Although MLAs have heaped praise on the Government of Nunavut for its responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, Tununiq MLA David Qamaniq asked on Monday for an update on the territory’s fiscal status in light of growing virus-related expenditures.
Qamaniq reminded the House that the finance minister’s 2020 budget address in February indicated that Nunavut’s fiscal situation was “…better than it has been for several years” but that an operating deficit of about $30 million was projected.
On Sept. 25, the legislative assembly voted in favour of $52.1 million in additional operations and maintenance funding.
Finance Minister George Hickes admitted that the ransomware computer attack in late 2019 and the Covid-19 pandemic have tremendous effects on Nunavut’s budget, but he said the extent of it is unknown due to ongoing negotiations with the federal government for support with airlines and isolation hubs as well as other matters.
“Obviously we’re very concerned; I am very concerned about our fiscal situation. Unfortunately I can’t give a number at this time,” said Hickes. “I am anticipating again a larger-than-projected deficit, but
unfortunately I can’t get into specifics at this time.”
Qamaniq pointed out that the collective agreement with the Nunavut Employees Union (NEU) expired two years ago and Qulliq Energy Corporation’s agreement with the NEU runs out at the end of 2020. He asked for an updated on collective bargaining.
Hickes redirected that question to Human Resources Minister Lorne Kusugak, but because of the nature of the legislative assembly’s question period, it will have to be addressed at another time.