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Investment necessary to grow

Whole territory needs far more resources than currently available
Stewart Burnett is editor of Kivalliq News. Photo courtesy of Stewart Burnett

It’s hard to overstate the need for Rankin Inlet’s water system to upgrade: there will be no substantial growth in the community until it’s done.

The current system can sustain a modest amount of new residential housing, but bigger apartments and buildings look to be off the table.

As Coun. Justin Merritt expressed at the hamlet’s last council meeting, a failure of the water system is a real emergency, and not one we can solve by ordering delivery and watching TV at home.

Nunavut communities being underserviced and stretched beyond capacity is nothing new: in another story this week, Baker Lake’s lone dog rescue person is at the end of her rope without sustainable funding and support. Every community could use more infrastructure, programs and services.

It’s no news to those living in Nunavut that the way the territory is set up is grossly inefficient and costly, spread between communities that don’t connect, that all need their own infrastructure, where all development is more expensive, and getting the building blocks there is a journey of its own.

Meanwhile, Yukon gets to pretend to be Northern, rake in federal funding and continually polish up its roads and recreational activities for its majority-bureaucrat population.

Nunavut gets somewhere between $2 and $3 billion per year from the federal government, and that’s not nearly enough, without even factoring in the Government of Nunavut taking a considerable portion to pay its administration.

Increasingly, the south is seeing the value in Nunavut and Indigenous sovereignty. The territory’s economy may be mainly a government outpost today, but there is real potential for a vibrant future for tourism, culture and traditional industries like mining.

In the meantime, governments will continue running in circles trying to patch about a million holes, with far more being made all the time as population growth outstrips any hope of breaking even with infrastructure.

Still, housing is the forerunning emergency in Nunavut and deserves immediate attention. The Nunavut Housing Corporation can’t build fast enough to accommodate the population, and it can’t even keep up with making sure existing homes are safe.

It will be hard for Nunavut to ever properly grow if its split between a well-off government workforce and those struggling to even secure proper homes.

Throwing money at things is generally not a sustainable idea, but when it comes to the circumstances of Nunavut, it’s what the federal government needs to do more of. And what does a few extra billion even mean in the post-Covid economy, anyway?

But for that investment to make sense for everyone involved, Nunavut can’t be dependent on the federal government forever, and it must find a path to self-sufficiency.

Hard to do that when there are a dozen people in your house and a boil water advisory, though.