Jose Kusugak: put Nunavut’s interests first

NTI’s president urged delegates at this week’s NTI general meeting in Igloolik to put regional differences aside as they consider a new system for funding Nunavut’s three regional Inuit associations.

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

DWANE WILKIN
Nunatsiaq News

IGLOOLIK Nunavut Tunngavik President Jose Kusugak set the stage for the introduction of a new NTI funding formula by appealing to delegates at this year’s annual general meeting to place Nunavut’s interests ahead of their regional differences.

It would take a late-night meeting with the board’s funding review committee on Tuesday, however, to reach a compromise agreement about how to divide NTI money among regional Inuit associations.

Delegates from the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, the Kivalliq Inuit Assocition and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association were given until Friday to consider the proposal before voting on it formally in the gymnasium of Ataguttaaluk School in Igloolik.

“In reality I thought that the discussions showed we’re understanding each other,” Kusugak said Wednesday, following a detailed report on the Nunavut land claim organization’s financial statements.

Larger share for Baffin

The big question on everyone’s mind was whether NTI’s executive committee would get support from the regions for a plan that could ultimately see the Baffin region carve out a larger share of NTI funding at the expense of the Kitikmeot and the Keewatin.

Delegates’ seating arrangement had been carefully planned so that no two members from the same region sat next to each other.

“We are here to represent all of Nunavut,” Kusugak reminded delegates. “I hope you will not be thinking just of your own regions.”

NTI’s financial review committee had recommended that financial commitments to regional Inuit associations be separated into two categories of payment: core funding, to be increased in next year’s budget by four per cent for each association; and a second level of funding to be tied to the population in each region.

The new budget would allow NTI to borrow $10.1 million from Nunavut Trust in the 1998-99 fiscal year.

Kivalliq loses $50,000

Kivalliq Inuit Association delegates protested that the new funding formula would reduce funding to the Keewatin region by $50,000 a year.

“We feel that this is the best we can come up with,” Natsiq Kango, secretary-treasurer said.

Kango also reviewed detailed financial statements with the delegates.

Though overall spending by the birthright corporation declined last year by about one per cent to $23.4 million from $23.1 million in 1995-96 spending by certain departments did rise.

Notably, professional and legal fees more than doubled, jumping from $650,000 in 1995/96 to $1.5 million last year. Travel expenses were up, too, rising by $238,000 to just under $2 million by year’s end.

Payroll expenses also increased. Salaries and employee benefits totalled $4.5 million in the 13-month period ending March 31, 1997, compared with $3.8 million in the previous year.

These increases were offset partly by decreases in distributions to regional Inuit associations, which recieved $9.5 million from NTI in 1997, compared with $11 million in 1996. Spending on printing, advertising, and electioneering was also down.

Contributions to the Nunavut Hunters’ Support program remained constant at $3 million.

NTI’s deficit climbed to $46.5 million in 1996/97, up from $38.5 million last year. It is expected to continue to climb until the year 2001/02, when the investments of the Nunavut Trust are supposed to start generating enough income from interest to finance the birthright corporation’s operations. After that date, NTI must begin repaying its loans from Nunavut Trust.

“It will appear that we owe some money for a long while, but I’m sure it will return to us, to the trustees (of Nunavut Trust),” Natsiq Kango, secretary-treasurer said.

New budget for 1998-99

On Friday delegates were asked to approve a budget for the 1998/99 fiscal year, which broke down roughly as follows:

* $10.1 million for the operations of NTI;

* $ 3.3 million for the Qikiqtani Inuit Association;

* $ 2.6 million for the Kitikmeot Inuit Association;

* $ 2.3 million for the Kivalliq Inuit Association;

* $1.8 million for economic development activites.

Transportation issues

In his own presentation to the delegates, Kusugak reported that he has directed staff to develop a special strategy to guide NTI’s approach to transportation issues in Nunavut.

In recent months the Nunavut Inuit birthright corporation has been courted by First Air as a potential investor. The Coast Guard and the territorial government, too, have been asking for input from NTI, he said.

James Eetoolook, NTI’s first vice-president, reported that the lands department has already begun meetings with co-management boards in Nunavut to establish a Marine Council.

The council will be able to advise the birthright corporation on matters pertaining to the the sea within a year’s time, he said.

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