John Todd: no answer from Ottawa on transition costs
IQALUIT The NWT’s finance minister didn’t get a commitment on whether or not Ottawa will set aside another $136 million for division-related transition costs when he met with federal officials in Ottawa last week.
The report that GWNT finance minister John Todd tabled in the legislative assembly last month outlined $136 million in one-time, division-related costs. That’s in addition to the $150 million that the federal cabinet already approved for division costs.
“We didn’t really talk a lot about that except to say we hope we’d get a response from the parties,” Todd said.
Indian Affairs minister Jane Stewart has not publicly responded to the report.
“There’s a concern out there that we need to reach a consensus on what additional transition costs we need,” Todd said.
“We believe there’s a requirement for additional transition costs. Federal minister Stewart has agreed we should put a table together, along with the other parties, to evaluate that and reassess what the needs are, but there was no commitment in terms of dollars.”
GNWT can’t pay extra costs
Todd has made it clear in recent weeks that while the parties negotiate what costs will be covered, the GNWT is in no position to fund Nunavut’s substantial transition costs.
“We’re only covering a few costs, but nothing significant. Any significant costs associated with division have to come out of transitional costs.”
Funding-related talks, instead, centered around formula financing and the on-going costs associated with running Nunavut and a western territory after division.
Todd and his federal counterpart, Paul Martin, discussed how that will happen after April, 1999, but he was reluctant to share details of those talks other than to say he was “encouraged.”
“I’m not trying to be evasive, but I’m reluctant to say anything at this time because these are sensitive negotiations,” he said. “I’m not the only partner at the table.”
He said he wants to have an agreement in place before the end of the fiscal year.
“The sooner we come to an arrangement the better,” he said, adding he’s set his target for March 31, 1998. “Only time will tell whether or not the federal government will commit to the money.”