The Issue: The federal budget
We Say: A good start

Canada’s first federal budget in two years has finally been released, and it’s a whopping 739 pages of promises.

Nunavut is mentioned by name 10 times throughout the massive document.

That’s not to say that there aren’t line items that may also apply to the territory, and the 355 instances of COVID-19, in one form or another, will certainly apply in many cases where there aren’t already specific funding channels available for the territories.

Childcare is the big-ticket item in this budget, with up to $30 billion over five years being committed, “reaching $8.3 billion (annually) on a permanent basis, to build a high-quality, affordable and accessible early learning and childcare system across Canada,” according to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s opus.

This is good news no matter where you live, and the budget document explains this funding will directly impact families by allowing for a reduction in average daycare fees to as low as $10 per day.

Old commitments have been renewed, such as $27 million over the next two years as part of the Territorial Health Investment Fund provided to “support the territories in overcoming the challenges of delivering health-care services in the North.”

There is also a $40.4-million funding pot for Northern clean energy projects, so projects such as the Kivalliq Hydro Link will have the support needed to “provide clean power to Northern communities and help reduce emissions from mining projects.”

Older commitments have been freshened up as well, with a $163-million investment over three years “to expand the Nutrition North Canada program and enable the minister of Northern Affairs to work directly with Indigenous partners, including in Inuit Nunangat, to address food insecurity.”

This is a curious way to phrase it, and it will be interesting to see whether the government expands criteria for which items are subsidized – and to what degree the costs can be lessened for consumers, or if the zones across Canada that are eligible for subsidy will change with little other tangible aid. The bottom line is that it must result in real change in the cost to Northerners’ food bills.

The biggest criticism that can be offered is to the $25 million devoted to what is a $500-million-and-growing problem.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. President Aluki Kotierk was dismayed that there was no money designated specifically for Inuit housing, especially in light of COVID-19’s impacts on occupants of overcrowded homes.

Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq was equally unimpressed with the lack of dedicated funding.

“Unlike much of the south, Inuit and Nunavummiut have been living in a health, housing and human rights crisis for decades,” Qaqqaq stated. “The cause of this crisis is simple: federal underfunding.”

However, we can also take Pauktuutit President Rebecca Kudloo’s words as encouragement looking at this budget: “that the federal government is accelerating action to address the urgent needs of Inuit women” through construction and operation of transitional housing for Inuit women, in addition to funding for Inuit-specific safe shelters announced earlier this year.

No federal budget will ever be perfect, but we will have to be encouraged that at least some of what Nunavummiut have been saying they need from Canada is being heard.

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