Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut April 08, 2014 - 7:24 am

Nunavut signs for its share of the federal gas tax fund

Territory’s share of gas tax revenue amounts to $163 million over 10 years

PETER VARGA
Leona Aglukkaq, the MP for Nunavut, and Tom Sammurtok, minister of Community and Government Services for the territory, shake hands at the territorial legislative assembly April 7 after signing a renewed gas tax agreement. The money is part of a previously announced $419 million in infrastructure money for Nunavut. The gas tax component provides $163 million over the next 10 years to Nunavut’s communities for infrastructure projects related to municipal water, waste water and solid waste plans. Jeannie Ehaloak, the mayor of Cambridge Bay and president of the Nunavut Association of municipalities, looks on. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)
Leona Aglukkaq, the MP for Nunavut, and Tom Sammurtok, minister of Community and Government Services for the territory, shake hands at the territorial legislative assembly April 7 after signing a renewed gas tax agreement. The money is part of a previously announced $419 million in infrastructure money for Nunavut. The gas tax component provides $163 million over the next 10 years to Nunavut’s communities for infrastructure projects related to municipal water, waste water and solid waste plans. Jeannie Ehaloak, the mayor of Cambridge Bay and president of the Nunavut Association of municipalities, looks on. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)

Nunavut’s municipalities will be getting $163 million over the next 10 years for water and waste management projects, thanks to a renewed gas tax fund within the federal government’s New Building Canada Plan.

That money represents a component of the previously announced $419 million in infrastructure funds that Nunavut is to receive from Ottawa over the next 10 years.

“Our communities are growing, and so too are the demands of our public infrastructure,” Leona Aglukkaq, the MP for Nunavut, said April 7 after signing the gas tax deal with Tom Sammurtok, the territory’s minister of Community and Government Services.

Under the gas tax fund agreement, communities that collect taxes from residents receive 15 per cent of the fund, and non-tax-based communities receive 82.9 per cent.

The gas tax fund dates to 2004 and 2005, when Paul Martin’s Liberal government developed the idea to help Canadian municipalities cope with a growing infrastructure deficit.

As the territory’s only tax-based community, the City of Iqaluit takes an immediate share of $2.25 million per year.

The amounts to be given to each of Nunavut’s 24 non-tax-based communities will be decided in the next few months, by agreement between the territorial government and the municipalities, Sammurtok said.

Most communities of Nunavut — including the City of Iqaluit and the territory’s largest hamlets — are known to have garbage dumps that are either near or past capacity, and few of them have plans for new waste disposal facilities.

Waste water management permits are tied to solid waste facilities, and overloaded and past-expired landfills will make it harder for municipalities to keep their licenses.

Aglukkaq and Sammurtok said the agreement will help cover infrastructure gaps, without describing how large or urgent the work might be.

The federal minister did acknowledge that discussions with the Government of Nunavut narrowed the focus of the funding to “the most pressing issues,” pointing to Iqaluit as an example.

“The capacities of our communities are growing, Iqaluit is growing, we’re seeing an increase in population. Our waste systems are not keeping up,” Aglukkaq said.

“And this is an integral part of development in the community — to build capacity to respond to growth in the North.”

Aglukkaq pointed out that Cambridge Bay’s new solid waste site, inaugurated this spring, benefited from gas tax funding, as did a project to build a new water pump house in Baker Lake.

She highlighted the renewed fund as an improved source of “stable, predictable long-term funding to help Nunavut communities build and revitalize their public infrastructure.”

The 10-year funding arrangement is indexed to increase at a rate of two percent per year, which “allows the municipalities to continue planning forward” up to 2024, Aglukkaq said.

Iqaluit’s mayor, John Graham, said the city’s $2.25 million per-year share for the next 10 years, indexed, simplifies planning for capital projects.

The city struggled to limit property tax increases in its budget for 2014, which includes a new waste management plan with a new landfill, as one of its top expenses.

“We’re already budgeting that money,” the mayor said. “The certainty aspect of it is really good.”

Funding for projects in the territory’s smaller hamlets and other communities will be decided by the Nunavut Infrastructure Advisory Committee, which includes three members of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities and three from the territorial government.

“Our communities are growing, and so too are the demands on our public infrastructure,” Sammurtok said, pointing to water servicing and waste management as top priorities.

“Gas tax funding will ensure our municipalities will be able to provide these essential services to Nunavummiut.”

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