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EDITORIAL: Avoiding the emerging divide

As Nunavut thankfully returns to being the only jurisdiction in Canada without a single case of Covid-19, some may be wondering when things will be returning to normal.

It is a sentiment felt by many across Canada, especially those in areas with low Covid numbers.

Although most are wondering when they can finally visit family and friends again, small business owners are more likely to be pulling their hair out as they wait month-to-month with little to no income outside of government assistance coming in.

They, like CEO of Iqaluit-based Arctic UAV Kirt Ejesiak, are wondering how their businesses will survive while navigating complicated applications for federal grants and loans, many of which have restrictions which exclude those who use contractors.

"With revenues virtually going to zero, a lot of businesses are worried that we're going to miss the boat, literally … if you miss that opportunity, that window to ship your goods up North, you literally miss the entire year," said Ejesiak.

Many of the same frustrations will likely apply to independent contractors, those in tourism and hospitality or for some of the independent retailers in Nunavut regional capitals.

This is why it is crucially important for the Government of Nunavut to start communicating with residents and businesses on how it plans on restarting the economy post-Covid.

The government owes it to those it serves to be prepared to rebound from Covid with vigour and might, armed with a well-informed and thought out plan.
It is not just small business either that the GN needs to be accountable to, but large industry as well.

In Nunavut's neighbouring territory, the Government of Northwest Territories released its post-Covid plan and it landed with a thud as those in charge had neglected to even speak with the mining industry, which represents a hefty portion of the territory's GDP.

As Nunavut also has a large chunk of GDP, jobs and royalties coming from mining, while also sharing a mining industry advocacy institution with the NWT, one can only hope the same mistake isn't made twice.

Big government systems and those who operate within them can often become self-assured. Their employees know their cheques will come every two weeks and in a lot of ways become a protected class of society. The risk of complacency or silo-like thinking arises.

Although the government has done an excellent job of keeping Covid out of the territory and acting swiftly when the false-positive case was announced in Pond Inlet, it is the government as a whole which needs to safeguard itself from becoming unaccountable to those who are not part of government.

Considering an already present distrust of government can increase in these unprecedented situations, such as the reaction to calling back teachers into the territory, the stakes are too high for the GN to gamble with public opinion.

Having all windows open in the far-reaching territorial government structure and laying out exactly how it plans to get the economy started again will be crucial to avoid increasing the divide.