$100 million for housing in Nunavut: federal budget
Money also earmarked for homelessness, violence, mental health in Inuit communities
(Updated, March 22, 4:00 p.m.)
When federal finance minister Jim Flaherty announced the 2013-14 federal budget in Ottawa March 21, he said he’s still aiming to see a balanced budget by 2015.
“We will not spend recklessly,” he said.
Among the amounts the Conservative government does intend to spend: $100 million for social housing construction in Nunavut over the next two years.
That will come as good news to the cash-strapped Nunavut Housing Corp., which has no money left from the $300 million it received from Ottawa in 2006 and 2009 to build social housing in the territory.
In his budget address in the House of Commons, Flaherty said the government wants to restrain the growth of direct program spending without cutting transfers to persons or to governments for health care and social services.
That goal was accomplished in the 2013-14 budget, Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq told Nunatsiaq News. The result is a budget that she said is “good for the North.”
Nunavut will see more money in transfers from the federal government — a total of $1.4 billion, which could allow the territory to top off the Nutrition North food subsidy, as is done in Quebec, Aglukkaq suggested.
And many other programs announced March 21, such as a new apprenticeship program attached to every federal infrastructure project, will mean more opportunities for jobs and on-the-job training for people in Nunavut, she said.
But Jean Crowder, the aboriginal affairs critic for the New Democratic Party, called the budget a “dismal failure.”
Crowder, who recently visited Iqaluit, said the $100 million for social housing may seem like good news, but the 250 houses that money will build fall short of what is required to meet the housing needs in the territory.
“I don’t think it helps,” she told Nunatsiaq News about the budget as a whole. “It doesn’t address the high rates of poverty, the infrastructure deficit and the educational needs.”
Bob Rae, the interim Liberal party leader, also criticized the budget for its lack of focus on education.
“Young Aboriginals endure the worst education outcomes in the country and the continuing failure to address this federal responsibility deprives another generation — and our economy — of a prosperous future,” he said.
Alexandre Cloutier, Quebec’s intergovernmental affairs minister, dismissed the federal budget, saying it’s just another example of Ottawa’s lack of understanding about Quebec.
The 433-page budget contains other amounts, which it says are designed to “improve the safety and quality of life in aboriginal communities.”
• $119 million per year over five years for the Homelessness Partnering Strategy using a “Housing First” approach;
• $253 million per year over five years to renew the Investment in Affordable Housing;
• $4 million over three years to protect against invasive species — through continued enforcement and monitoring of ballast water regulations and increased ballast water inspection capacity in the Arctic;
• $10 million over two years to increase the number of scholarships and bursaries offered to Inuit and First Nations students by Indspire, the organization formerly known as the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation;
• $71 million over two years for supplementary policing services, the Aboriginal Justice Strategy, and the Family Violence Prevention Program;
• $52 million over two years “to enhance health services” for First Nations and Inuit, including mental health services; and,
• $116 million for the Nanisivik port over five years.
The budget also includes an Adoption Expense Tax Credit “to better recognize the costs of adopting a child.”
Other measures that will be felt in Nunavut and Nunavik include what Flaherty called a “bold new initiative” to connect Canadians with jobs: the Canada Job Grant.
This will see employers, territories or provinces and the federal government each chipping in $5,000 per person for job training – for a total of $15,000 per person to “give Canadians the jobs employers are seeking,” Flaherty said.
As well, there’s a 10-year, $53-billion “Building Canada plan,” with $47 billion of new money, set to start in 2014-15. The program will provide money to build roads, bridges, public transit and other public infrastructure, of which $400 million will go to Nunavut.
Aglukkaq said she plans to provide more details later about where some of that money will go in Nunavut.
New money in the “Building Canada Plan” will also focus on projects “that stimulate economic growth, and are designed to capitalize on innovative approaches, such as public-private partnerships — which Aglukkaq said will be “of great benefit to Nunavut.”
Among these P3 projects: the previously-announced $77.3 million Iqaluit airport improvement project that will bring a new terminal as well as upgraded runway, taxiway and apron.
The 2013-14 federal budget also includes a renewal of the 15-per cent mineral exploration tax credit, a measure designed to assist junior mining companies.
But smokers in the North may pay more for their habit: the budget calls for the excise duty on chewing tobacco or fine-cut tobacco used in roll-your-own cigarettes to increase, to $21.25 per 200 grams from $11.57 per 200 grams.