Nunavut highlights poverty reduction package

“This is not going to be a one-time shot”


Nunavut announced a $7-million package of new spending May 9 that’s aimed at tackling the worst of the territory’s endemic poverty problem.

The initiatives, most of which were contained in February’s territorial budget, are aimed at helping Nunavummiut put food on the table.

“We have heard that improving the availability of affordable, nutritious food, and country food in particular, must be at the centre of our the fight against poverty,” said Peter Taptuna, Nunavut’s economic development minister, in a statement.

“With the approval of the new budget in March, we are taking action now with new programs and program enhancements to address these concerns.”

The new programs focus mainly on food security and children and include:

• $665,000 to fund community breakfast programs;

• $494,000 for a parenting program that incorporates Inuit values and food preparation skills;

• $3 million to boost social assistance allowances for food and clothing. Food allowances will rise 15 per cent and clothing allowances will rise $50 per month, the first increase since division;

• $1.1 million for a country food distribution program, which includes money for new community freezers, repairs to freezers and food handling courses;

• $500,000 more for the Nunavut Anti-poverty Secretariat, for a total of $1.3 million per year, which will allow it to expand to four full-time staffers.

Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak said the initiatives are what the territory, which faces a $50-million budget deficit, can afford right now.

“No, it’s never enough for people,” Aariak said when asked if the additional social assistance payouts are enough.

“It is also very important for us to look at the options that we have and provide what we can,” she added.

Quttiktuq MLA Ron Elliott welcomed the announcement but said he’s concerned that the GN’s new programs could only help entrench dependency on social assistance and government programs.

Elliott said he hopes the territory’s long-term approach to tackling poverty places an emphasis on training and education to help Nunavummiut get good-paying jobs where they’re available.

“There’s no quick fix,” he said. “It’s the starting point for what’s supposed to coming” out of the poverty summit in November.

Aariak said the poverty roundtable process isn’t finished and there will likely be more policy changes in the future.

Final details for Nunavut’s poverty reduction action plan are to be hammered out at a poverty summit in Iqaluit, scheduled for late November.

“This is not going to be a one-time shot,” Aariak said of the May 6 announcement. “Our wish is for it to continue for years to come.”

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