Last week was full of surprises from the federal government. With very little notice, Northern Affairs Minster Dan Vandal made his way to four communities in Nunavut, culminating with a $517 million infrastructure funding announcement in the capital on Aug. 12.
Vandal made brief visits to Arviat, Rankin Inlet, and Pond Inlet where he met with Nuluujaat Land Guardians that are protesting the Mary River mine.
After almost two years without travelling due to the pandemic, the minister’s visit pointed to a return to normal. But the political canvassing and splashing around of cash were a sign that bigger surprises were right around the corner.
Sure enough on Sunday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canadians would be heading back to the polls for a federal election on Sept. 20.
The decision to call an election less than two years after the last one, and more than two years before the next scheduled one point to a power hungry Liberal party bent on securing a majority in the House of Commons at all costs.
Even though the election date was just announced, Trudeau has been campaigning and announcing new funding since early July. Last month he personally flew to British Columbia to announce $1.3 billion for transit infrastructure, then to Quebec where $6 billion over five years was revealed for the province’s childcare system. Last month the government also said it was giving one time cash hand-outs of $500 to anyone born before 1947.
And then there is the fact that Elections Canada estimates the price tag for the Sept. 20 vote will be at least $610 million, making it the most expensive in Canadian history, due in part to the additional costs of organizing such a large scale operation during an ongoing public healthy crisis.
Somehow, prime ministers have maintained the right to call snap elections for their own political gain, despite the fact Stephen Harper’s government implemented a fixed-election-date law in 2007 in order to prevent this very thing from happening. We saw just how much weight that law carried when he proceeded to call a snap an election the year after the legislation passed.
Now that he is ahead in the polls and feeling confident, Trudeau is yanking a page from Harper’s book to try and secure more power for himself and his party. Why? Because he can.
So what does this mean for Nunavut?
Trudeau is trying to tout his government’s performance on the pandemic as a reason why he deserves to be reelected, but the reality is that aside from CERB and other financial bailout, it has been the CPHO and the territorial government’s policies which have kept Nunavummiut safe.
As far as funding is concerned it should be noted that none of the money announced in the territory last week is new, with all of it already earmarked in the 2021 budget.
Moreover the $517.8 million in shovel-ready infrastructure projects is being shared across the four regions of Inuit Nunangat, which means it’s likely only a quarter of that at most will end up being spent in territory. As NTI president Aluki Kotierk pointed out following the announcement, each region could use that amount on its own.
Meanwhile, it’s worth pointing out the feds earmarked a measly $25 million for housing in this year’s budget, a far cry from the estimated $1 billion-plus needed to fix the territory’s shortage.
The only party to show genuine concern for the territory’s housing shortage in the recent years has been the NDP. Unsurprisingly, the NDP is the only official party to have nominated a candidate in Nunavut, after selecting Iqaluit’s Lori Idlout to run last week.
Considering more than half of the territory’s housing deficit could have been erased for the price of Trudeau’s vanity election, it’s clear to see where the Liberals’ priorities lie.