Nunavummiut head to the polls on Oct. 25 to select the 17 MLAs to join the five acclaimed candidates in the legislature.
Some may be new faces, and some may be the same that held the seat for the past four years, but what’s important is that all of the elected politicians share the common goal to serve Nunavut and continue to steer it toward the future envisioned when the Nunavut Agreement was signed.
The new government will have the foundation of the past 22 years to work from, with the last assembly’s Turaaqtavut mandate serving as a good launching point for continuing progress.
However, the wheels of governance move painfully slowly while promises of better things too often remain unfulfilled promises.
The federal gaze is on the North, more so than it has been since colonization began, but now it’s under a purported spirit of reconciliation. This is the time for focus and advocating strongly for projects that will drive down the cost of living and help lift Nunavummiut out of poverty.
Housing remains the big issue. It will continue to be a top priority until everyone has a home. That’s followed closely by the need to fix and replace aging infrastructure, inadequate for the growing population and under threat from climate change.
The Canada-Nunavut Housing Benefit, announced in August, will provide approximately $3,100 per month to support housing costs for between 40 and 70 Nunavut households over seven years, which is a solid investment in poverty reduction, for those who have homes.
Identifying buildings that could be retrofitted for more housing and getting more units built must remain a major focus for this government. Shortening the waitlists for Nunavummiut living in crowded homes cannot happen soon enough.
Elder care and mental health support are also pressing issues.
A petition to bring Elders home to Nunavut from southern long-term care facilities was recently launched by former MLA Manitok Thompson.
“There should be a plan, today for each community – not just regional centres – to have space to care for Elders,” she stated.
Thompson hopes the new MLAs will address the issue “outside the box of the usual big government bureaucracy.” She’s right to be concerned that we may not see enough progress for more than a decade, which is too long for many of those already spending their final years separated from their families and homeland.
The GN must also work hard to reach a deal with the Nunavut Employees Union. The existing collective agreement, which expired three years ago, is an unacceptable situation, even though resolution to a union-launched court case is still pending. There have been opportunities to get back to the bargaining table and reach an agreement, in good faith, and that should be another priority for new MLAs. Northern allowance has not been increased for GN workers in 12 years, yet the cost of living continues to rise, and at an accelerated pace recently.
The next group of legislators will be under pressure to work more closely with designated Inuit organizations and the federal government to solve many of the aforementioned issues.
Internally, consensus government works best when all departments are communicating with one another and not in silos, distracted by individual mandates.
The issues affecting everyday life are so interconnected that there must be robust co-operation to solve them.