Federal funding for Nunavut falls short, Pangnirtung candidate says
Johnny Mike sees urgent need to upgrade all services in communities
On his first run in a territorial election two years ago, Johnny Mike fell short by just 40 votes in a two-way race for Pangnirtung.
This time, on his second run for MLA Oct. 28, Mike hopes some added campaigning will better connect him with voters.
“I want to put our campaigning style in Pang up to the next level,” said Mike, who has been using Facebook to get more feedback on voter concerns.
Mike, who has decades of experience with various Nunavut corporations and Inuit organizations, Pangnirtung fisheries, and the community’s hunters and trappers’ organization, is nearing the end of a two-year term as hamlet councillor and deputy mayor of Pangnirtung.
Some encouragement from Pangnirtungmiut convinced him to run again at the territorial level, he said, so he can push for greater changes.
Mike said the next territorial government’s biggest priority should be to improve the federal funding formula for Nunavut.
“The Nunavut government always seems to have insufficient — and lack of funds available to municipalities, housing, social (services) and health, economic development, transportation, and education,” he told Nunatsiaq News.
“I would want the Nunavut legislature to do a review on the current federal funding formula.”
Funding gaps are most obvious in housing, “right across Nunavut,” he said. “There is a housing crisis that I believe is at a 3,000-unit shortage.”
Mike counts the high cost of living as a top issue for his hamlet.
And he asks how is it that Pangnirtung, perhaps the only community in the Baffin region that has local economic potential through a fisheries industry, can experience a cost of living that’s among the highest in the territory.
“Last year, fishermen brought in 600,000 pounds” of turbot, he said. “That brings in, in terms of jobs and labour, about $1.5 million of input into the community.”
That amount, he said, seems to have no effect on the high cost of living in Pangnirtung.
“It just isn’t justified,” he said. “We’re doing better economically than others. The plane that comes into Pang brings in dried goods, fruit and meat, and flies out full of turbot and passengers.”
Housing shortages, Mike said, present another big question he hopes to solve as MLA.
The number of housing units in Pangnirtung fall well below the community’s needs for the future, he said, and the territorial government has placed the hamlet too low on its list for housing allocations.
This does not bode well for Pangnirtung’s youthful population, he said.
“A lot of young people are caught with hardly any help to get their own public housing, according to the current housing allocation system.”
Pangnirtung’s overall infrastructure is also overdue for improvement, starting with the hamlet’s airstrip.
“I believe that some day it has to be relocated,” he said.
The hamlet, which surrounds the airstrip, has little room to grow. Mike believes an access road leading out of the community, toward Kingnait Fiord in the south, could be a first step toward relieving congestion.
“That would definitely help, for sure, for those who depend on hunting, fishing and camping,” he said. “I’m sure more opportunities would open up.”
Recreational facilities are also due for upgrades. Most facilities date back to the 1970s and 1980s, he said, and bringing them up to 21st-century standards will pay off.
“We’re dealing with communities in remote areas. When I was younger, I know recreation meant a lot to my life. It’s the same today,” Mike said. If you deliver a better facility to your community, I believe the crime rate will go down, I believe the people would feel they are being treated better, with better facilities.”
Improved education, in both English and Inuktitut, is another priority.
“I think we need to have a good, great debate over education,” Mike said, adding that this must extend beyond policy on general schooling, to higher academics.
Also running in Pangnirtung are the hamlet mayor, Sakiasie Sowdlooapik, Harry J. Dialla, and incumbent Hezakiah Oshutapik, who hopes to keep the seat he won against Mike in the 2011 by-election.