Use of federal funding for housing up to GN, Inuit representatives, Vandal says

Minister of Northern Affairs dubbed budget’s Inuit housing promises as ‘reconciliation in action’

Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal touted economic growth in a press conference at the Aqsarniit Hotel and Conference Centre in Iqaluit Tuesday. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

By Jeff Pelletier

Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal says it will be up to the territorial governments and Inuit landholders to decide how to spend the millions of dollars the federal government promised for housing in last week’s budget.

The 2022 budget, tabled by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in the House of Commons April 7, allocates $60 million to the Government of Nunavut over two years for housing, as well as $845 million over seven years to Inuit communities.

In an interview with Nunatsiaq News, Vandal described the money the territorial government is receiving as a “down payment” to be used how the territories each see fit.

“The $60 million is a direct grant to the Government of Nunavut with very few conditions,” he said. “That’s something that’s very positive … It’s basically territorial money … for them to invest into housing.”

The same applies to the money the government pledged to Inuit communities, Vandal added.

“It’s a real indicator of reconciliation in action,” he said.

Vandal arrived in Iqaluit Tuesday to promote the federal budget and meet with local and territorial leaders. In a press conference at the Aqsarniit hotel and conference centre, he touted recent job growth across Canada and pitched the Liberal government’s plan for economic growth.

“This budget is a fiscally responsible one, and it will make life more affordable for people here in Iqaluit, across Nunavut and across Canada,” he said in his remarks.

Sitting in the front row at the press conference was Nunavut Sen. Dennis Patterson, who quietly took notes as the minister and other local officials spoke.

Patterson said he was happy to see Vandal in Iqaluit again, but was expecting more from Tuesday’s press conference.

“I was hoping for an announcement, but we know that Liberal cabinet ministers are fanning out across the country to promote the new budget, so that’s what this was,” he said.

Patterson said there were some investments he would have liked to have seen for the North, such as improvements to defence and water infrastructure. At the same time, there’s a lot about the budget he said he likes, such as the promised investments in housing and Indigenous-led mental health initiatives.

Patterson said he wants to see an implementation plan for how some of the budget’s most ambitious promises will be fulfilled.

“I see the budget as promising, but the details have to be worked out,” he said. “We got the budget speech and the budget book, but the devil is in the details, which is in the [budget implementation] act.”

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(34) Comments:

  1. Posted by Northern guy on

    I still think that the GN should invest into the Nunavut housing authority and equip them well enough to build their own houses
    at cost, rather than continuously throwing money at out of territory and local contractors who have been exploiting the territory and it’s funds since always. We need more homes in Nunavut and at a fairer price to the territory.

    Id also like to extend a big thank you to those working towards a better Nunavut.

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    • Posted by Curious Cat on

      I don’t know much about this, so I’m curious if you could expand on what specific factors would make the Nunavut Housing Corp more likely to deliver cost effective builds than contractors do?

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      • Posted by Northern guy on

        The housing corp is not in the business of making ‘profits’ and that is a pretty huge factor when it comes to cost. The housing corp could purchase equipment , train local employees and keep a large portion of the funds in the territory that way. It’s very simple economics.

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        • Posted by Train locals. on

          They have tried the “train locals” approach when building. It didnt work and ended up costing way more and setting the project back two years… Staff not showing up, staff quitting after payday, staff not understanding basic math, etc…

          You can’t “train” people to build houses the same way you cant “train” someone to be an engineer.To build to code you need to have a solid understanding of the National Building Code which is usually obtained through a 4-year apprenticeship or College Diploma. The problem with Nunavut and the NLCA is that everyone wants to get paid trained but can’t be bothered to get educated.

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          • Posted by Northern Guy on

            Precisely! Training only works if you have a labour pool with the perquisite educational attainment. It is delusional to think that you can take a grade 10 drop out and turn that person into a fully qualified carpenter, plumber or electrician without first upgrading their basic education. They simply don’t have the maths and literacy skills and last I checked no builder has the time or interest in becoming adult educators.

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    • Posted by Mildred Pierce on

      The Nunavut Housing Corporation is not a construction firm. If they are given a bunch of money to build housing, then they would go out to tender and hire a contractor to do the work. The contractor would provide a quote that ensured a profit.

      I am trying to envision what you are talking about. Were you thinking that NHC staff would do the construction?

      • Posted by Probably this on

        The point of the original comment was to score ‘likes’ by plucking at the chords of our tribalism; The Nunavut way! Nunavut first! Let’s keep the money in house! Train locals…! All the same BS that sounds so soothing, but falls apart once we begin to map it onto reality

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    • Posted by Umingmak on

      The NHC Regional Offices have done everything in their power to try to recruit staff, train apprentices, and build up strong local workforces to complete work in the communities, but it has been a colossal failure for numerous reasons.

      One, the Directorate Office in Iqaluit is painfully out of touch with reality. They don’t understand that there are communities in Nunavut not named Iqaluit. They don’t understand that 5-10 year plans don’t work – the problems are growing so quickly that those plans will only result in more problems.

      Two, the local housing associations cannot maintain staff. Part of this is because Maintenance Managers are badly underpaid. They’re not eligible for OT pay, yet are expected to work 12+ hour days on many occasions without compensation. Housing Managers come & go, and those in the communities who have the skills to fill these roles are already working in better paying, less stressful positions with the Hamlet or GN. Above all else, housing staff has a massive absentee rate, with most workers skipping 1-2 days per week without even calling in to notify management. They generally don’t have the education level to pass the apprenticeship exam, and even those who do manage to pass the exam either refuse to go to Rankin Inlet for schooling, or bolt for private contractors the moment they get their journeyman ticket. It doesn’t help that the Nunavut Apprenticeship system is a trainwreck that was never designed to work in remote fly-in communities with fluctuating available work.

      Finally, an unfortunately large percentage of public housing tenants intentionally damage their own units, never pay rent, cause enormous issues with their neighbours, etc. The costs of repairing these units ends up falling on the LHOs, which already lack the available funds to complete their usual tasks, and leads to further backups in work orders, delays preventative maintenance, cuts into sealift budgets, etc.

  2. Posted by Winner on

    At least he got the ‘look how cool I am’ Kenny bell tour.

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  3. Posted by No more photo ops on

    The amount of money just flying these guys to Nunavut and to Alaska and everywhere else to get photo ops could probably build a house or two.

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    • Posted by John K on

      Maybe.

      All I know for sure is that people would also complain if they didn’t come here.

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  4. Posted by Northern Guy on

    So the federal government is basically handing over $845 million dollars with no reporting requirements to organizations that are themselves accountable to NO ONE witihin their constituencies outside a small circle of entitled and self-interested leaders? What could possibly go wrong?

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    • Posted by repeating history (yesterday) on

      Same thing that always has in nunavut, no accountability. The hamlets trash generators and vehicles because the workers are so stoned all the time they literally let them roll off cliffs, or into buildings, or into machinery. What happens, … write off, and a new on up on the next sealift. Freakin crazy. Every cent of this should be outsourced to a contractor for x-number of houses and their decided locations, and let them hire their own local workers who actually want to show up. Thats the only way I see any of this getting built.
      .
      As for housing corp, they do repairs and help a lot, but they dont have the staff to maintain what they have AND start constructing new houses. Keeping the money in the territory won’t amount to much in the long term. Unforturnatly, I wish this wasn’t the case, but I think it is.

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    • Posted by Frodo’s Parka on

      What could go wrong? Well, I mean, the execs picking out the wrong colour new SUV for example; oh, the inhumanity! Or maybe not enough token administrative jobs and contracts for friends and relatives.

  5. Posted by 1,000 Houses on

    One advantage of giving most of the money to Inuit Orgs is that the Inuit Orgs do not have to follow the NNI Implementation Act. The Inuit Orgs can have the houses pre-fabricated in China and shipped to Nunavut, just like QIA did with their new hotel in Iqaluit.
    .
    It doesn’t do much for local or Canadian employment, but it brings the cost down a lot.
    .
    Now we know how PJ plans to build 1,000 houses. Perhaps he will still be Premier after next week..

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  6. Posted by Think About It on

    60 million over 2 years to the GN and 845 over seven years to Inuit communities.

    Feds: Now you won’t lose track of another 100 million this time right?
    LHOs: Hold my beer

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    • Posted by Blue peace on

      Let’s not forget who was in power when that took place?

      The liberals may have similar building performance in NU as achieved by the federal conservatives , but they weren’t in power during that whole budgeting process

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  7. Posted by Stop it on

    Stop giving money for government projects to private corporations, aka Inuit orgs. They siphon off 10% in administration right off the bat. They then award contracts to their own and buddies businesses because they are not required to honour free trade agreements like government. This drives up the cost and means less housing overall. The federal government needs to give public government the money. They just handed them millions for tuberculosis and they did nothing with it.

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  8. Posted by Anaanamous on

    If the money goes to the Inuit orgs we’ll never see a penny or a nickel. They will pocket it for idk what reasons they pocket it for.

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  9. Posted by Jaeger miester on

    Kia Kitikmeot Intelligence Agency is laughing all the way to the bank !

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  10. Posted by Nothing new on

    Nu Housing Corp, which is an extension of GN and the Inuit orgs are the reason why we have such poor housing outcomes in Nunavut. Don’t hold your breath on these units being built, each community might get a few each and that’s all! Nothing new coming from GN..

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    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      So far the only organization with a successful track record of building affordable housing is the GN. How many houses gave NTI and ITK built? The birthright corps build at huge markups and with little efficiency. If we leave it to them each hamlet will get or two units at a cost of millions each.

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      • Posted by Nothing new on

        Northern Guy, the GN/NHC builds houses through their public housing portfolio but throwing more money does nothing but perpetuate the reliance on public housing, exasperate the high birth rate to “access” said housing, and keep employment outcomes low because rent is raised if individuals become meaningfully employed.

        How does GN solve problems? With the status quo.

    • Posted by Truley on

      Yessir your absolutely right. Housing is laughing all the way to the bank and they have more gas money now so the boys can drive around more to the dump
      In Yk – 4 housing maintenance boys can fix a 4 bdrm house and completely renovate a four bedroom in a week , —- in any Nunavut town —4 guys do a house same size —- 2 months.
      You do the financing and see how much where wasted dollars go.
      Lucky housing guys can collect a paycheque and not drive one nail or a single screw into wood.

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    • Posted by Truley on

      Yessir your absolutely right. Housing is laughing all the way to the bank and they have more gas money now so the boys can drive around more to the dump . The Nunavut government and housing Corp knows that
      In Yk – 4 regular housing maintenance boys can fix a 4 bdrm house and completely renovate a four bedroom house in a week , —- BUT —-in any Nunavut town —4 guys do a house same size —- lucky if it’s even done in 2 or 3 months.
      You do the financing and see how much where wasted dollars go.
      Lucky housing guys can collect a paycheque and not drive one nail or a single screw into wood.
      The housing warehouse here is full of material enough to build more than a couple of houses and hey sit there collecting mould. No wonder they have a massive sales of unused lumber and materials, everything to build a few houses for next to nothing just to get rid of rotting materials .

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  11. Posted by Frankly on

    Ahh yes. Our kia Inuit org needs that money to get the road started so we inuit can go to work for them and get money for food after we labour hard at the brand new port site at greys bay . So things could get cheaper they say. Road to Yellowknife from 90 miles east of coppermine in the middle of NOWHERE.

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  12. Posted by HM on

    1. Give the funds to the Inuit orgs and to the GN. 2. Order hundreds of pre-fab houses from China. Large enough for multi-generation, extended families 3. Price the house. 4. Have Inuit tenants sign rent to own contracts if they choose to, even pairing up or grouping up. The rent goes towards paying the house off. 5. After 5 years of continuous service, give a retention bonus that will be used to cut down the house cost or upgrade it. If not reached, no housing bonus. 6. Same after 10, 15, 20 years. 6. Meanwhile, the selling org/GN invest the rent/bonus into more houses. 7. After a generation or so, with improved housing and living, education outcomes for Inuit will also align and a cycle of improvement will be established. Unemployed Inuit will be in social housing but encouraged to train up and become employable and also rent to own. Housing comes first. Eventually, Inuit will be qualified and skilled to build houses and to design them too. Then no more pre-fab houses will be needed from China and we will look back and be proud of how far we’ve come though our own hard work and creativity.

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  13. Posted by delbert on

    Lets do a trial program. Give housing Corp just 5 million dollars to build I don’t know say 8 homes. Here is the criteria that has to be met.
    Design the building get all the permits needed to start construction.
    Order all the materials accurately so it come’s in on Sea Lift. Prepare the site for the building to sit on. Then get all the trades lined up to the build. Each trade must be a red seal certified.All the inspections are done so the quality of the work meets the Canadian and Nunavut building codes.
    All the contract will go to totally owned Inuit firms. The entire project is built and managed by Inuit.
    Also give the same 5 million to a Southern firm with exact same criteria. Except the southern firm can use a all southern work force. They would have to provide housing food cost and transportation for their work force, Given that extra cost. It would be a test. To see which group of would provide the most housing for all those federal dollars.

    • Posted by Umingmak on

      $5 million wont even get you a 5plex at last year’s costs – never mind the current costs given the record high rate of inflation.

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  14. Posted by Umingmak on

    Go and look at the nunavuttenders website and see what the cost is for a 5plex (one 5plex in Coral Harbour cost $5,475,700 in 2021). $60M is peanuts, and won’t even come close to solving any of the problems. This whole announcement was just fluff for the feds to make themselves look good to people in the south who are clueless about the costs of life in the north.

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    • Posted by Tom on

      60 million is not peanuts, if one unit cost a million dollars to build, 5 plex 5 and half million then the problem is the GN, they have to look for a better way to properly spend that money instead of making a construction company richer.
      We are talking about millions to built one unit and if we continue down this road no amount of money will ever be enough to meet the demands for housing.
      GN can do much better but for whatever reason most of us do not call them out or have any expectations for the GN to be better.

      • Posted by Umingmak on

        You clearly don’t understand the laws government government procurement. I’d suggest looking at those rules. The GN doesn’t make them. The Feds make them. The government is also held to articles of free trade agreements like NAFTA.

        Now, also go look at how much money the Feds send to Africa, Asia and the Middle East in “foreign aid”.

        Billions for foreign governments. $60M for Nunavut. It’s an absolute joke.

  15. Posted by delbert on

    Umingmak:
    If you took the billions percapita that you say the feds send to foreign countries. Take the hundreds of millions that is sent to Nunavut yearly by the feds. Each person in Nunavut would be receiving much more than any person in any of those countries you identified. Please don`t say we pay taxes to because the facts are. Nunavut receives far more tax dollars from the feds. Than feds receive from the all the businesses and people of Nunavut. The joke is on the rest of Canadians that are sending all those tax dollars north. To be spent with no over site.

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