Nunavut legislature resumes Monday amidst spate of new COVID-19 cases in Arviat
Finance Minister George Hickes will deliver budget this week while Arviat’s COVID-19 outbreak forces MLA John Main to attend via Zoom
Nunavut MLAs will start the 2021 winter sitting of the legislature Monday with a spate of new COVID-19 cases in Arviat keeping one of the community’s two elected representatives at home.
The sitting, which will focus mostly on the government’s 2021-22 operating budget, will start Monday and run until March 16.
But Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main won’t be there in person.
That’s because of restrictions on travel in and out of the community, Speaker Paul Quassa said in a news release.
Instead, Main, who is chairperson of the regular members’ caucus, will attend via Zoom.
Premier Joe Savikataaq, the MLA for Arviat South, is in Iqaluit at the moment, and will be able to attend the legislature in person.
Finance Minister George Hickes will give his 2021 budget speech at around 1:30 p.m., Tuesday.
At that time, Nunavummiut will likely learn the size of the deficit the Government of Nunavut ran during the 2020-21 fiscal year, which ends March 31, because of costs imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last November, Hickes said that deficit is likely to run to around $100 million.
But the DBRS Morningstar credit rating agency said in a report last year that such a deficit would be no big problem.
That’s because the GN manages its finances well, the agency said. And the territorial government has also received “extraordinary pandemic support” from the federal government, it said.
In February 2020, just before COVID-19 swept through the country, Hickes estimated in his 2020-21 budget speech that the GN would produce a deficit of $30.4 million within a total budget of $2.3 billion.
So even if it were $100 million, Nunavut’s deficit for the coming year would still be tiny when set against a total budget that’s likely to exceed last year’s $2.3 billion.
After the government’s budget is tabled, MLAs will scrutinize it each day during committee-of-the-whole proceedings.
During the sitting, the legislature will follow strict physical distancing guidelines, Quassa said.
That means no public access to the foyer and visitors’ gallery.
But Nunavummiut will be able to watch proceedings on cable or satellite television.
The legislative channel is available on channel 513 on Bell’s direct-to-home satellite service.
On the Shaw/Arctic Co-operatives community cable system, it’s on either channel 289 or channel 489.
The sittings are also livestreamed at video.isilive.ca/nunavut/.
Residents of Iqaluit can listen to live radio broadcasts of the proceedings on the following FM frequencies: 92.5 for audio from the floor without interpretation; 94.7 for Inuktitut; and 102.1 for English.