Nunavut economy should depend less on southern labour, says Patterson

Senator made recommendations for territory’s post-pandemic recovery in pre-budget submission to feds

Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson submitted his pre-federal budget recommendations for the territory on Feb. 3. (File photo)

By Mélanie Ritchot

Canada’s next federal budget should include measures to help make Nunavut less dependent on southern labour and federal transfers, says Senator Dennis Patterson.

Patterson, a Conservative member of the Senate and the territory’s only representative in Parliament’s upper house, said this in his pre-budget submission on Feb. 3. He recommends the federal Liberal government move to address many of the territory’s needs, from better internet to a fisheries reconciliation agreement.

“I have a platform that others don’t have to speak for Nunavut in Ottawa and I am determined to take full advantage of that platform,” he said in an interview.

The federal government hasn’t announced when it will release its next budget, but it usually happens in March.

Nunavut is reliant on workers from Canada’s provinces, said Patterson, and this has come at a cost for the territorial government amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government of Nunavut has footed the bill for workers to isolate in hotels for 14 days before entering the territory.

On average, it costs $434 per day for one person to stay in an isolation hub, according to Cate Macleod, press secretary for Premier Joe Savikataaq. This rings in at $6,076 per person for the entire required 14-day isolation period.

As of Nov. 19, the Nunavut government had spent an estimated $36.6 million funding stays at the isolation hubs, according to Macleod. This includes people travelling for necessary medical reasons.

In September, MLAs called on the territorial government to invest in its local construction workforce instead of spending money isolating southern construction workers.

Southern workers have been offered incentives, including housing and high pay, to fill management roles within the territorial government and other organizations, Patterson said.

He recommended the federal government include training expenses in infrastructure funding to help employers recruit and train local workers to construct and manage those projects.

Nunavut’s MP,  New Democrat Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, said during her housing tour she realized just how many southern workers there are in the territory filling roles as teachers, nurses, construction workers and others.

“You could take just about every Inuk out of the territory and it would still be able to function, which is terrifying,” she said.

Many infrastructure priorities were among Patterson’s list of recommendations for funding in the new budget, including:

  • A Nunavut-specific infrastructure plan and funding that allows for long-term planning
  • Deep-water ports in the Kitikmeot region and in Qikiqtarjuaq
  • The Kivalliq Hydro-Fibre Link that would extend from Manitoba to transmit renewable energy and broadband internet
  • A new long-term water supply for Iqaluit to meet the growing city’s needs
  • Operating funds for all future infrastructure project, like in the recent announcement to build five emergency shelters for Inuit women and children

In some cases, like with broadband connectivity, federal money already exists, but hasn’t been allocated to Nunavut, Patterson said.

Just under $5 billion has been announced for improving the internet in remote areas through multiple federal funds, said Patterson. But none has gone to the territory yet, despite applications to the funds, including some to the $150 million Rapid Response Stream that was announced last December.

“Nunavut really needs to get its fair share,” he said.

With work and school going virtual during the pandemic, there is an immediate need for better, cheaper internet service, Patterson said, recommending the government supports open access and competition for internet providers.

“Nunavummiut do not have the luxury of waiting for longer-term solutions such as fibre links or low Earth orbit satellites.”

Other recommendations in the submission include creating a fisheries reconciliation agreement and repatriating fisheries licenses to create local jobs.

Patterson also recommended investments in training Inuit mental health workers for more culturally appropriate support.

The senator’s submission is based on consultation with the Nunavut government, Inuit organizations and professional associations, as well as 164 businesses and organizations across the territory.

“I wanted to make sure they were satisfied with the recommendations I was making on their behalf,” Patterson said.

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(12) Comments:

  1. Posted by Ian on

    Mumilaaq,where are you,work with the senator,

    • Posted by Caribou Hunter on

      Long time PC senator teaming up with new NDP MP with the housing issues that nobody has ever been able solve even though its always used a campaigning tool ? Probably not going to happen.

    • Posted by Too polarized on

      Honestly, having followed her since she was elected I have no faith Mumilaaq can work with anyone outside her own party silo.

  2. Posted by Consistency on

    Housing… that is what we need. Lots of Housing.

    Also something I think the GN, NTI, and all communities should do is; celebrate people that further their education. I think every community should have a celebration for their students that go to Collage or university. yes a little celebration for first year students, but when someone gets a diploma or degree have a big celebration for them. Also we need to help/support them to leave, get the education then encourage them to come back home.
    How about if someone goes away for school, they can have money given to the family they leave at home. The GN has finacial support fo he actual student so NTI could give the support to the families of benificiaries. this might help families to provide more encouragements to there kids or spouse to keep it up and finish school.

    we need people to run and operate the deep water ports. build ,maintain, and fix the hydro fiber line. Engineers and whatever education it is to plan the best locations for water reservoirs.

    • Posted by Southerner on

      To Consistency: I agree wholeheartedly with you that Nunavummiut need adequate housing! Unelected and unaccountable Conservative senators like Patterson are probably being lobbied by mineral and oil company executives to get them access to natural resource wealth in Nunavut, and so this is why we are reading about seemingly good things wished for Nunavut, but do they really have Nunavummiut’s best interests in mind? Education is the foundation for all successful societies and economies, and Mumilaaq Qaqqaq and the NDP are *keenly aware of this. But southerners want to come in and extract the resources sooner than waiting for an educated and trained workforce of Inuk youth to participate in their own economy. They wring their hands about a lack of indigenous workforce, and then promptly bring in trained and educated southerners to run things. Investing in people *and infrastructure, in that order, will reap the greatest rewards for any society according to pre-neoliberal era economists like Thedore Schultz reported to the US Government in the 1950s. Investing in people, education and healthcare will produce the greatest returns on investment. A healthy, educated and confident nation is harder to govern, said Sir Tony Benn of England. Nunavummiut should support Mumilaaq Qaqqaq with her fight for adequate housing for Inuk families. Choose wisely.

  3. Posted by Caribou Hunter on

    Haha your funny Dennis its like telling the weather to change good luck! on that one.

  4. Posted by Watching on

    One minute is destroying our land GET OUT!!!! next minute its how much money and whose getting it. ?And then there is 700 people who work the mine just doing their job locked up where is the fairness? ? Scary shit ?

  5. Posted by Lost in nunavut on

    Where do you even start on this? Nunavut needs to train and build it’s own workforce. You’ve got monopolies everywhere. Southern companies who partner with northern ones just to get NTI/NNI status. Ohh and don’t even get me started on those too organizations. They should look a little closer at those businesses as well. Southern/non Inuit shacking up with Inuit women or men then opening a company in their names to get all the perks of being considered an Inuit firm. Everyone knows who the real owners are or who runs the company is but it’s all smoke and mirrors. Charging ridiculous hourly charges for services and making insane profits on goods being sold. Nunavut needs to build it’s own workforce, build it’s own capacity up. They should start with a housing organization that doesn’t allow it’s board to have board members that it does business with. I’ve personally sat on a housing board and watched someone on the board that owns a company that does several million in annual business in a clear conflict of interest but didn’t leave the room. Company managers/owners should not sit on municipal council when they do business with the Hamlets. Housing should be a CoOp, where it’s members can work, learn, earn, with the profit going to the CoOp then being split by dividends maybe percentage based by how many hours of work/training they put in at the end of the fiscal year. The North needs a revamp, an uprise and a complete change of the crookidness that is going around. Get inspired Nunavut, make waves and say no to business greed.

  6. Posted by Paradigm Shift on

    There needs to be a much clearer and well-articulated vision on the development of human capital in Nunavut.

    As it is an attitude of entitlement and grievance is fostered across the political landscape, partly because (I suspect) it is easy to do, it is politically palatable, and it has become merely reflexive. In a recent interview with TVO, for example, our MP forwarded a narrative that “others” are in control and they are actively harming us. “They just don’t care” is the message, and it signifies that in fact, they need to save us. If you are averse to ‘colonialism’ isn’t that exactly what you are fostering? What follows is a passive attitude of grievance that does nothing but foster anger and entitlement, but never offers any kind of empowerment or vision toward the future where we truly are in control.

    How brave, and useful is it really for the Senator to stand up and make these very plain and essentially banal observations? Is he saying anything useful or interesting? Anything we haven’t heard 1,000 times but is never connected to any larger cultural or societal vision?

    Granted, he’s right to point out that there needs to be more training. But a larger theme needs to be developed centered on our attitudes toward education and development. We need to care about graduating from high school, we need to value that. We need to value the place we can take and the contributions we can make to the larger developed world. We need leadership that fosters a vision that extends beyond reflexive anger, bitterness and the sense that we are always just being screwed over. Ultimately, that is a path to nowhere.

    None of this is to say we don’t need to partner with the federal government on development, what we do need is a re-think of our own role in that partnership and our own role in our societal development.

  7. Posted by Southerner on

    Patterson comes in with what sounds like great ideas for Nunavut, but why is there a lack of educated and skilled Nunavummiut in the first place? It starts with children in their developmental and formative years. Mumilaaq is on the right track with fighting for adequate housing. ng up in inadequate housing conditions is known to have long-term impact on children’s life chances because of the effect it has on a child’s learning and education. Children in overcrowded and substandard housing are especially disadvantage. Growing up in poor or overcrowded housing conditions affects a child’s ability to learn, which can have long-term impacts on a child’s chances of succeeding in life. As well, the root source of later problems – like behaviour problems in adulthood – are suspected to be traceable to behavioural problems which begin as children are growing up in sub-standard housing conditions, like the mold-infested housing reported daily across the north and causing every kind of health problem from respiratory illnesses to mental depression. Tuberculosis rates in Nunavut are 35 times higher than what it is for qalunaaq in the south.

    But Patterson has all the solutions, or so he claims. And he should have because he is an unelected and unaccountable Tory senator with all kinds of time on his hands to solve problems for Canadians. Where has he been through decades worth of housing crises across Canada? Apparently, Patterson wants infrastructure and training programs to fill construction and other jobs across Nunavut. He forgets that it was Stephen Harper’s Conservative government that made cuts to youth training programs proven to get young indigenous people into the workforce in provinces like Manitoba. Perhaps Patterson has had a more recent epiphany with respect to what Nunavummiut youth are in need of. Good for him. But there are other problems more basic than Patterson’s wish to transform Nunavut into an industrial powerhouse of a kind that doesn’t really exist anywhere else in Canada. Patterson and Conservatives are stuck in the past thinking what we need is more colonial-extractive economy of the kind that left much of Northern Canada to the south of Nunavut dotted with ghost towns after rich friends of Ottawa fled Canada with wheelbarrows of money and untaxed profits over the last 100 years.

    Most rich countries have national housing strategies. Not Canada. Housing and the economy are driven by market ideology as prescribed by Liberal and Conservative governments alike since the 1980s. Ottawa’s housing strategy, from Mulroney to Harper and Trudeau, has been to allow white collar criminals and fentanyl drug barons to launder money in Canada’s real estate bubble. Mr, Patterson, like most political conservatives, has gotten the cart before the horse. Keep on fighting the good fight, Mumilaaq Qaqqaq!

  8. Posted by Kenn Harper on

    Senator Dennis Patterson is the hardest working politician in Canada, elected or unelected, and has been for his lengthy career. His detractors commenting on this article either have had their heads in the sand for the last 40 years, or perhaps weren’t born or in the territory yet. Patterson has worked diligently and effectively over decades for the benefit of Nunavummiut, long before there even was a Nunavut, and long before Mumilaaq was born. Her housing tour was unnecessary because the Senate had already produced a lengthy report on the housing needs in all of Inuit Nunangat; she could have had some positive effect on this issue by acknowledging the Senate’s (and Patterson’s) efforts in this regard, endorsing their findings, and supporting their recommendations.

  9. Posted by Johnny mike on

    Over four generations of Inuit families in housing crisis this is after the governments introduced public housing to Inuit I think the total cost of travel and visits to Inuit communities and all of the productions of all short or lengthly reports on the needs of housing in Inuit world have equaled and or could have built few badly needed housings. Governments should stop wasting dollars on studying that they already studied repeatedly before period.

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