Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut May 24, 2012 - 3:18 pm

FCM head gives big pep talk to Nunavut mayors

NAM can rebuild with better governance: Vrbanovic

SAMANTHA DAWSON
Barry Vrbanovic, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities speaks to NAM AGM delegates May 23 about rebuilding their organization and the importance of managing their finances and internal affairs. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)
Barry Vrbanovic, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities speaks to NAM AGM delegates May 23 about rebuilding their organization and the importance of managing their finances and internal affairs. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)
NAM members listen to discussions May 24 during their annual general meeting in Iqaluit. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)
NAM members listen to discussions May 24 during their annual general meeting in Iqaluit. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)

Working with the Government of Nunavut, getting a new board, hiring an executive director, and networking with the Northwest Territories and Yukon can help the Nunavut Association of Municipalities rebuild, Barry Vrbanovic, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, told delegates at NAM’s general meeting in Iqaluit May 23.

The Federation’s proposed program “Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit governance from the ground up” stresses the importance of a clear division of responsibility between the GN and NAM.

“So the proposal is really a discussion document that’s tried to capture the various ideas that have been put forward and to look at how with NAM being the lead, we can support them with the work of other municipal leaders across the country,” Vrbanovic said.

For nearly three years, the NAM has struggled with little or no staff and constant turnover within its board.

This past December, Pangnirtung mayor Sakiasie Sowdlooapik abruptly quit as president and the organization’s acting executive director Shani Guerin, also departed her job.

The organization turned to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and organized an emergency meeting in Iqaluit on Dec. 6 and Dec. 7 that was plagued with administrative and organizational problems.

The task of rebuilding the NAM, which still does not have an executive director, is both a challenge and an opportunity, Vrbanovic said.

“Obviously, NAM has gone through some growing pains recently and through those growing pains, I think they’ve been able to develop some clarity around where they don’t want to be. And now the question is how do we work together in terms of where we do want to go,” he said.

The NAM has a good sense of that and there is interest in serving on the board, Vrbanovic said.

“If they get a good senior administrator to support them, I think there’s a lot of great things that can be achieved. I’ve seen what’s happened in other places where we’ve worked with associations and they have proven to be successful and sustainable and there’s no reason that can’t happen here with the commitment of everybody,” he said.

Municipalities are the order of government that’s closest to the citizens, but working with federal and territorial governments is crucial, Vrbanovic said.

Communications are a big part of the story, he said, “so it’s really that peer-to-peer approach, the whole notion that I know is important in Inuit culture of learning from each other.”

This would affect the outcomes in a good way, Vrbanovic said.

“If you can speak as one voice as a municipal sector with the Government of Nunavut, you would be able to see greater results,” he said.

The NAM should begin by electing a new board and hiring a new executive director, Vrbanovic said.

And at least 30 per cent of political positions should be held by women, Vrbanovic added.

“That’s something you’re going to have to do in the next little bit of time,” he said.

Then, that board should have a workshop, look at the mandate and pass new bylaws, and look at how the association can best serve Nunavut communities.

The NAM also needs to improve internal administration and financial management, Vrbanovic said.

“At the end of the day, that’s extremely important,” he said.

Infrastructure, affordable housing, communication and the environment are likewise important issues: “I don’t need to tell you in northern Canada what your infrastructure challenges are because they are enormous,” he said.

And municipalities need to continue to be the economic engines of the country, Vrbanovic told the NAM, providing rural and northern services.

“At FCM we have both a rural forum and a northern forum, Percy [NAM president Percy Kabloona] sits on the northern forum on the board of directors representing all of you and making sure that when we talk about policy issues we don’t just talk about the ones in southern Canada,” he said.

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