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Legislative Briefs: Nunavut MLAs question ministers

Nunavut's legislative assembly is currently sitting for the fall session, from October 23 to November 8.

Justice to hire forfeiture director

Gjoa Haven MLA Tony Akoak

MLAs learned Oct. 29 that the new office where work related to the implementation of the Unlawful Property Forfeiture Act will take place awaits staff.

Gjoa Haven MLA Tony Akoak stressed the made-in-Nunavut law should be brought into force as soon as possible, now that recreational use of cannabis is legal.

"As that law provides the government with important tools with which to fight bootleggers and illegal drug dealers," he said, then asked Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak, "why has the Unlawful Property Forfeiture Act not yet been brought into force?"

Ehaloak said her department is all set to go.

"All the job descriptions are done, the office is all set up waiting to be staffed, and right now it is in the hands of the Department of Finance under human resources so that we can fill the position of the director," she said, adding other hires would happen once the director came on board.

Akoak was also curious about the forfeiture fund, which is intended to provide support to community wellness programs.

"What progress has her department made in drafting the new regulations under this Act that are required to bring this fund into operation," he asked.

Ehaloak said her department is working on policies for the fund, and "as soon as a director has been (hired) those are some of the first priorities that he will work on."


Train midwives in each community

Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk

Traditional midwifery was on Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk's agenda during the June session, and he was back on topic Oct. 26.

Kaernerk's position, as per his constituents, has been that it's difficult for pregnant women to leave their homes and families, often leaving their other children behind. The MLA was advocating for midwives in the communities.

Pat Angnakak, health minister in June, said her department was looking into it. She also said the department would like to start a midwifery program, "and it's in the initial stages of dialogue.

"Since you became the Minister of Health, have you looked at the issue of bringing midwifery up here," asked Kaernerk of current Minister of Health George Hickes Oct. 26.

Hickes said midwifery is an underutilized service.

"We do have midwives practicing in Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay. We do have positions that I am looking at here in Iqaluit," said Hickes.

"But I would like to emphasize one of the successes that we have seen in the Kitikmeot, where the midwifery program is a little bit more mature, where they have been actually going out to the communities and doing visits to expectant mothers. That’s been a very well-received service that’s been provided to some of the smaller communities, such as Gjoa Haven."

Kaernerk also repeated his June statement of the importance of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, and midwifery is a part of that.

The MLA also noted boarding homes are at capacity and if midwives were in communities the load on those would diminish.

"Will you start a training program for midwifery in the smaller communities?" asked Kaernerk.

"I can assure the member that this will continue to be a focus of mine on working to find improvements and partnerships to provide further midwifery services across the territory," answered Hickes.

Kaernerk pressed on.

"You supported me last spring in regard to midwifery. I urge you to make sure that this program is rolled out," said Kaernerk, referring to when Hickes was still a regular MLA.

Hickes reassured Kaernerk would continue to promote midwifery "from this side of the house, as well."


Sanikiluaq waits on water

Hudson Bay MLA Allan Rumbolt

The community of Sanikiluaq still waits for improvements to its water supply.

"When I asked the minister for an update on this situation at our sitting on May 24, he advised me that his department would be issuing a request for proposals to determine options for the community," said Hudson Bay MLA Allan Rumbolt Oct. 29, noting the situation had been ongoing for a significant length of time.

"Although the minister will be very pleased to hear that I've paid very close attention to the Government of Nunavut's tenders and RFPs that are posted on the department’s website, I have not yet seen the RFP for Sanikiluaq's water situation. Can the minister confirm the status of this request for proposals," asked Rumbolt.

Community and Government Services (CGS) Minister Lorne Kusugak answered the request for proposals would be coming out in the near future.

"What is considered the very near future? Is that tomorrow? Is that next week? Is that next year? Can he confirm when this RFP will be coming out," Rumbolt volleyed back.

"I hope before Christmas," replied Kusugak.

Rumbolt then wanted assurance that the community would have an adequate supply of reverse osmosis filters.

Kusugak informed Rumbolt that CGS had signed a new agreement with the local housing organization to deliver and maintain the reverse osmosis machines.

"We're working to ensure that they always have a stock of these filters so that they don’t run out for one reason or another," he said.


Where's Chester in the plans?

Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet MLA Cathy Towtongie

Chesterfield Inlet is not getting enough financial attention from the Government of Nunavut.

This is the point Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet MLA Cathy Towtongie tried to drive home to Minister of Community and Government Services (CGS) Lorne Kusugak Oct. 31.

"Looking at the document I do not see where Chesterfield Inlet is mentioned here," said Towtongie about Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan funding.

"And looking at Gas Tax Revenue for communities has been targeted as to its use and which communities. Looking at the other document Chesterfield Inlet is mentioned under total block funding but in other documents it is rare to see the community of Chesterfield Inlet mentioned or listed."

Towtongie noted a Rankin Inlet getting a fire truck in 2016, and Chester in 2026.

"So the question I have is, I know all the hamlets, you have to treat all the hamlets the same, equally. So does Chesterfield Inlet have the newest equipment? We rarely see anything new going into Chesterfield Inlet in this plan," she said.

Kusugak said he knows some communities feel left behind.

"It’s impossible to implant things into all the communities at the same time. We haven't forgotten about Chesterfield Inlet, we are even planning now about the water for the community of Chesterfield Inlet."

Kusugak added an announcement is coming soon.

The minister also said CGS works with the hamlets to prioritize needs.


Will airline services and costs improve?

Uqqummiut MLA Pauloosie Keyootak

Airline service to smaller communities is a concern for Uqqummiut MLA Pauloosie Keyootak.

"For example, although Clyde River and Qikiqtarjuaq are only a few hundred kilometres apart in distance, the current airline schedules are such that it takes residents at least two days to travel between the communities," said Keyootak.

As the government has been working on an airline procurement strategy, and requested input from MLAs, Keyootak wanted to know what specific actions the government will take to fulfill its goal of reducing the cost of air travel to better connect Nunavummiut to one another and to the rest of Canada.

"Due to the importance placed on this area, we are requesting this information. At this time we anticipate that we will receive submissions from the airlines on the travel costs for passengers who need to travel within Nunavut," said Minister of Economic Development and Transportation David Akeeagok.

Akeeogok then explained the RFP process, carried out by contract experts.

"This review (of airline submissions) may take some time to award the contract and there will be an opportunity to review the contract with the successful airline," he said.

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