Nunavut housing minister faces barrage of questions from regular members

“My seat is getting hot this morning”

Patterk Netser, Nunavut’s housing minister, fields questions in the legislature last week. (Photo by Meagan Deuling)

By Meagan Deuling
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Nunavut’s housing minister, Patterk Netser, recently found himself in the hot seat on Friday, Feb. 21, in the legislative assembly.

Every question raised in question period that day was related to housing, with topics ranging from the need to find housing for a much-needed conservation officer in Qikiqtarjuaq to calls for rental caps in Iqaluit.

John Main, MLA for Arviat North–Whale Cove and chair of the regular members’ caucus, warned Netser of the impending questions in a member statement, saying he was using the Nunavut Housing Corp’s Blueprint for Action on Housing, released in 2016, as a guide.

“I hope the government can see the importance of continuing to shine light on the urgent need for better housing in Nunavut,” Main said.

John Main, chair of the regular members’ caucus, says that MLAs will continue to shine the light on the territory’s housing crisis. (Photo by Meagan Deuling)

In another member statement, Tony Akoak, MLA for Gjoa Haven, said that if the federal government can find accommodation for “foreigners and immigrants from across the ocean,” then it should be able to do the same for “the people sovereign to Nunavut who have absolutely no housing.”

“Do your duty and tell the federal government we do need more housing,” Akoak said.

Aggu MLA Paul Quassa opened question period by asking Netser about meetings he has had with the federal minister of northern affairs, Dan Vandal.

Netser said they had a short meeting in Ottawa, and that he gave Vandal a copy of the Blueprint for Action on Housing.

But “we cannot just wait for the federal government on housing,” Netser said.

He said the territory will not move forward until Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. partners with the GN to help build housing in the territory, “but they have not approached to provide assistance.”

Quassa asked what progress has come out of discussions between the GN and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.

Netser’s response: “I haven’t met with any of them, I’ve just pleaded from this House that we need help.”

“That is unbelievable!” Quassa said to the House. “Instead of just waiting, he should be approaching them.”

The many questions that followed often returned to the need for partnerships, and funding. MLAs asked about issues pressing in their regions, or concerns brought forward by their constituents.

Among them, Main asked if housekeepers who work for the GN can expect to get staff housing, and Pat Angnakak, MLA for Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu, asked if the GN will review the Residential Tenancy Act to enact rental caps in Iqaluit.

Cathy Towtongie, MLA for Rankin Inlet North–Chesterfield Inlet, asked about public housing tenants who make over $100,000 a year, wanting to know what the GN is doing to encourage them to buy their own homes, instead of taking up space in public housing.

“The Blueprint for Action on Housing takes time and it take a whole-of-government approach, plus our partners,” Netser replied.

“We want to see people buying houses.”

Akoak asked about how the GN is educating people who live in public and staff housing units about staying on top of maintaining their units, to reduce the GN’s maintenance costs, which Akoak said are $26,700 per unit annually.

To this, Netser said: “My seat is getting hot this morning.”

There were also questions about mould remediation, updating agreements between the NHC and local housing organizations, whether a review will be done of the point system currently used to determine housing eligibility, when a list of which communities will get new staff and public housing will be released, and whether or not new staff housing policies will align with Inuit employment plans.

Tununiq MLA David Qamaniq asked whether or not the NHC will work with the Department of Human Resources to examine a better way of transitioning government employees who are in staff housing, so that when they retire they don’t end up homeless.

“We feel for them,” Netser said. “We want them to apply to the local housing organizations to be included on the waiting list prior to their retirement.”

“I apologize. It is a stark reality for everyone,” he said.

Quassa bookended question period with another question about partnerships. He asked if Netser had met with the QIA to discuss affordable housing on Inuit-owned lands.

Aggu MLA Paul Quassa asked Patterk Netser why he isn’t reaching out to Inuit organizations to ask for partnerships on housing. (File photo)

Netser said again that he had not met with any Inuit organization personally. “We need help from them,” he said.

“As I indicated earlier, just waiting for someone to approach you doesn’t work,” Quassa said.

Then he said, “He has legs and he can probably walk, their offices are close by.”

Netser responded by saying that the House is no place for personal insults. “I will reach out to the Inuit organizations and ask to request a meeting with them.”

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by Suuqa on

    Where’s NTI? Where’s all the money for the Beneficiaries? Housing is an urgent need while the land claims money sits. WE Beneficiaries are asking now for the money from royalties to be used for housing. They shouldn’t have to be approached for this urgent need. They already know and should be offering a way to help Beneficiaries.

    • Posted by summ’ stank on

      their staff are busy spending NTI’s money taking paid education leave to enter Makigiaqta-funded Pirurvik Inuktitut classes. ANd attending mining round up and PDAC conferences! Nice! Inuit on the ground and needs for housing and healthcare and things that woul acutally help means nothing compared to fancy employee perks. pfft.

  2. Posted by Roy Donovan on

    These organizations are endless. The distribution of wealth is filtered from the fed to the gn to every handout in the territory. The associations are no better. Holding large bank accounts, shaded in opaque financial practices, Then the small ones funded by the large fish where staff support some unknowm outdated cause. I mean who actually works a real job> its all an illusion. Where is the actual income producing economy. But people speak about a housing market, home ownership, pride in ownership. Good luck. It doesnt exist.

  3. Posted by Northern Guy on

    “Foreigners and immigrants”, well at least Mr. Akoak has made his true feelings known. But here’s an idea. No one is “giving” foreigners and immigrants anything. If they have housing it is because they can either afford to buy a house or they come to Nunavut with the education necessary to qualify for jobs that come with housing. So Mr. Akoak’s vitriol is better served asking how Inuit can gain the education and training necessary to qualify for those jobs and less time holding out his hand demanding money from the territorial and fedral governments. No one has a right to housing in Canada.

    • Posted by Former Insider on

      Hear, hear. The federal government does not give housing to “foreigners and immigrants.” Mr. Akoak’s statement is based on a a racist lie. Since he comes from a small isolated community and has limited education and knowledge, Mr. Akoak is probably vulnerable to this kind of misinformation, so maybe we can cut him a little slack.

      The federal government will sometimes provide temporary emergency accommodation to REFUGEES and ASYLUM SEEKERS, who are different than immigrants. Immigrants and all other newcomers to Canada must rent or buy their own housing, just like everyone else.

      • Posted by Steven on

        This is true, but there is so much misinformation out there especially on FB with all the misleading and hate being spewed on social media about immigrants, indigenous people, political parties. so much crap! A lot of people buy into it.
        Do some research, use a credible source and find the facts, not the racist and hateful views of some.

    • Posted by Akoak’s Statement on

      If a politician anywhere else in Canada made a racist statement like Mr. Akoak it would make national, maybe even international news, and they would be asked to resign.

  4. Posted by Akoak is wrong! on

    Akoak needs to be slapped on the hands and apologize for his comments. We don’t need that small way of thinking and spreading hate when he is in a position of authority.

  5. Posted by Samantha on

    I am concerned about my friend and her grand baby who us steady going to Edmonton for medical and housing can’t do nothing with her baby’s place too he is sick always because of mold

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