Devolution talks stalled while Nunavut waits on feds

New federal government has yet to name chief negotiator

By SARAH ROGERS

Nunavut devolution talks are on hold while the territory waits for the federal government to appoint a new negotiator, premier Taptuna told the legislature March 1. (FILE PHOTO)


Nunavut devolution talks are on hold while the territory waits for the federal government to appoint a new negotiator, premier Taptuna told the legislature March 1. (FILE PHOTO)

Talks towards a devolution deal for Nunavut are moving more slowly than expected, and haven’t moved at all in the last six months, Premier Peter Taptuna told the Nunavut Legislative Assembly March 1.

Once the federal election was called in mid-2015, talks were put on hold altogether until a new Liberal government was elected and installed.

Now the ball is in Ottawa’s court, Taptuna said.

“We want to continue negotiating towards a good devolution agreement for Nunavut and we look forward to the naming of the chief negotiator from the federal side,” he said March 1, responding to a question from Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak.

In 2014, the then-Conservative federal government appointed Brian Dominique as chief federal negotiator.

The same year, Taptuna named Simon Awa as chief negotiator for Nunavut, while the territory’s Inuit birthright organization, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., named Udloriak Hanson as their representative.

At that point, the federal government said the parties should reach an agreement-in-principle within a year.

Devolution — nammiminiqsurniq in Inuktitut — means the transfer of authority from a central government to a lower level of government.

In Nunavut, that would mean local power over portfolios such as education, health care, the administration of public lands and a larger share of resource wealth that those lands may generate.

But Taptuna noted that negotiations did not advance much under the former federal government.

“They were on and off, and they were technical discussions [that] the chief negotiator didn’t participate in,” he said. “They were going at a slower pace than we expected.”

Canada’s two other northern territories have reached their own devolution agreements, which came into effect in Yukon in 2003 and the Northwest Territories in 2014.

Both territorial agreements included the transfer of federal government positions to the territorial public service.

Angnakak raised that point March 1, asking the premier how many federal government positions would be transferred to Nunavut’s public service as part of a devolution agreement.

Based on negotiations in the NWT, Taptuna said Nunavut could get 138 positions, but cautioned that number has yet to be agreed on.

“We’re quite different from the other two territories,” he said. “We don’t have road infrastructure within our territory, so a cookie-cutter approach through the Northwest Territories is not going to fit our needs in Nunavut.

“When we talk about the number of federal positions that may be moved to administer devolution, it’s more or less down the line because, at this point, there is no real development that’s happening on Crown lands at this time.”

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