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Nunavut territorial budget puts emphasis on housing, health and family services

Family Services also identified as a priority after devastating Auditor General’s report last October
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“I think we are all very familiar with the Auditor General’s report on Family Services, and the many recommendations that it has in there, and we’re taking response to that, and beginning to address those very important issues…it’s not recommendation that this government is going to put on the shelf, we’ll begin to tackle it,’ said Finance Minister Lorne Kusugak in his private address to reporters before the official announcement. Kira Wronska Dorward/NNSL Media

Finance Minister Lorne Kusugak had many areas vying for attention when drafting the 2024-25 territorial budget, but he chose to put emphasis on the ever-present challenge of housing, along with health and family services.

“The more we can do to address housing problems, that in itself will alleviate a lot of the other problems that are out there,” said Kusugak.

It was clear from the finance minister’s behind-the-scenes discussion with reporters before the budget was released at the legislative assembly on Monday afternoon that housing is central to his plans, with more than $82 million being directed toward that priority. A projected 1,000 new housing units are set to be built by the end of 2025, in association with the Nunavut 3000 project.

“Lack of nutrition, lack of sleep, lack of getting up in the morning to go to school, lack of shelter, not being able to start a healthy family… to address that we need to address housing,” Kusugak said. “This should have been done a long time ago, to address the infrastructure shortfalls in Nunavut [from its conception] when housing and infrastructure were badly needed, and this government has recognized that.”

Kusugak also stated that it’s important to address every community’s housing needs equally.

The Government of Nunavut will run a deficit budget again this year, estimated to be a “modest” $21 million (or 0.7 per cent) as a result of less federal funding and higher departmental spending.

“But it won’t put us in an overall deficit situation. We’ve been able to build a surplus,” said Kusugak. “I think having sat in the previous government, it was always the goal to be able to do more, and part of [having that surplus] is being able make some bigger impacts, such as housing, such as health, such as family services, and so on.”

Last fall, the GN outlined more than $355 million in new capital spending, including $157 million for community infrastructure.

More for health, family services

Health and family services will also see significant funding increases over the next year.

There’s an additional $40.8 million extra earmarked for health through “a variety of initiatives that support our communities to become places of health and healing. This includes $6 million to operate the new Rankin Inlet long-term care facility, which will allow Elders to age in dignity, closer to their families,” said Kusugak.

“To honour the promise we made in Katujjiluta to our Elders, our government committed about $60 million in capital funding to build this facility which is almost complete. To support access to service, funding for health also includes an increase of $15 million for agency nursing contracts, $14 million for paramedic support services, $3 million for out-of-territory hospitals and physicians, and $3 million to increase the rates paid to physicians.”

Other expenditures of note include an allocation of funds to every community of $3.6 million towards as-needed expenditures in public works decided on by the municipality. There will also be an increase of $1.4 million to hire more RCMP officers across the territory, and a further $800,000 to support the First Nations and Inuit policing program.

Government revenues are projected at $3.23 billion, of which $251 million will be from own-source revenues, including $171 million in taxes, $21 million in staff housing rent, and $59 million from various other sources.

A very small part of the revenue will come from a new tax on vaping, to be introduced on July 1, set at $1 per 10 millilitres (after first millilitre sold), in addition to existing federal taxes.

The Department of Family Services will benefit from $15.6 million more in 2024-25, which includes funding for 31 new workers.

“I think we are all very familiar with the auditor general’s report on Family Services, and the many recommendations that it has in there,” said Kusugak, referring to the devastating report from October 2023 on the state of child welfare in the territory, “and we’re taking response to that, and beginning to address those very important issues…it’s not [a] recommendation that this government is going to put on the shelf, we’ll begin to tackle it… [this] reflects just the start of the work we are doing to develop a whole-of-government roadmap for improving family and community outcomes.”

He also noted $2.2 million will go toward helping address food insecurity.



About the Author: Kira Wronska Dorward

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