Nunavut finance minister tables $2.5 billon budget with focus on housing

Lorne Kusugak, the finance minister for the Government of Nunavut, tabling the territory’s 2022-2023 budget at the Legislative Assembly on Thursday. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

Nunavut Finance Minister Lorne Kusugak tabled a $2.5 billion draft operations and maintenance budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year with increased spending on public and staff housing units. 

The budget is the first from Nunavut’s newly elected government and reflects its priorities of the coming year.

Nunavut Housing Corporation’s capital spending is up by $3 million dollars from last year for a total of $51.5 million in this budget. Of that money, $21 million is allocated to building new public housing units, and $6 million is allocated to staff housing units.

“Even with these investments, we know we will continue to suffer from [a] shortage of affordable, suitable, and supported housing,” said Kusugak during his budget address in the Nunavut Legislative Assembly.

The government wants to build 1,000 new housing units over the next four years. The current investment of $27 million will not be sufficient to build all the units.

This year’s budget has an estimated operational surplus of $40 million.

Health, aging and education 

In March, Premier P.J. Akeeagok announced the Katujjiluta Mandate, which outlines the priorities for the next four years.

The document identifies five focus areas:

  • Aging with dignity in Nunavut.
  • Expanding the housing continuum.
  • Enabling health and healing.
  • Reinvesting in education.
  • Diversifying the economy.

The government has recently come under scrutiny as Nunavummiut have staged protests and petitioned for better elder care in the territory, rather than sending elders to the South for long-term care.

Last year, former Finance Minister George Hickes presented a $2.4 billion budget that outined $78 million in new funding for medical travel for Inuit, and a $75-million contingency fund in place for emergency pandemic spending for COVID-19.

Right now, it is unclear if the government tapped into this money to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks in the territory over the last year.

Last year’s budget also made room for a Pandemic Response Secretariat to operate with the departments of health, community and government services, and executive and intergovernmental affairs.

The $4.8 million allocated to the secretariat created 30 staff positions. In April, Nunavut’s public health emergency was lifted, ending government enforced restrictions on gathering sizes and mask mandates.

After Kusugak tables the draft budget, Nunavut MLAs will reviewit over the coming weeks. The current winter sitting of the Legislative Assembly runs until June 14.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Nunavik school board vows to fight new Quebec language law, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Report highlights Finland’s top 5 housing problems, Yle News

Norway: Population declining in Arctic Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Abandoned properties a challenge for rural Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: Budget cuts threaten transitional housing program in Alaska’s largest city, Alaska Public Media

Jackie McKay, CBC News

For more news from Canada, visit CBC News.

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