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Quassa disputes reduction in housing waiting list in Iglulik; receives warning

Aggu MLA Paul Quassa repeatedly expressed doubt over the Nunavut Housing Corporation's waiting list in Iglulik on Tuesday and he was warned not to call the housing minister a liar.

Paul Quassa: "I went to the local housing organization and the waiting list has increased.”
photo courtesy of the Government of Nunavut

The Nunavut Housing Corporation's (NHC) waiting list indicates that the number of people seeking a home in Iglulik fell by 55 per cent over the past year. Consequently NHC is not planning to build a single new unit in Iglulik in 2020-2021. Quassa was skeptical. He said he checked with the local housing organization and the numbers had not changed in Iglulik.

Nunavut Housing Corporation (NHC) Minister Patterk Netser said his organization works closely with local housing organizations across the territory and relies on them for figures.

He said in Iglulik there was a "significant reduction" in the waiting list after new residences were built and people moved into them. NHC president Terry Audla reinforced that message.

Quassa remained incredulous.

"It’s not true and I don’t believe it. I went to the local housing organization and the waiting list has increased," Quassa said. "I don’t think I can approve this budget with these numbers."

Netser took offence.

"It is very uncomfortable when somebody tells you that you are lying because they are the ones who approve the budget," he said, insisting that the waiting list statistics came from the community.

Chairperson Pat Angnakak then intervened.

"I’d like, as chair, to caution Mr. Quassa, to use your words carefully. They could be taken the wrong way. Mr. Quassa," Angnakak said.

Yet Quassa still wouldn't back down. He maintained that there's a discrepancy between the waiting list numbers through Iglulik's local housing organization and the NHC. He asked that the figures be double checked before approval of the NHC's budget.

Netser expressed confidence in the existing process.

"The methodology that we use, we believe, is adequate and we’re going to continue to use it," the housing minister said. "It’s regretful that some communities will become unhappy. We know that many of them have been waiting for a long time and some of them haven’t seen a new public housing unit built in their community for many years. We work hard because of the limitations of funding to try to get houses built in the communities using the best methodology that we know of."

Nunavut News contacted the local housing organization in Iglulik but the manager deferred to the NHC on this matter.

Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main said he also believes the NHC is working with "flawed numbers" and he called for a deferral of the vote on the NHC's budget. A vote was taken and chairperson Pat Angnakak's vote broke a tie in favour of taking more time to review the figures.