulations.
Iqaluit needs the money fast to make the sealift deadline, Bedard said.
And if Iqaluit doesn’t receive the $5 million it needs from the Nunavut government to complete the project this year, the municipality — and the Nunavut government — could face fines.
“We’ll probably be charged first and then the government will be right behind, because ultimately, they are responsible,” Bedard said.
If the Nunavut government does not have enough money for each of Iqaluit’s capital projects, it should approach Town officials with the problem, Bedard said.
“What’s typically appropriate is (the government) would come to the municipality and say ‘look it, we don’t have the money… here’s what we do have. Where would you like to see your dollars allocated?'” Bedard said.
“They haven’t done that. They’ve never come back to us.”