Quebec tops up subsidy to offset Nunavik’s high cost of living
Short-term agreement will double current subsidy over three years
Nunavik got an early Christmas present Dec. 9 when the Quebec government more than doubled the region’s cost of living subsidies for the next three years.
While Nunavik currently receives $5 million a year to offset the high cost of living in the region, the announcement means additional spending over the next three years, including $5 million in 2014, $6 million in 2015 and $7 million 2016.
That will bump Nunavik’s subsidies from $15 million to $33 million between now and 2016.
“The cost of living file has been one of our priorities, besides housing,” said Kativik Regional Government chairperson Maggie Emudluk.
Emudluk was in Quebec City for the Dec. 9 announcement, along with other regional leaders, including Makivik Corp. president Jobie Tukkiapik.
The funding was the work of several months of negotiations between the province and Nunavik, launched last summer, Emudluk said, with the goal of coming up with a short-term agreement to increase cost-of-living subsidies to the region.
Nunavik’s cost of living subsidies currently go to six different funds to offset the cost of food, household products, gasoline and hunting equipment.
Emudluk said Makivik and the KRG will now sit down to decide where to inject the new funding — either into existing measures or new programs.
But Emudluk acknowledged the funding is part of a short-term agreement, noting that a long-term agreement is essential to improve the quality of life in Nunavik.
In the meantime, Laval University researchers will carry out a study on the cost of living in Nunavik — a two-year effort that will visit the region’s 14 communities.
“That’s a commitment Quebec has taken to help fund the study,” Emudluk said. “Then we’ll get back to the table to determine the real situation. That’s when we can negotiate a longer-term agreement.”
Nunavik has been working with the province to reduce the high cost of living in the region for more than 20 years. An annual subsidy for regional cost of living reduction measures was first put in place in 2007.
In 1998, a refundable tax credit for people living in northern villages was introduced; in 2011 it was folded into the Solidarity Tax Credit.
As part of the Dec. 9 announcement, Quebec also pledged to double in 2014 the overall value of the credit as it applies to northern villages.
That will mean increasing the amount per eligible adult to $1,620, plus annual indexation.
“That’s really going to directly help the most disadvantaged,” Emudluk said. “The poverty in the region is a reality that we have to take care of.”
Emudluk said recent statistics show that 72 per cent of Nunavik households earn less than $32,000, while 82 per cent earn under $42,000.
“It’s alarming,” she said. “But it also means that these families will qualify for the maximum tax credits.”
Emudluk said it has taken time for Quebec’s Parti Québécois government, elected in Sept. 2012, to respond to Nunavik’s needs.
“Things have been moving in the right direction,” she said. “But we have to keep the pressure on all the time.”