Nunavut MP disappointed with federal budget but will support it
Lori Idlout, Inuit organizations share mixed reactions day after Liberals unveil spending plan
Nunavut MP Lori Idlout says she’s disappointed with the federal budget’s lack of major spending for housing, but the NDP parliamentarian says she and her party will support it.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland tabled the budget Tuesday afternoon in the House of Commons. Overall, it includes less spending on housing than previous budgets, including last year’s, and instead targets health and dental care, and various economic and tax reliefs.
“We had the Government of Nunavut, [Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami], [Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.]talking about how urgent the needs are for housing, but then to see the announcement that there’s urban, rural, northern housing that won’t start until next fiscal year is a huge blow,” Idlout said in an interview.
“When it comes to Indigenous Peoples, it seems we’re at the bottom of the priority list by the Liberals.”
Idlout was referring to part of the budget allocating $4 billion over seven years for the Urban, Rural and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy.
Ottawa won’t begin spending that money until the 2024-2025 fiscal year.
Idlout and her party are taking credit for some of the policies outlined in the budget. But even then, she said, it’s not all to the extent that they wanted.
For example, she said, the NDP celebrated the inclusion of a grocery rebate, or GST credit, in the budget.
However, the rebate — which will give up to $467 to 11 million lower-income Canadians — will have minimal impact when it comes to buying groceries in Nunavut where prices are higher than in most of Canada.
“I know that this grocery rebate only happened because of the work of the NDP,” Idlout said.
“I hope that more Canadians realize just how damaging these decisions are to all Canadians, that they remember that at the next election.”
On Wednesday, several Inuit organizations published news releases reacting to the budget.
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed said the proposed $16.2 million over three years to combat tuberculosis is just one-quarter of what the national Inuit organization was hoping for.
“This modest investment in Inuit health priorities does not fulfill our joint commitment with the Government of Canada to eliminate tuberculosis in Inuit Nunangat by 2030,” Obed said.
“But we remain optimistic that future federal budget cycles will unlock the funding needed to honour this commitment.”
Gerri Sharpe, president of national Inuit women’s organization Pauktuutit, welcomed several aspects of the budget, including funding for Indigenous health, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ National Action Plan, and shelters and transitional housing.
“Pauktuutit is pleased to see the budget’s whole-of-government approach to advancing gender equality priorities by using core tools,” Sharpe said.
Lisa Koperqualuk, president of Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada, said the budget reflects her organization’s key pre-budget recommendations, which included funding for clean ports, mammal conservation and protecting Arctic sovereignty.
“There are several measures in this budget that address reductions in emissions, adaptation to climate change, and eliminating plastic waste,” Koperqualuk said.
“These efforts will help reduce climate impacts in the Arctic.”
Nukik Corp., which oversees development and operation of large infrastructure projects in the Kivalliq region, issued a statement noting the budget’s inclusion of the Kivalliq Hydro-Fibre Link project.
The budget briefly mentioned the project in a section highlighting support for clean energy projects across Canada.
“Today’s acknowledgement from the federal government is a significant achievement for Inuit and Nunavummiut,” said Kono Tattuinee, president of the Kivalliq Inuit Association.
“The KHFL is poised to change the future of our people and our nation in profound ways.”
Sylvie Bérubé, the Bloc Québécois MP for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, was not available for an interview Wednesday.
Idlout said that despite feeling “devastated” and “crappy” after seeing the budget, party loyalty means she will still support it.
The NDP remains in a supply and confidence agreement with the Liberal government, meaning it will support the government in return for progress on some of the NDP’s priority policies.
To that end, Idlout is supporting a budget that has her party’s policies in it, even if it falls short of her expectations.
“It’s because of the supply and confidence agreement, how we make some kind of mark in this budget,” Idlout said.
“That’s why we’re willing to support it, but that doesn’t mean that our work ends.”