Okalik presses PM for action on Nunavut
Says Chrétien knows more about Nunavut than entire federal cabinet
Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik made an attempt this week to persuade Jean Chrétien that he should take action on four of Nunavut’s outstanding issues in his final year as prime minister of Canada.
Okalik made his case in a half-hour meeting this past Tuesday, during a trip to Ottawa.
Nunavut’s premier said he was surprised to find that Chrétien was extremely well-briefed on Nunavut’s issues — more so than any other federal cabinet minister
“I was frank with him,” Okalik said. “I said, look, you are more knowledgable about all of your cabinet combined about Nunavut and I don’t see much knowledge in any of your successors.”
Chrétien has announced that he will retire in February 2004. The Liberal party will choose his successor in a leadership convention to be held near the end of 2003.
Okalik said he raised four major issues with the prime minister:
• A proposal that the federal government assume 50 per cent of the cost of Nunavut’s three new health facilities;
• Nunavut’s serious infrastructure deficiencies, and the inadequacy of the per capita funding formulas used to set federal financial contributions to Nunavut;
• Nunavut’s need for an economic development agreement with Ottawa;
• And Nunavut’s concerns about the permanent fishing rights that Nunavik Inuit might receive in Nunavut waters through their offshore claim agreement with Ottawa.
Okalik said there has been no other prime minister with Chrétien’s breadth of knowledge about Nunavut, and he hopes that Chrétien will try to accomplish as much as he can for Nunavut while he’s still in office.
Chrétien’s government will outline its priorities for the coming year in a throne speech to be delivered when the House of Commons resumes sitting on Sept. 30.