Throne speech leaves Nunavut MLAs hopeful
“There’s a lot to be encouraged by”
Nunavut MLAs say this week’s throne speech leaves them hopeful that more federal funds will be forthcoming for the territory.
The hour-long speech read by Governor General Julie Payette laid out the federal government’s agenda for the new session of the House of Commons, which focused heavily on COVID-19 and economic relief.
“Reading through this speech, there’s a lot to be encouraged by,” said John Main, MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove, in the legislative assembly on Thursday, Sept. 24.
Before going into specifics, Main acknowledged “the leadership role that the federal government has played in addressing COVID-19 pandemic to date,” including the work being done to secure a COVID-19 vaccine for all Canadians.
Among the topics in the throne speech highlighted by Main was the mention of “a long-term, sustained investment to create a Canada-wide early learning and childcare system” and talk of elder care.
Main was also encouraged by the government’s goal to “ensure that everyone, including in rural and remote areas, has access to a family doctor or primary care team.”
“This is something that is very important and has been very apparent to many of my constituents,” said Main, referring to gaps in health care.
The other item that caught Main’s attention is the government’s plan to continue to work on a national action plan on gender-based violence, including an acceleration of their investment in shelters and transitional housing.
Main asked Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq his thoughts on the speech, beginning with the topic of “closing the infrastructure gap in Indigenous communities.”
“My saying has been, ‘we’re so far behind that we’re not even at the starting line,’ and that the federal government has to do some nation building within Nunavut,” replied Savikataaq.
“I am very hopeful and I hope that we’ll see the fruits of the statement soon.”
It was a sentiment Main agreed with.
Another topic discussed in the throne speech was housing.
“The government will add to the national housing strategy by increasing investments to rapid housing in the short term and partnering with not-for-profits and co-ops in the mid- to long-term,” said Main, who then asked the premier his thoughts on what this could mean for the territory.
Savikataaq was again hopeful.
“If you’re short houses, you need more houses,” he said.
“That’s a start in terms of addressing our needs.”
Savikataaq also touched on the fact that not only would it help alleviate the overcrowding issues within the territory, but additional housing is also part of the solution for a range of concerns, from social issues to mental health issues.
Main’s final question to Savikataaq concerned the use of the term “distinctions based” when referencing Inuit and other Indigenous communities within the throne speech.
“Does it mean that the Nunavut government is at the table?” asked Main, “Does it mean that the Nunavut government is not involved?”
Savikataaq responded by saying that the government is seeking clarity as to what that means but that he welcomed any funding sources that are “above and beyond what we normally get.”
“We know what Nunavut needs and we have been giving services to Nunavummiut for all these years, so if there’s any new distinctions-based funding, then I would hope that we’d be out there at the table at the beginning so we could partake in it.”