Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 23, 2012 - 6:22 am

Nunavut MLAs to vote capital budget this session

Integrity Commissioner expected to table Schell report

DAVID MURPHY
Nunavut's legislature starts its fall sitting Oct. 23. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)
Nunavut's legislature starts its fall sitting Oct. 23. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)

Head’s up — it’s capital budget day in Nunavut Oct. 23.

The legislative assembly is presenting its capital budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year at the third and final sitting of the assembly this year.

The territorial government’s current capital budget, which guides spending on the construction of schools, health centres, municipal offices and other pieces of infrastructure, as well as the purchase of vehicles and equipment, runs until March 31, 2013.

The next capital budget, under discussion this week, will kick in April 1, 2013. But, by convention, Nunavut’s capital budgets are voted on earlier than normal, in the fall, to allow tenders and RFPs to be issued in time for contractors to make spring sealift deadlines.

The government house leader, Lorne Kusugak, doesn’t think there are any surprises in the proposed budget, but does expect a lengthy debate.

“I’m sure we’ll have a lot of questions and issues played back from regular members over the next 10 days,” Kusugak said. “I’m confident it will go through, I’m hopeful.”

As well, Integrity Commissioner Norman Pickell will likely table a report on the conduct of South Baffin MLA Fred Schell.

Premier Eva Aariak stripped Schell of all his cabinet portfolios this past March. He now sits as a minister without portfolio.

At the same time, Dan Vandermeulen, the secretary to cabinet referred the matter to Pickell, citing allegations of conflict of interest and abuse of authority.

This past August, speaker Hunter Tootoo gave Pickell until Oct. 31 to finish his report.

The specific nature of the allegations against Schell have not been made public. Earlier this month, Pickell held a behind-closed-door hearing on the matter.

After Pickell tables his report, MLAs may vote to either accept or reject his recommendations, but, under the provisions of the Integrity Act, they may not amend it.

“Hopefully it will be well written and understandably enough so that we can make a decision on what to do in this case. Because I think everyone’s tired of the issue,” said Quttiktuq MLA Ron Elliott.

Elliott wants to know what the GN is doing about its poverty reduction strategy, search and rescue services in Nunavut, the Nutrition North food subsidy program, and on the public-private partnership for the GN’s proposed $300-million airport.

“Are we still on track with prudent spending? Are we still on that question? I’m hoping ministers will update us on the P3 project. I think a lot of people have a misunderstanding of what that project is,” Elliott said.

Elliott also wants to see discussion on mining — “maybe an update from one of the ministers on some questions on how they’re going to balance environmental protection with actual mineral exploration.”

Kusugak also said to “keep an ear out for” a talk about the upcoming Arctic Winter Games in Greenland in 2016.

Greenland plans to cut six events from the games: dog mushing, gymnastics, short-track speed skating, figure skating, midget hockey and curling. The hockey tournament is expected to be held in Iqaluit.

And, as minister of community and government services, Kusugak said he might have something to say about the cuts to certain sports.

The fall sitting of the assembly concludes Nov. 6.

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