Nunavut MLAs press for increases to income support programs
“We all know that it’s very expensive in the North to try to make a living"
Two Nunavut MLAs want to know why the Family Services minister hasn’t solicited more money from the federal government to increase income support programs for needy Nunavummiut.
Tununiq MLA Joe Enook and Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA George Hickes urged Family Services Minister Jeannie Ugyuk during question period in the Nunavut legislature May 23 to get cost-of-living increases for people who receive financial supports.
“We all know that it’s very expensive in the North to try to make a living,” said Enook.
“The social assistance provided to members of the public, is the assistance provided the same as money that is provided for other individuals in Canada?”
Ugyuk told Enook she did not know what people in other jurisdictions receive, but that her department is in the process of reviewing all its subsidies. She also said income assistance would be part of that review.
“The way I understand it, in 2015, there will be a complete review of the rates,” Ugyuk said.
Hickes asked whether the minister planned to meet with officials in Ottawa to discuss increasing assistance programs offered by the federal government, “recognizing the significantly higher cost of living here in Nunavut,” Hickes added. “A lot of the federal programs don’t recognize that.”
Ugyuk told Hickes that she could not respond fully until she consulted with Finance Minister Keith Peterson.
Low income and needy residents of Nunavut get financial help from both the federal and territorial governments: Nunavut’s income assistance program provides a variety of benefits and is funded through the Government of Nunavut’s general revenues, much of which comes from federal transfer payments.
In contrast, Ottawa directly funds income assistance for First Nations through Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Canada.
Ottawa pays for other programs for needy Canadians including the child tax benefit and the working income tax benefit.
According to the 2013-14 main estimates, the GN’s Department of Family Services planned to spend nearly $44 million for income assistance to Nunavummiut, roughly 39 per cent of the department’s $112.9 million budget for 2013-2014 and less than one per cent of the territory’s entire budget for that year.
In its November 2013 report Poverty and Prosperity in Nunavut, the Caledon Institute of Social Policy, said that four in 10 Nunavummiut — more than 13,000 — received some social assistance in 2011.