Nunavut MLAs vote against employee home ownership program

Regular members unhappy they were not allowed to see draft policy

Nine of 10 regular members of Nunavut’s legislative assembly voted against a proposed $500,000 program to help GN employees save up for a down payment on a house on Wednesday. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

By Mélanie Ritchot

In a 10-to-nine vote, members of Nunavut’s legislative assembly struck down a program pitched to help get Government of Nunavut employees into the home buyers’ market and out of staff and public housing.

Through Bill 70, Finance Minister George Hickes was seeking $500,000 for the Nunavut Housing Corporation to launch a program that would help GN employees buy or build new homes.

The Homebuyer Matched-Savings Program would have set aside money from each paycheque for participants, then matched the amount saved once they’re ready to make a down payment on a home, effectively doubling their savings, Hickes explained on Tuesday, when he presented the bill.

MLAs were denied the chance to see the draft policy this week, which spurred Uqqummiut MLA Pauloosie Keyootak to bring forward a motion to delete the program from the bill. That motion was carried on Wednesday.

“As members, we have not been properly informed of the details,” Keyootak said. “I don’t want to approve it because of the uncertainty as to how it will be implemented.”

He was one of multiple MLAs who voiced concerns about a lack of information.

Regular MLAs typically don’t see draft policies, but a program like this is normally finalized before funding is requested. In this case, Hickes said his department was looking to approve the funding before finalizing details, to get the program running as soon as possible — ideally before fall.

Details that still need to be ironed out include how employees who access the program will be taxed, how long people need to live in the territory to qualify, and what the funding limit per household will be, Hickes said.

Hickes said he was “very disappointed” the motion was brought forward, adding that with territorial elections coming soon, it could take over a year for the next government to create a new policy like this. He also invited MLAs to ask him more questions about the program.

“This has the potential to take homeownership opportunities away from Inuit families in this territory and I do not want any part of that,” he said about the motion before it was carried.

Premier Joe Savikataaq said it’s the job of regular MLAs to pass legislation, rather than create policies and regulations.

“Once the policy is passed and is approved by cabinet, then the regular MLAs can hold us accountable,” he said. “They can criticize the policy and ask for amendments to make it better.”

In response, John Main, MLA for Arviat North–Whale Cove, said he can see the value in the proposed program and home ownership is important, but “I do have to disagree that legislators are not allowed to look at policy.”

“If we could have gone back and received a copy of the draft policy following [Tuesday’s] meeting, perhaps we wouldn’t have been where we are right now.”

Although MLAs didn’t get the chance to see the program draft, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. did.

This is because the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement says Inuit must be given the opportunity to participate in the design of social programs.

Adam Arreak Lightstone, MLA for Iqaluit-Manirajak, said he was disappointed the draft policy was shared with an outside organization and not with MLAs.

“I would like complete assurance that this program will be designed to succeed in such a way that will benefit Inuit and low-income employees,” he said.

In the last sitting of the legislative assembly, Lightstone tabled a report that showed the highest paid GN employees take up 70 per cent staff housingunits.

In the vote, Hudson Bay MLA Allan Rumbolt was the only regular member to vote to keep the proposed program on Bill 70.

Bill 70 is currently going through second reading in the legislative assembly.

It also includes an increase to the government’s operations and maintenance budget by $10 million to support northern airlines, and $17.11 million to continue operating isolation hubs through September 2021.

Share This Story

(45) Comments:

  1. Posted by still here on

    One smart idea, destroyed by government un-transparency, and know bipartisanism that would only benefit the north and cause less money to be spent, typical of how the government is run in Nunavut.

    20
    6
  2. Posted by Peter Simon on

    Bill-70 especially supporting housing ownership would greatly improve housing problems. Transparency requires that information be freely and openly shared so that informed decisions are made to support or reject the proposals. Please MLAs, revisit this issue as soon as possible, please!

    26
    2
    • Posted by Ian on

      Meanwhile back at the igloo, 10 million to airlines,17-20 million for isolation hubs till sept,and not a word spoken, could build nice new high school somewhere,and maybe 2 health centres, or a recreation complex,but lets vote down home ownership,all they are missing at the ledge,is chickens running around in there.

      20
      5
      • Posted by Feds on

        The funds for the airline support and isolation hubs were given by the Feds as COVID release and did not come from the Gov Nunavut budget. Get your facts straight

        • Posted by Ian on

          150 million to date on the hubs,contractor wages paid,from the feds,

  3. Posted by Power Trip on

    I can’t believe Iqaluit MLA Adam Lightstone voted against this program. He is clearly out of touch with his constituents, majority who are GN employees and many lower-income earners who could use a ssavings matching program like this to get out of staff/public housing. If you don’t have the information you need, ask questions in the Legislature, that’s what you were elected to do. Stop cancelling good programs that we need just so you can power trip on TV.

    41
    14
    • Posted by Par for the course on

      Overall, it’s been hard not to notice how shallow Mr. Lightstone’s performance has been in the leg. You are surprised he voted this way, I am surprised he was elected at all.

      26
      6
    • Posted by monty sling on

      GN is for gn employees that’s understandable now, period. how would you justify gn employees living like long ago Africa British colonials hotshots? the molds with public housing, little children with respiratory problems, hungry, skin sores, bad water, mr hicks; eat my shorts….you colonial dinosaur, you don’t deserve to sign a ng project contract even if it cost a dime.

      4
      2
    • Posted by All in on

      Asked they did. Questions were asked repeatedly. The cabinet refused to give them the policy to see how money would actually be spent. Seems fiscally responsible not to approve 500k without knowing details.

      2
      2
  4. Posted by JUSTIN MERRITT on

    Government of Nunavut employees , remember these MLA names when this years fall election happens , Helping GN employees get out of Social or staff housing saves money and can create generational wealth and opens up social housing for those who need it and not just in the 3 hub communities in the north . this was proven when the GNWT sold the housing to staff as well as with the HAP and access housing policy,

    43
    4
  5. Posted by Again not looking at the whole issue on

    Again not looking at the whole problem…

    We need to stop looking at the numbers that are sensationalized and look at the real issue.

    These 70% at the top might buy home if there onese to buy or build. It is not that they need more access to funds. Look at the capital. There is no inventory to buy and no land available for development because of infrastructure constraints. If you do find something you have to pay 600 to 700k and hope the city doesn’t open a ton of land and have your value drop.

    Housing has to be looked at as a whole. The one answer thing everyone points to is not the only reason there is a housing shortage

    13
    12
    • Posted by Observation Post on

      I didn’t realize this program was only for Iqaluit, thanks for clearing that up.

      Of course this isn’t a silver bullet answer, but there are no silver bullets, only collections of good policies working in concert.

      Get it?

      5
      5
      • Posted by All Nunavut on

        The program was for GN employees in every community, not just Iqaluit.

        8
        3
        • Posted by monty sling on

          Just keep in mind GN would sell you an aged deteriorating forty year old house, forty years up is equal to 100 years in warmer climate, mold prone, wind cracks, unstable ground creating havoc to foundations, good try gn, trying to get rid of soon to be relics maintenances heavy old buildings to your children. Why are the NHC, the executives of the House (advisors) so nasty?

          1
          1
    • Posted by Infrastructures on

      You are right! It doesn’t matter how much money someone can save, there is just not enough inventory. In my opinion, a program like this will only push price up of the very limited supply because the bottleneck is the lack of suitable land and supporting infrastructure to build on. If the government want to get real about the housing shortage, they need to develop more land… Look around, here in Iqaluit, Joamie court is the latest land development, there was a draw to have the RIGHT to build a 800 000$ or up house on that parcel. No lack of money. A lot of high income earner would gladly move out of staff housing given the opportunity to buy/build a house to their liking. In turn this would free up these same staff house for lower income employee.

      15
      2
      • Posted by Housing Shortage on

        I agree. My family and I live in staff housing. We’d love to buy our own home. Last year I took a look into what was available here in Iqaluit and there was two houses. Both were old, overpriced, and looked rundown. We’re willing to pay for a home, but nobody in their right mind is going to pay $600K+ for a fixer upper.

  6. Posted by Dumb Program on

    The GN is so out-to-lunch on housing it’s absurd. Most of the people that would take advantage of this program don’t even need it. The downpayment assistance program already exists, which provides 7.5% of a downpayment for a house in a forgivable loan up to $30,000, and the home buyer must contribute enough to make the total downpayment 10%.
    .
    So if somebody wants to buy a $500,000 house, they need to put down $20,000. It’s a good chunk of money, but it’s not unattainable, especially for the higher-paid non-Inuit employees that would mostly take advantage of this program.
    .
    If you really want to make getting the downpayment easier, just increase the NDAP amount. Instead of kicking in 7.5%, kick in 9% and make the buyer put in 1%. That way the benefit is available to ALL NUNAVUMMIUT, not just GN employees.
    .
    Makes me sick.

    34
    8
  7. Posted by Nunavutmiut on

    This would have given GN staff the opportunity to own their own homes. Currently a large number of employees are in staff housing. What’s going to happen when they retired? Not a lot of options for public housing with the current housing shortage. I guess will make them homeless????
    Just when you think the GN is onto something that makes some sense, they go and cut it down.

    17
    5
  8. Posted by Pennywise on

    $500k? How about $20,000,000 + to Canadian North and $10,000,000+ to Calm air. These people are foolish they get their backs up about employees getting some benefits and free up staff housing but not the free cash to price gouging corporations who are owned by entities outside Nunavut.

    9
    3
    • Posted by The Old Trapper on

      Okay pandemic hits, GN stops flying, won’t allow airlines to operate scheduled flights, only air service is GN sponsored charters.
      .
      Airlines laid off whomever they could but they still have a bunch of fixed costs – aircraft payments, heating for buildings, taxes, training costs, record keeping, ongoing maintenance. But the usual dollars are not coming in, and the banks are not shy about wanting “their” money.
      .
      So without GN and federal support Canadian North and Calm Air would have filed for bankruptcy. No food moving. No vaccines. No medical travel. No essential workers or parts.
      .
      How long do you seriously think Nunavut communities would last if all air travel stopped?
      .
      The GN and federal government supported the northern airlines because they perform an essential service.

      19
      1
      • Posted by I’m not a shareholder on

        There was and remains entire fleets from multiple air carriers who would bid for essential routes and filled the void. No opportunity was given. The parent companies would likely not have let these companies fail because of the monopoly they hold. The federal government loan air Canada money and received an interest in the company but Nunavut just handed money to them no conditions. Airplanes are essential but these two companies are not.

        4
        5
  9. Posted by NotEnough on

    Good idea but not planned far enough. Build a better system where those who you need the support of are allowed as much info as NTI.

    What will you do so it shows equality for others not inside the government system?

    Good potential to lessen housing shortages.

    4
    8
  10. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Nor surprised by this response. After all why would the regular MLAs want to support a bill that requires equity investment in housing by potential homeowners when their mantra all along has been that housing is a right and that it should be provided for free by the Housing Corp. Never mind that that the O&M costs alone associated with putting everyone into subsidized public housing would bankrupt the territory! We can just demand the money from the feds and they will pay up right?

    14
    6
  11. Posted by Former GN mployee on

    As always, Iqaluit is Nunavut.

    10
    2
    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      Iqaluit is the only community in Nunavut that has anything resembling a housing market so in this case, yes Iqaluit IS Nunavut.

      8
      3
  12. Posted by Anne Crawford on

    The MLAs who opposed this expenditure were doing what we elected them to do.

    In a consensus government, and out of respect for the role of MLAs, it is a huge slap in the regular members’ faces that the draft policy was not shared. I understand that MLAs responded this way. As they should. The Government demonstrated a serious lack of respect for the Assembly by asking for the money and refusing the details.

    This made worse by the fact that the GN has a history of delivering employee benefits to highly paid, short term staff and watching the value flow out of territory. Who gets subsidized staff housing? education leave? travel, training & conferences – all these benefits are skewed away from the employees who have the greatest need. Why should we trust that this benefit will be better managed?

    Finally, this would be loading one subsidy onto another. Employee housing is already subsidized. Many employees have a “retirement” home in the South they are paying for. Why should GN employees with safe and well paid jobs be supported in saving for another home, when my employees struggle to even find a lease in the Iqaluit market where governments have pushed rents through the ceiling. These “savings” will only drive prices higher.

    Find ways to improve supply. Help employees make informed choices. Use and improve existing tax structures. Develop programs that benefit ALL Nunavummiut.

    And while you do that , please also RESPECT the role of MLAs to be informed and to hold government to account. We need more of this kind of oversight.

    49
    24
    • Posted by Really? on

      So, when you were Principal Secretary to the former NTI president (who also complained about this in her current job as MLA), did you make it a point that information had to be shared with the regular MLAs when NTI received it from the GN?

      10
      6
      • Posted by Anne Crawford on

        I think this is called changing the topic to ask me about my time at NTI.

        You could as easily ask me about my years as DM of Executive or Director of Child Welfare or Conflict of Interest Commissioner.

        Advice given in any office is covered by confidences of that office. I am confident that respecting the office and role of MLA would have always been high on the advice I gave in any of those positions.

        I never did get a HAP or NDAP or other housing assistance, and never lived in GN staff housing, but I have administered those subsidies as a lawyer probably 1000 times over the years, so I do have a clear picture of how they work.

        6
        3
    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      Apples and oranges. It isn’t accurate to compare subsidized housing with programs intended to increase home ownership. They are as different as night and day. And I, for one, would be overjoyed to see higher paid GN employees moved out of government housing and into the market so that government housing stock can be reallocated to employees with greater need. And who among us old timers can’t say that we didn’t access the old NWT HAP program to help with the construction of our first house? I have to agree though that the program will do nothing to mitigate prices in an already out of control housing market.

      15
  13. Posted by Karboneater on

    Way to go regular mlas, don’t let bureaucrats convince the cabinet that non-decentralized communities are something that should be forgotten about and ignored. This program was designed without any consideration of the smaller poverty stricken towns.

    16
    3
  14. Posted by Really?? on

    Even if Nunavumiut could save up, whats there to buy? Nothing but overpriced junk built by corner cutting southern companies looking to make a fast buck.

    10
    1
    • Posted by small contractor on

      try to build a house in a small community in Nunavut,as a small contractor,you will be out of business on your first job,tying up hundreds of thousands of dollars on material,no journeymen to hire,have to fly everyone in,no local journeymen to hire,wait months for inspections,and wen you finally get it finished,will you get paii by the bank,good luck building houses up here for most people,modular homes are the future,

      5
      1
  15. Posted by toom on

    gov’t isnt an open pocket. spread the wealth spending too much on housing these people month by month, only jobs are mining, fishing, hunting, housing bills, monthly open these things to everyone

    1
    3
  16. Posted by Me on

    Savikataaq you moving too fast too much just like how Baffinland did you having brains for everyone

    8
    4
    • Posted by Me on

      Savikataaq you are leaving housing shortage issue and homeless issue just trying to look after your own people, supporting them using your position with privileges that others can’t

  17. Posted by pissed off on

    This program in theory seems to have some value.
    However for those who can, please reflect on former programs that the NWT put in place in the past. The were some horrible abuses from Government employees jockeying for the best houses and locations in order to be able to purchase “ their own homes“ in order to make a handsome profit a few years later.
    How about the HAP program which with good intentions created a whole bunch of marital issues, people quitting their jobs for 1 year in order to slide under the income ceiling to be able to apply. Houses sold 5 years and 1 day later again at a handsome profit for the swindlers.

    Good program in theory but the devil is in the implementation of it.

    Please be careful

    Thanks

  18. Posted by NORTH BaffFIN on

    I would support it if it was only for inuit. Rich just get richer when they sell it

    9
    10
  19. Posted by 1980s and 90s on

    Bring back the HAP Program!!!!!!!!

  20. Posted by Fred on

    The intent of the program is good but it really needs thorough thought before rolling it out. Whenever the Government introduces programs like this the private sector just increases the prices by that same amount, so in the end the purchaser is no farther ahead but the seller gets more for the house. When the downpayment assistance program rolled out, house prices went up by $30,000. When housing assistance programs rolled out, like oil tank replacement programs, the price of those went up by $7,000. The contractors just take advantage to line their pockets. Good on the MLA’s for stalling this until more details are made available.

  21. Posted by chesta da mole on

    Housing needs should, could, and perhaps one day will be met with small houses. People can adapt to it, and it us far better than being sans/without a place to rest your head.

  22. Posted by Casual GN on

    I am glad the MLA’s questioned this rushed through bill. This only will benefit the southern indeterminate employees anyway. Most of the Inuit hires are casual and being casual at the GN means you get no access to 80% of the benefits of Indeterminates. Being Indeterminate is about who you know, not what you know. The people who are eligible for buying a home have no interest in living here. They just will buy a house to sell it for profit when they go back south.

    If the GN really wanted to encourage local Inuit to own homes they would offer better incentives. This entire bill is a sham that will make the rich richer. There should be a clause that you cannot re-sell the house within a certain time frame. If nothing else but to deter the haves to walk away from Nunavut richer then when they came.

    7
    1
  23. Posted by The GN is here for ALL Nunavummiut? Or only for GN employees? on

    Once again the GN wants to give more benefits to its employees than to the rest of the people in Nunavut. The GN employees already get inflated benefits that no other employer in NU can match. If people were motivated to work only for $$$ and benefits the GN would have no vacancies. However, Those people wanting to be valued in their workplace work elsewhere. Nunavummiut need the home ownership help, not the transient employees at the GN. Way to go MLA’s, fight for Nunavummiut.

    2
    2
  24. Posted by Thomas on

    Sure, GN employees are all from a southern town where the money goes, GN employees are safe with a subsidized big home paying way less rent and not to worry about, it comes to off the pay check, ok let’s help them more and help them get a home they will end up renting to the feds when they get their experience and more credit once their mansion is done down south. I seen it it happens all the time while I had to leave my home town because I couldn’t find a place to rent.

  25. Posted by BS VS Home Ownership on

    While I certainly agree that such programs should be available to anyone in Nunavut. However the biggest problem with the territory is that people feel they should be provided free housing. Whether you are Inuit or not if there is free housing it should be offered to everyone in the territory.
    There are many people who can’t work for one reason or another, home ownership would be difficult, that’s where the GN needs to focus on required housing and programs to support and help get these people on the right track as well. There is hope.
    Here is the problem in my opinion and what people forget. You see the complaints on social media all the time, the problem is a person cant really defend it because its just not safe in todays society. The conversation quickly turns into a race issue and the white man should just leave because they are making big bucks with the GN and they were hired by their friends and all that BS.
    The time has come for people to realize that they do take responsibility for their own life’s choices. Anyone working can having a home, is it harder for a single parent? Yes it certainly is. Owning a home is more than just paying rent, it’s paying land tax, water, sewer, power. It is a tough commitment for many couples and families. People that own homes are criticized for owning a home and then when time comes for a person to retire or make a life’s choice that included leaving the territory and sells their home they are gouging thieves. The first thing people say is they are asking that much for the house. Well you know what suck it up, people invested in these properties and you could have done the same. One person comments that no trouble to know who their rich parents are.. Come on, this is the same person who won a good chunk of money that could have been used for a great down payment and an investment in a home. It was a life’s choice to buy a pretty car instead. You have people complaining about the same while they drive the nicest vehicles and ride the most expensive ski-doo’s for pleasure. Remember some on these skidoo’s are not for hunting purposes. You have a person from a Inuit Org like QC who complains the same that GN employees that are rich can only afford a house. QC has a housing allowance that is up to $35,000 a year for employees that own their own home. Is this not incentive.
    Many of the people that own their homes here are hard working people, do they make more money than I do? Possibly yes, maybe they are more educated than I am and they worked for the same. I hold nothing against people having a home somewhere else. Again they are investing in the family and future. A life’s choice.
    I would suggest you examine the choices you make and what it is you want for yourself and your family. Some of these goals may require addition education and there is support for anyone who wants to get educated. Don’t blame it on the white people and make it racism. I have been here 25 plus years and I have worked my ass off to own a home and a home somewhere else for when I retire. That isn’t a crime. When the time comes to sell my home here you can keep your comments to yourself because I plan on getting what I invested back JM. I didn’t need rich parent to make it this far in life, I come from a house hold in which a family of more then 7 kids and a father that made $18,000 a year. They figured it out as I had to. I suggest stop your BS and be thankful for what you have and work harder to make it happen. That’s a life’s choice.

    5
    1
    • Posted by Very well said on

      Very well said….

Comments are closed.