Nunavut legislators to ponder new budget, Auditor General report
The winter sitting, from Feb. 21 to March 14, will also consider new laws for education, corrections
Money matters will top the agenda when Nunavut MLAs gather in Iqaluit for the latest session of the Nunavut legislature, scheduled to run three weeks beginning Feb. 21.
The 2017 winter sitting, expected to run until March 14, will focus on the operating and maintenance budget of all Government of Nunavut departments for the next fiscal year.
That means Finance Minister Keith Peterson will present the 2017-18 operation and maintenance budget early in the session, the legislative assembly’s veteran senior clerk, John Quirke, told Nunatsiaq News Feb. 15.
Peterson will deliver the budget address on Feb. 22, when he will present a look-ahead on territorial government spending for the next fiscal year and a summary of the past year—whether the government ran a deficit or surplus.
And all MLAs will be aware of the general election looming later this year, Quirke said.
The legislative assembly will dissolve Sept. 24, with a writ of election to be issued Sept. 25 for territorial election to be held Oct. 30.
“There are three more sessions before the next general election. Nunavut has never had a majority of elected members return for another term. We’ll see if that pattern happens again,” Quirke said.
Legislators will likely put in extra hours this session as there are also “quite a few bills” to consider in the House, said the clerk.
There are eight bills awaiting review from legislative committees before receiving third reading, including:
• Bill 19, Unlawful Property Forfeiture Act;
• Bill 25, An Act to Amend the Consumer Protection Act;
• Bill 26, An Act to Amend the Social Assistance Act;
• Bill 29, An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act;
• Bill 30, An Act to Amend the Fire Prevention Act; and,
• Bill 31, An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act.
In addition to the seven bills awaiting third reading, the government will be presenting five other bills for first reading, House Leader Paul Quassa told Nunatsiaq News Feb. 16.
Those bills include amendments to three existing Acts, including the:
• the Income Tax Act;
• the Corrections Act; and
• the Education Act.
Quassa also said the government will be introducing a new bill on the Nunavummi Nangminiqaqtunik Ikajuuti policy. The NNI, developed in conjunction with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., is a policy whereby the GN gives preferential treatment to Inuit and northern companies who bid on government contracts. The government has been consulting and reviewing the policy for more than five years.
“This is a three-week session and it’s pretty full. The usual money bills are going to be there for the budget, and on top of that, we have seven or eight other bills under consideration. So I’m anticipating the amended Education Act will likely just get a first reading this session,” said Quassa, who is also the minister of education.
The fifth new bill will be a short piece of legislation called the Tobacco Act, Quassa said.
Once a bill receives first reading in the House it becomes a public document.
“At that time anyone can read it, and hopefully people do read them, because it gives them an opportunity to have a good clear idea of what it consists of,” said Quassa.
At least two other noteworthy events will take place this session, Quirke said.
First, the Order of Nunavut investiture ceremony will take place at the legislative building on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m.
This year’s inductees are historian Louie Kamookak, entrepreneur and politician Red Pederson and arts advocate Ellen Hamilton.
And second, an Auditor General of Canada’s report on health programs and services in Nunavut, likely to cause a big splash, tops the list of reports to be tabled this session.
That report is expected to be tabled by the house speaker some time in March.
“The plan is to have that report discussed by a standing committee in May, which is on the assembly’s calendar,” Quirke said.
“But the main business will be the budget.”
According to Quirke, other reports to be tabled this session cover a number of topics including the:
• 2016 Netsilik byelection;
• the 2016 land sales referendum;
• the Language Commissioner’s office; and,
• Qulliq Energy Corp.’s latest annual report.