Jim Prentice responds to Mary Simon’s attack
I was surprised to see Mary Simon, the newly elected president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, starting off her term with statements that do not reflect the spirit of partnership and cooperation that has resulted in tremendous success to date.
In fact, our government has not only remained committed to the Inuit agenda but we have gone beyond the lip service of the past with concrete measures to improve the lives of Inuit in Canada.
Within three months of coming into office, in its first budget, this government announced real funding of more than $3.7 billion in initiatives that will make a significant difference in the lives of Inuit, First Nations, and Métis people.
As part of that funding, we committed $300 million for affordable housing in the territories, with the largest portion of that funding going to Nunavut, where Inuit will be among the key beneficiaries. This funding is being provided more quickly than the longer-term proposals coming out of the First Minister’s Meeting.
We also established a $500 million fund to support regional projects that will help to alleviate the socio-economic impacts on communities, including the Inuvialuit, who are affected by the potential Mackenzie Gas Project (MGP).
Even before the budget, we began to make investments. While I was in Nunavut in April on my first major ministerial trip, I was joined by Levinia Brown, a prominent member of the Nunavut cabinet, in a joint announcement of $6.36 million in federal investments to promote economic development in Nunavut under the Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development initiative.
During recent meetings with the premier of Nunavut and the president of Nunavut Tunngavik, we discussed the importance of Thomas Berger’s report on the implementation of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. As Mr. Berger emphasized, collaboration is key and the challenge of bilingual education in Nunavut can only be surmounted through an effective partnership that involves both levels of government, Inuit organizations, and communities. Success demands cooperation, and I have invited representatives of the Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc to work with me to see how we can proceed in practical terms.
We are moving forward positively like never before. Progress takes time and strong relationships are its foundation. Canada’s new government is committed to working with ITK and other organizations to improve the lives of Inuit. We are also committed to addressing the fiscal imbalance with the territories through renewed and strengthened Territorial Formula Financing (TTF) programs and to devolution in NWT and Nunavut.
Although territorial governments have the authority to raise revenues through taxation, rentals, and the sale of goods and services, a significant portion of their total revenues come from the federal government through territorial formula funding and other federal health and social transfers.
In 2006-07, it is estimated that more than $2.2 billion will be transferred to the territorial governments. In 2005-06, approximately 61 per cent of Yukon’s, 66 per cent of the Northwest Territories’ and 81 per cent of Nunavut’s total revenues were through territorial formula funding alone.
Overall, billions of dollars in federal funding have been infused into the North through land claim settlements, self-government agreements, transportation, municipal infrastructure and other economic development projects.
Through land claims settlements alone, the total capital transfer in 2005 dollars is about $1.86 billion. These investments are helping build a future that is full of promise. ITK also receives federal funding to represent and promote Inuit interests and rights; last year alone, they received $3.84 million.
Considering Canada’s leading role among the few nations in the world with constitutionally entrenched aboriginal rights, we are also committed to protecting and promoting aboriginal and treaty rights domestically, and to working with other countries and indigenous peoples internationally.
Canada’s new government is making significant progress on a range of issues. We continue to work in partnership and co-operation with Inuit, and are moving forward to improve living conditions and opportunities.
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians