Nunavut doesn’t need a parade of federal cabinet ministers

On the cusp of an election, funding announcements fuel cynicism the government is trying to buy voters

Three federal cabinet ministers have visited Nunavut in the past three weeks – Ahmed Hussen (left), Catherine McKenna (centre) and Marc Miller (right). With the possibility of a fall election, each of the Liberal ministers brought government funding announcements for the North. (Files photos by Mélanie Ritchot and David Venn)

By Corey Larocque

Welcome to Iqaluit, where Liberal cabinet ministers have been deboarding airplanes like circus clowns piling out of a Volkswagen.

For the last few weeks, it feels like every time a flight touches down, another of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s emissaries pops out.

Three federal cabinet ministers have visited Nunavut recently, each with a good-news announcement about millions of dollars Ottawa is doling out to the territory.

In July, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller revealed the government will soon invite companies to bid on the construction of women’s shelters and transitional homes.

He was followed by Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen, who is also the Minister Responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (How do you fit all that onto one business card?) Hussen came to Iqaluit Tuesday to announce $10 million for Nunavut — enough money to build 24 new homes.

Housing, of course, will be a hot-button issue during the looming election, especially after NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq pushed it onto the agenda with her own report on housing. No doubt Hussen’s announcement was intended to take some of the sting out of Qaqqaq’s critique of housing conditions as “deplorable.”

And most recently, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Catherine McKenna hung out in Pangnirtung over the long weekend. Then she photo-op-bombed Hussen’s funding announcement on Tuesday, only for her own staff to send an advisory a few hours later that McKenna would be making one of her own the next day.

McKenna delivered more than $40 million for a deep-sea port in Qikiqtarjuaq to help the northern fishing industry. She also had more than $2 million to improve water or sewage treatment plants in five hamlets.

Government spending on projects that creates construction jobs, strengthens the economy and improves living standards is always welcome.

But the government was going to spend that money anyway. The approval of a $40-million deep-sea port doesn’t happen overnight. It had been in the works for months. So why now?

It’s a time-honoured tradition for federal ministers to spend their summers fanned out across the country, spreading the gospel of their good works. It hits a frenzy in the run-up to an election, as the government reminds voters of the good things it has done for them, and hopes the public will forget its missteps and forgive its broken promises.

But government spending on the cusp of an election just fuels cynicism and erodes public faith in government. In 2015, Trudeau vowed to do politics differently, but in this aspect, he’s acting just like every other government that has tried to buy voters with their own money.

There’s good reason for Liberals to lavish attention on Nunavut now. The riding will be a wide-open race whenever the next election is held because Qaqqaq announced in May she won’t seek a second term. The main reason for Trudeau to call a snap election is to break the minority government voters gave him in 2019. The only way to do that is to win ridings his party doesn’t already hold — like Nunavut.

Never mind the parade of cabinet ministers. If the Liberals want to woo Nunavut voters, they should get it together and announce a strong candidate and try to take back the riding.

Same goes for the NDP, Conservatives and Green parties. Only the NDP has made some noise about who its candidate will be.

So skip the transparent self-serving news conferences to announce funding for projects that were going to happen anyhow. Come up with candidates who will provide good leadership and give a strong influential voice for the people of Nunavut in Parliament.

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(19) Comments:

  1. Posted by Gorg on

    We had a very good MP but like always the white minority were so mean to her that she won’t run again. I,m hoping that it doesn’t discourage the Inuit majority and we vote another one like her.

    • Posted by Play That Card on

      That was fast! Usually we have to wait for at least 10-20 comments before someone blames the Qallunaat.

    • Posted by LOL on

      Please define “very good MP” – She didn’t do anything for Inuit or non-inuit. Interesting perspective though.

    • Posted by Ian on

      Rumour is Trudeau will call a snap election this weekend and get ready keyboard warriors candidates will be announced in a week and we can start the feasting on them game on

    • Posted by Haver of doubts on

      Come on, Gorg, you really think a few white people being mean is all it took for our venerable MP, the great warrior queen, to crumble to bits? Did this great cosmic injustice play out in the comments section of Nunatsiaq News by chance? I guess the proverbial pen is more powerful than the sword after all. Though, admittedly, I don’t find this narrative terribly convincing.

    • Posted by Laughable on

      You’d think after taking six months off she’d recover? You just can’t admit that this chef couldn’t cook, she was unfit and simply incapable of doing her 184k/year job.

    • Posted by Here’s A Thought on

      ‘white minority’??? Well, I guess you are okay with the term ‘brown majority’ then?

      Maybe try to be a little less culturally insensitive, it is 2021 after all.

  2. Posted by Vox Fortis on

    Could not agree more that Nunavummiut need a strong voice in Parliament. Qaqqaq has done nothing but duplicate existing efforts and jump on bandwagons. First presenting a report on housing a year after the Senate had produced a comprehensive report on the very same topic, then by marching on Parliament to call attention to Residential Schools, as if that subject was not already at the forefront of the news. Nice of her to pull herself away from questioning the lineage of Yvonne Jones for a while I suppose though.

  3. Posted by Old School on

    Corey is clearly too new to remember when Federal Cabinet Ministers didn’t bother showing up in Nunavut at all – election or no.

    • Posted by Fair dinkum on

      That might be true, but the point of the article remains a valid one in my opinion.

  4. Posted by Consistency on

    If they were serious about Nunavut Housing issues they would add 2 zeros to how much they are saying they will spend. For housing in Nunavut $10 Million is nothing. Make it $1Billion and you will get my vote. Though even that is only 1,333 homes at $750K each, which is still not enough but would be a start.

    • Posted by No Moniker on

      If Nunavut was serious about improving the quality and quantity of housing we would be having serious discussions about economic development. This seems obvious. The idea that the government of Canada is going to swoop in and create replicas of the nicest communities in the county, in the north, in response to a collection of mythologies around promised housing is an extraordinary self delusion that appears to have cast its spell over a considerable swath of our population.

  5. Posted by We will take the goodies please on

    We appreciate visits from the government with goodies for a little territory. We remember times when we didn’t get anything from the feds. We welcome all ministers and should not be so mean to them as they are bearing gifts. I will not vote for them but will take their gift. I will vote for an Inuktitut speaking Inuk, who will speak of our concerns.

  6. Posted by Colin on

    Good line about the clowns emerging from the VW. Delivery of money for 24 houses by Justin Trudeau’s childhood buddy Marc Miller would be more than enough for groans to lift the roof off the circus tent.

  7. Posted by Tulugaq on

    Well, this isn’t news at all, we know politicians like to buy elections with our money the same way they buy pipelines but say the opposite. However, there’s a huge point missing: there is a law of Parliament that states elections are held every 4 years at a set date.

    By calling an election, Trudeau would be breaking that law since there’s still a couple years to go for his mandate given to him by Canadians at a fair election and while he’s a minority government, he has the ongoing support of the NDP and the Bloc. So, Parliament is functioning and the GG shouldn’t allow him to call an early election at taxpayers costs.

    The final nail in the coffin is why would the Liberals want a majority? Because they want to run the country not on a certain consensus, but with free reins, without opposition, without the need to compromise with allies. They want to shove down our throats their own agenda for the next 4 years. Will we give them what they want?

    • Posted by Election law on

      General elections in Canada must be held at a maximum of 4 years since the previous election, but they can be called earlier, it’s not against the law:

      “Since May 2007, the Canada Elections Act provides for a general election to be held on a fixed date: the third Monday of October in the fourth calendar year following the previous general election. As the last election took place on October 21, 2019, the next fixed election date is October 16, 2023.

      That said, the Canada Elections Act does not prevent a general election from being called at another date.

      General elections are called when, on the advice of the Prime Minister, the Governor General dissolves Parliament. The Governor in Council (the Governor General, acting on the advice of Cabinet) sets the date of the election.

      The Canada Elections Act (section 57) specifies that the election period must last a minimum of 37 days and a maximum of 51 days.”

  8. Posted by Inuinak on

    GN ? This government is a joke for it’s own people. What happened to all the promises that were made “ before “ this great NWT land became none of it ? This government is nothing but a joke. NWT was the best territory in the world. Nu government has povertized all its people.

  9. Posted by Pain In The Groen on

    Don’t you love farce?
    My fault, I fear
    I thought that you’d want what I want
    Sorry, my dear!
    But where are the clowns
    Send in the clowns
    Don’t bother, they’re here
    Isn’t it rich?
    Isn’t it queer?
    Losing my timing this late in my career
    But where are the clowns?
    There ought to be clowns
    Well, maybe next year

    • Posted by Karboneater on

      We three Klowns of Kanada are
      Bearing gifts we traverse afar
      Field and fountain
      Moor and mountain
      Following yonder star
      Frankincense and Myrrh we have to offer
      Myrrh is yours
      It’s bitter perfume breathes
      A life of gathering gloom
      Sorrowing, sighing, so Nunavut
      Pucker up, shut-up and vote in the volks wagon Klowns.

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