In the fifth Nunavut legislative assembly’s 2018 Turaaqtavut mandate, then-premier Joe Savikataaq stated Nunavut was “at the cusp of great progress.”
The goals of the last assembly included working toward self-reliance of communities and their people, developing infrastructure and economy that support a positive future and providing education and training that prepare Nunavummiut of all ages for positive contributions to society.
Elder care was featured heavily in Turaaqtavut and remains top-of-mind for many MLAs coming into this sitting. Being able to bring Elders home to the territory and better yet ensuring the opportunity to age safely in their home communities surrounded with loved ones will continue to be vital work until it is complete.
Former cabinet minister Manitok Thompson was part of a group that launched a petition for Elder care homes in each community and refurbishment of the existing ones.
Thompson hopes the new MLAs will address the issue “outside the box of the usual big government bureaucracy,” because “If they go through the regular government process, we’re not going to see Elder homes for the next 10 years.”
Much of the work that might have been done in the last year and a half was slowed greatly by the needed shift in focus to deal with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. While we will likely see disruptions to our daily lives for some time yet we have proven that it is just another thing that Nunavummiut can cope with and beat.
The virus also showed us how quickly governments can work together when needed, which gives us some hope for continued collaboration between levels of government and departments. It will be needed to advance the difficult portfolios that have seen little improvement in the everyday lives of citizens.
Premier P.J. Akeeagok acknowledged during his introductory speech that much has been accomplished over the past two decades, such as the creation of Nunavut Arctic College, which is producing professional Nunavummiut. Yet he said many systemic challenges remain, like a lack of housing and overcrowded homes. He said tangible solutions are needed for issues such as addictions, trauma and mental health; providing Elder care at home; and accessible and affordable childcare.
Most of these items were already goals of the previous assembly and many of the expanded goals in the document have seen some progress, though completion looms long for most.
Our newly elected MLAs will now have the task of creating this assembly’s mandate before the first sitting in February 2022. They have progress to build off of – there are houses scheduled to be built, an addictions treatment centre coming, and the new Aaqqigiarvik correctional facility shows great promise in integrating Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit in dealing with trauma and justice – but there is still a great deal that remains to be done.
Following his appointment, Akeeagok said, “Nunavut is ready for new leadership,” adding that the territory “is at a crossroads.”
While this premier may have less experience in government than some of his colleagues, he has plenty of knowledge in governance from his years with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.
Perhaps, with the pandemic receding to a part of everyday life and less a full-blown emergency, we can move beyond the cusp of progress.