Nunavut MLAs to ponder capital budget, hear throne speech
“Education has been at the forefront of the majority of conversations"
Nunavummiut will soon learn how much money the Government of Nunavut plans to spend on construction projects this fiscal year, when the fourth legislative assembly resumes March 6.
That’s because the GN’s 2014-2015 capital budget will be one of the biggest items on the assembly’s agenda.
Normally passed in the fall, but delayed because of the Oct. 28 territorial elections, the capital budget lists spending on the building of schools, health centres, municipal offices and other pieces of territorial infrastructure.
MLAs won’t deal with the GN’s main budget for 2014-15 until the spring session, which starts May 22.
South Baffin MLA David Joanasie said the new capital budget will be heavily influenced by the recent federal budget.
“We heard the federal budget announced the Building Canada Fund renewal,” Joanasie said.
The Building Canada Fund gives Nunavut $419 million over 10 years.
“So that’s a good indication of what the GN will be spending on,” Joanasie said.
The $300-million Iqaluit airport project will be the biggest capital spending item for this assembly, Joanasie said.
“So that’s one major project that’s going to be on everyone’s radar,” Joanasie said.
Joanasie also hopes to “hear good project announcements for my communities,” although he could not talk about specific plans in the budget.
Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA George Hickes said he looks forward to seeing more infrastructure projects across the territory as well as in Iqaluit.
“We’re hoping that with the new federal announcement, there will be an opportune time to further projects on the table that we can take a look at,” Hickes said.
The upcoming sittings of the legislature are divided into two parts.
The first one, a continuation of the first session, will deal with the capital budget and establish the assembly’s standing and special committees.
After that, the first session will prorogue, that is, defer its proceedings.
The second session of the fourth Nunavut legislative assembly will open the next day with the throne speech — also known as the commissioner’s opening address.
This will coincide with the tabling of the assembly’s new mandate statement, which will likely form much of the throne speech’s content.
“The throne speech — big expectations are coming out of it,” Joanasie said.
MLAs finished the mandate statement, called Sivumut Abluqta: Stepping Forward Together, at a full caucus retreat held Feb. 18 to Feb. 21 in Kugluktuk.
The new mandate calls for legislation providing for fixed territorial election dates every four years, a new code of conduct for MLAs and community plebiscites under the Nunavut land claims agreement on fee simple land ownership, to be held in 2016.
Tununiq MLA Joe Enook said he’s happy with the new mandate statement.
“A mandate is a mandate until you put it into action,” Enook said. “And I hope people get excited about it.”
“Personally, overall, I think it’s a step in the right direction. And I’m really grateful for the premier to allow the regular members to be a part of that process,” he said.
Enook plans on bringing up issues like the lack of marine infrastructure in Pond Inlet during this session.
“I shall be vocal, and I will be vocal, and bring these issues for Pond Inlet,” he said.
Hickes says he’ll inquire about the potential for hydro-electric development in Iqaluit and for a deep-sea port.
But he said the biggest issue of the second session will be education.
“I don’t think it’s going to be any surprise to anyone that education has been at the forefront of the majority of conversations we’ve had internally,” Hickes said.
“The real high focus, not just the K-12 education, but training and development for capital projects or mining sectors. Enhancing not just the graduation rates, but the quality of our graduates across the territory. That’s going to be a big focus,” he said.
Hickes is also looking for an update on where the new government stands on changes to the Liquor Act that passed during the last session.
Nunavut residents may watch the proceedings on either local cable television or on direct-to-home satellite television. Iqaluit residents may hear audio feeds on local FM frequencies.
(See the document embedded below for a full schedule of legislative assembly broadcasts.)
John Quirke, the clerk of the assembly, said 15 of the legislature’s 22 MLAs are new, and some may experience growing pains for the first week or so.
“Some of them, it’ll be their first experience to bring a notice of motion and read a motion, for example,” Quirke said.
Although the MLA’s have received an orientation session about the workings of the legislature, “Now we’re going to see orientation put into practice,” Quirke said.