Nunavut premier likes federal budget, but wants more info
Taptuna wants “dialogue” on aging diesel plants
Nunavut welcomes more federal government spending on infrastructure and housing, but wants more information about Ottawa’s plans for Nutrition North Canada and broadband internet, Premier Peter Taptuna said March 23 in a statement.
And, taking note of Ottawa’s spending plans on climate change and clean energy announced in federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s budget, Taptuna also said he wants to talk to federal officials about a big Nunavut request that didn’t make it into the federal budget: replacement of the territory’s decaying fleet of electrical power plants.
“We hope that this renewed commitment to energy will begin the crucial dialogue with regards to replacing our aging diesel plants,” Taptuna said.
Although he didn’t specifically mention the idea of a carbon tax, or other forms of carbon pricing, Taptuna warned the Liberal government’s response to climate change should be done in a way that avoids economic damage to the North.
“Canada’s climate change goals must be conducted in a way that does not significantly impact northern costs of living, undermine food security, or threaten our emerging economies,” Taptuna said.
Morneau’s budget also said Ottawa will spend $64.5 million over five years, starting in 2016-17, on the Nutrition North Canada program, and spend $13.8 million per year to extend the program to all “northern isolated communities.”
That’s likely a response to complaints that many First Nations communities in the northern regions of provinces like Ontario and Manitoba, served only by limited ice roads in the winter, are not eligible for NNC’s subsidized freight rates for nutritious food.
And in another section listing a potential benefit for Nunavut, the federal budget projects $500 million over five years, starting in 2016–17, for a new program to improve broadband internet in rural and remote communities.
But Ottawa hasn’t said how that new program would differ from a $305-million, five-year scheme that Stephen Harper’s Conservative government announced in 2014.
That Conservative program prevented the collapse of existing internet systems in Nunavik and Nunavut, and provided for bandwidth increases of up to three to five Mbps for those regions.
Taptuna, however, suggested in his statement that he’ll adopt a wait-and-see stance on the Liberal spending plans for broadband subsidies and Nutrition North.
“I look forward to monitoring the increased investment to Nutrition North and broadband internet in rural and remote communities, in the hope that they will have direct benefits for the people of Nunavut,” Taptuna said.
He does welcome the Liberal plan to increase the Northern Residents Deduction, whose value will rise from $8.25 per day per household to $11 and in self-contained dwelling units with only one tax-filer, from $16.50 to $22 per day.
“This will provide additional tax relief for Nunavummiut,” Taptuna said.
He also said the new Canada Child Benefit will “improve the lives of low-income Nunavimmiut.”
That new benefit, which provides a non-taxable benefit that is no longer universal, replaces the Universal Child Care Benefit and the Canada Child Tax Benefit.
The value of the benefit, however, starts to decrease after families exceed $30,000 a year in taxable income and increases even more rapidly for families whose annual incomes exceed $65,000.
On the portion of adjusted family net income between $30,000 and $65,000, the benefit will be phased out at a rate of seven per cent for a one-child family, 13.5 per cent for a two-child family, 19 per cent for a three-child family and 23 per cent for larger families.
Where adjusted family net income exceeds $65,000, the remaining benefits will be phased out at rates of 3.2 per cent for a one-child family, 5.7 per cent for a two-child family, eight per cent for a three-child family and 9.5 per cent for larger families, on the portion of their taxable income above $65,000.
The federal government claims that the Canada Child Benefit,, which starts this July, will give nine of 10 families an average increase of $2,300 a year over the programs it replaces.
As for the Liberal government’s plan to spend $76.7 million on social housing construction in Nunavut over the next two years, Taptuna said he welcomes it.
“Improving the accessibility to housing for our residents is of great importance, and is one of our highest priorities,” Taptuna said.