MLAs, Iqaluit town councillors hold private chit-chat on budget

Iqaluit’s three MLAs held a behind-closed-doors meeting this week with Iqaluit town council to talk to each other about money for future infrastructure projects in Iqaluit.



IQALUIT — Iqaluit’s town councillors and three MLAs held a secret meeting this week to talk about cash for future infrastructure projects.

The meeting, which took place during a special Iqaluit Town Council meeting, was held behind closed doors at the request of Iqaluit West MLA and Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik.

“We’re working on a budget and usually you don’t disclose it to anyone. We’re just exploring ways and we can’t disclose any contents of a budget unless it’s released formally,” Okalik said.

Okalik said he would not be releasing confidential details about the territorial government’s next budget to councillors, but said he still wanted to meet privately with them.

“We’re exploring ways and we can’t disclose those options that we’re considering before the budget goes down,” he said. He later added that MLAs and town councillors discussing ways of working together.

“We need to get an honest feeling from council in order for us to represent the town when we’re meeting with other MLAs,” Okalik said.

The Iqaluit town council decided earlier this month to invite the three MLAs to discuss funding for future municipal capital projects.

Before this week’s meeting got underway, Iqaluit Mayor Jimmy Kilabuk said the council would ask the MLAs for money to spend on capital projects.

“We’re consulting the MLAs in regards to capital funding dollars and requests by the council for some additional issues — capital funding dollars,” Kilabuk said through an interpreter. “For example if there are any additional requirements for the landfill and paved roads,”

But Kilabuk said it’s too early to discuss these issues in the open.

“With the uncertainty of the funding dollars, it would be premature to bring it out to the public until we find out for sure,” he said.

Each year, the territorial government helps pay for new infrastructure projects in various communities.

Last year, the Iqaluit council complained when the Nunavut government handed over cash for an upgraded water treatment plant, increased sewage treatment capacity and an upgrade to the sewage lagoon, instead of the road paving and recreational facilities that council said it wanted.

Earlier this month, Coun. Lynda Gunn suggested inviting the three MLAs to talk to council before this year’s territorial government budget is tabled.

But when councillors and MLAs emerged from the in camera session, Iqaluit East MLA Ed Picco said cash for individual capital projects wasn’t discussed, and he defended the request to meet privately.

“They weren’t asking for anything. That wasn’t part of the discussion. We were having a discussion about the process,” Picco said

“We had an in camera meeting with the council concerning the capital process and capital planning and the issues surrounding it that we’ve had as elected officials and elected council,” Picco said.

Nunavut Finance Minister Kelvin Ng is expected to table the 2000-2001 budget in late March.

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