Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut December 30, 2015 - 6:59 am

Nunavut releases text of May 9, 2016 land sales ballot question

Freehold or leasehold? Each community will decide for itself

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
In Iqaluit, as in all other Nunavut municipalities, homeowners, businesses and other entities may lease their lots from the municipal government, but may not gain freehold, or fee simple title. Voters in Iqaluit and all other Nunavut communities will get a chance to overturn that restriction in referendums to be held May 9, 2016. The question they'll answer is: “Do you want the municipality of [city or hamlet name] to be able to sell municipal lands?” (FILE PHOTO)
In Iqaluit, as in all other Nunavut municipalities, homeowners, businesses and other entities may lease their lots from the municipal government, but may not gain freehold, or fee simple title. Voters in Iqaluit and all other Nunavut communities will get a chance to overturn that restriction in referendums to be held May 9, 2016. The question they'll answer is: “Do you want the municipality of [city or hamlet name] to be able to sell municipal lands?” (FILE PHOTO)

The Government of Nunavut has released the text of the ballot question that voters in each Nunavut community will answer when they go to the polls May 9, 2016 to decide if city or hamlet governments can be allowed to sell municipal lots.

The question, released Dec. 29, reads as follows:

“Do you want the municipality of [city or hamlet name] to be able to sell municipal lands?”

The GN revealed the May 9, 2016 date this past Nov. 5, in a low-key statement in the legislature from Johnny Mike, who then still served as minister of Community and Government Services.

Just a few days before that, on Oct. 28, George Hickes, the MLA for Iqaluit-Tasiluk, had criticized the GN for providing little or no information about how the vote will work.

Mike responded by saying officials with the CGS department will work with Elections Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. on a “plan” for running the plebiscite.

Mike also said last November that planning and lands staff would do a community tour prior to the vote.

On May 26, 2014, in a pre-budget lockup, Roy Green, then the deputy minister of CGS, said eligible voters 18 years of age and older will be able to vote in the referendums.

He also said a straight 50 per cent plus one majority would carry the decision and that each community would vote individually to decide whether to allow fee simple land sales.

The community referendums are authorized by Article 14, Part 8 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, which states that the “territorial government shall conduct a referendum within each municipality.”

Under the NLCA, all Nunavut municipalities now hold fee simple title to most lands within their boundaries.

Municipalities are allowed to lease — but not sell — those lands, and those land leases may not exceed 99 years in duration.

That means leaseholders own the structures they build on lands leased under those 99-year leases with the municipal government.

But they may not own the land itself.

In referendums held April 10, 1995, in every community in Nunavut, voters in each community said no to municipal land sales.

Municipalities are allowed to re-visit the issue, now that 20 years have passed since the last vote, under Article 14.8.4 of the NLCA.

The Dec. 29 GN release assumes that people in each Nunavut community can make their own decision about whether they want municipal land sales.

“With a “yes” decision, the hamlet or city council will have the option to sell certain municipal lots to an individual or company,” the GN said.

“With a “no” decision, the hamlet or city council will keep ownership of all municipal lands and will continue to lease it. Council will grant the right to an individual or company to use certain lots in exchange for a lease fee.”

“The outcome of the referendum will determine whether Nunavut municipalities can sell municipal lands or continue leasing them in the current manner,” said Joe Savikataaq, the new CGS minister, said in the Dec. 29 GN release.

Proponents of fee simple title argue that allowing it would make it easier for homeowners to get mortgages from banks and easier for small business owners to get loans — because they can use their land as collateral.

Freehold land ownership also may offer cash-strapped municipal governments a new way to raise revenues and finance the development of new subdivisions.

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