IQALUIT-As the new Legislative Assembly resumed sitting this week, one of the first jobs Premier Don Morin performed was to deliver a Christmas hamper's worth of bad news to the people of the Northwest Territories.
To prevent the GNWT from turning into a financial cripple, Morin said, the new government will have to reduce services, charge higher user fees, cut programs, and reduce wages and benefits.
"Make no mistake, change is coming," Morin said. "Whatever is not essential to our objectives-to meeting our common agenda-must be considered for cut-backs."
That's because the territorial government will get $60 million less from Ottawa in the 1996-97 fiscal year, and because the NWT's growing population will need $40 million more than before.
Morin said that adds up to a potential $100 million budget shortfall next year-about 10 per cent of the NWT's total budget.
"If that happens, interest costs will start to accumulate and we could find ourselves financially crippled," Morin said.
That's not news. The potential $100 million budget was on MLA's minds when they passed the Deficit Elimination Act in the last session of the previous assembly.
Under that law, the government must balance its budget in two years, so that the two new territories to be created after division of the NWT in 1999 won't have to start off with deficits.
Cuts, cuts, cuts
But what is news is that, for first time, the territorial government has explicitly said that it will cut wages and benefits.
"Everything is on the table," Morin said. "Wages and benefits will be reduced and we will need to work with employee associations on developing a made-in-the-North approach. We're going to make sure the package we offer employees is affordable and what is needed to live in the North."
And that means MLAs salaries will be cut too, Morin said. "This legislature will lead by example."
Borrowing bill tabled Thursday
On Thursday, Finance Minister John Todd was to have spoken to a borrowing bill that Morin also tabled Wednesday.
"It's not part of our projected deficit," Morin said. "The bill is designed to help us over the tight money situation we presently find ourselves in."
In his statement, Morin talked at length about the process that the government will use to figure out how to cut the deficit.
But beyond wage and benefits cuts, and some program cuts, he had little to say about what those decisions might be.
He said, however, that the government will seek a wide consensus, and attempt to create a "common agenda."
"If this assembly is going to make difficult, but responsible choices, it will need the cooperation of more than just the 24 members of this assembly," Morin said. "Aboriginal organizations, interest groups, our employees and their unions, the private sector and the people will all have to work out a consensus for change."
After a meeting of all 24 MLAs in January, Morin said, the government will work out a "multi-year agenda for action," to be presented to the assembly early in the spring.
And a budget reflecting that "common agenda" will be brought forward before summer, Morin said.
Beyond that, Morin didn't state what changes the GNWT is contemplating. "Some people might have been expecting the assembly to have everything figured out already and that we would be bringing forward a comprehensive plan today... That would be reckless. Instead, Mr Speaker, cabinet and the assembly will be taking the time to make well-reasoned decisions."
Morin also said MLAs have agreed that "addressing social conditions in the Northwest Territories must remain a key priority."
And he also promised that the GNWT will become more efficient, "so that any duplication and over-management is eliminated, and so that our resources are focused on program delivery instead of administration and overhead."Back to top
Nunatsiaq News Staff
IQALUIT-It wasn't even close.
Analysts and capital campaign workers predicted a nail-biter, but in the end Iqaluit took 60 per cent of the vote to 39 per cent for Rankin Inlet in the December 11 public vote for Nunavut's capital.
"We did it," said Lazarus Arreak, an Iqaluit campaign worker, moments after the results were broadcast over CBC radio on Tuesday afternoon.
Many Iqaluit supporters they were surprised Iqaluit got almost 2,000 more votes than Rankin Inlet.
On Sunday, Rankin Inlet Mayor Keith Sharp predicted his community would win by a margin of 52 per cent to 48 per cent.
Although community-by-community vote counts will never be released, it appears that high voter turnout in the Baffin and low turnouts in the Keewatin, and those Kitikmeot communities expected to favor Rankin Inlet made the difference.
Votes Accepted: 9745
Spoiled Ballots: 65
Rejected Ballots: 23
Total Used: 9833
Overall Nunavut turnout: 79%
Iqaluit Mayor Joe Kunuk has been in the front lines battling for Iqaluit in the heated debate over Nunavut's capital. Moments after hearing that Iqaluit won, Kunuk adopted a conciliatory tone and urged people to work together for the good of Nunavut.
IQALUIT-Iqaluit Mayor Joe Kunuk says the people of Nunavut now have to work together to make sure all communities get benefits from their Nunavut government.
Moments after learning that 60 per cent of Nunavut's voters want their capital in Iqaluit, Kunuk said he is going to work to honor his campaign pledge that an Iqaluit capital will be decentralized and that all regions will benefit.
He also urged those who were disappointed by the result of Monday's vote to focus their efforts on Nunavut.
"Even though we've won here, Nunavut residents will still need to win by everyone pulling together. I would ask all Nunavut residents and leaders to work hard together towards the realization of the Nunavut government," Kunuk said in an interview.
"I'm very humbled by all the support we've received from the rest of Nunavut."
Leaders meeting on unity
Kunuk also floated the idea of holding a leaders' meeting to promote unity early in the new year.
"I would suggest to all the Nunavut leaders that we hold a conference, a Nunavut leaders conference with the theme of unity... in either Kivalliq or Kitikmeot," Kunuk said at the close of his brief speech to supporters and volunteers gathered in Iqaluit's Town Council chambers.
Rankin Inlet Mayor Keith Sharp says he will support Kunuk's idea to hold such a meeting.
Promoted NIC models
Kunuk credited Iqaluit's success to their strategy of promoting the decentralized capital models developed by the Nunavut Implementation Commission.
He says he also supports the commission's proposal to move many of the GNWT's regional jobs out of Iqaluit to other Nunavut communities.
"We can start working towards sending a clear message to [DIAND Minister Ron] Irwin and the federal cabinet, telling them that the Iqaluit model in the NIC report is what Nunavut residents wanted," Kunuk said.
He said Nunavut's leaders should now lobby Ottawa to commit to those decentralization models.
Irwin should move soon
Kunuk said Irwin can now consider a plebiscite result and an NIC report that both favor Iqaluit.
"Mr. Irwin said he would take the results of the plebiscite, and take the recommendation to the cabinet. I hope he does that soon."
Kunuk said Iqaluit's town council plans to pass a resolution calling on Irwin, Nunatsiaq MP Jack Anawak, NTI President Jose Kusugak, and GNWT Premier Don Morin to respect the wishes of the people of Nunavut.
Kunuk also thanked the families of the leaders in all the regions who devoted so much of their time to the capital campaign, adding that he was humbled by the support from across Nunavut.Back to top
Keith Sharp says he's surprised by the low voter turnout in the Keewatin and Kitikmeot regions in the Nunavut capital vote.
IQALUIT-The leader of the Rankin Inlet for capital campaign says he accepts that the people of Nunavut have picked Iqaluit, and not his community.
"It was a little bit of a surprise. But that's okay. People have made their decision and so that's the way it will go," Sharp said on Tuesday, moments after learning his community finished a distant second.
"It's not the end of the world. We've got lots of other things to do," Sharp said. "The main thing is to get on with Nunavut."
Sharp said Rankin Inlet will benefit from a decentralized government anyway, and he expects a gold mine to open soon that will bring more development to the region.
Low turnout in key areas
Sharp says he's surprised and disappointed by the low voter turnout-only 72 per cent of eligible voters in Rankin Inlet cast ballots-one of the lowest turnouts of all Nunavut communities.
Sharp explains that there were people in Rankin Inlet who were afraid the community would change for the worse if it became capital. But he says development is coming anyway, whether Rankin becomes capital or not.
In the Keewatin region, the average voter turnout was about the same as in Rankin Inlet-71 per cent.
In the Kitikmeot, where Rankin boosters hoped to gain the support they needed to win, the turnout was a lowly 68 per cent.
In contrast, the turnout in the Baffin's 14 communities averaged 88 per cent, and was at 98 per cent in Iqaluit-home to 2,200 eligible voters.
Weather and tank farms
"There was pretty bad weather in some of the communities," Sharp added.
He also said he thinks the fallout from a fuel tank farm contract that was to have been awarded to a Rankin Inlet company -and has since been suspended by the GNWT-hurt Rankin's campaign in the nearby communities of Arviat and Baker Lake.
Tough times ahead
Sharp offered his thoughts on the tough times ahead for all Nunavut communities unless the GNWT and Ottawa can bail themselves out of their respective financial messes.
"Like it or not, Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit and Cambridge Bay-if the government money dries up, we're all in shit," Sharp said.
Sharp said he predicted the GNWT was going to have to cut 10 to 15 per cent right off the top of their next budget.
And as for Nunavut, he says he's worried that financial problems could derail the new territory before it gets started.
"Unless we get a major commitment from Indian Affairs and the federal government to create this Nunavut-it's not going to happen," Sharp said.
Sharp says he's going to devote his efforts now to making sure the GNWT's community transfer initiative transfers jobs to Inuit and to long-term northerners in his community.
He says he'll support Iqaluit Mayor Joe Kunuk's plan to hold a Nunavut leaders meeting to promote unity.Back to top
John Amagoalik watched quietly from the sidelines as the debate over Nunavut's capital raged on. Now that the people have spoken, the chief commissioner of the Nunavut Implementation Commission says he's eager to get his commission back on track.
IQALUIT-They haven't had much to do over at the Nunavut Implementation Commission for the past couple of months.
But now, that's all changed.
"It's time to get back to work," John Amagoalik, the NIC's chief commissioner said on Tuesday after 60 per cent of Nunavut's voters said they want their capital in Iqaluit-not Rankin Inlet.
"We didn't mind standing aside for a while to let the two parties at it. Now that it's over, we can get back to our studies and perhaps do some fine tuning."
The commissioners and their staff aren't used to standing aside. Until recently, they were among the busiest people in Nunavut.
In the past two years, they have been touring Nunavut communities, producing a flurry of reports and statistics, and providing advice to Ottawa, the GNWT and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. on the design and makeup of Nunavut's government.
Part of that work was to stickhandle around the divisive issue of where to put Nunavut's capital. Rather than pick a community, the NIC designed capital models that compared the pros and cons of putting the capital in either Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet or Cambridge Bay. They handed the information to Ottawa and urged them to pick a capital.
Then came Irwin
But in September everything changed. That's when Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Ron Irwin called a public vote to help him decide where to put Nunavut's capital.
In its Choosing a Capital report, the commission had urged Irwin not to call such a vote, saying it would be too divisive.
The NIC report also said Iqaluit would likely win a plebiscite, because it would get strong support from the Baffin-Nunavut's most populous region.
A divisive campaign did ensue, and Iqaluit did win.
Amagoalik says he now sees the results of the capital vote as a vindication of the NIC's work.
"It was quite obvious that the committee pushing for Iqaluit, using our study, had a more solid base than the other group. I think the results tell that the Iqaluit committee were successful in persuading people that these figures are credible," Amagoalik said.
Amagoalik says the commission is also prepared to adjust and refine their capital models.
Although the capital vote bumped the commission behind schedule, Amagoalik says he's confident that Irwin will make a submission on Nunavut issues to the federal cabinet sometime this winter.
What do the results mean?
Analysts will have a hard time reading much into the results of the capital vote, because community voting results aren't being released.
But Amagoalik says one thing the results do show is that one community now has the clear support of the people of Nunavut.
"I was expecting a much closer vote. A 60-40 split is very decisive. I am happy with that."
The higher voter turnout in the Baffin region suggests that there was "a reluctant acceptance" that Iqaluit was the best choice from people in the Keewatin and Kitikmeot regions, he said.
The commission will have a meeting early in the new year to prepare for their next report. Amagoalik said he also supports Iqaluit Mayor Joe Kunuk's idea for a Nunavut leaders' meeting in either Kivalliq or Kitikmeot to help promote Nunavut's unity.Back to top
After holding a caucus meeting in Yellowknife Tuesday morning, Nunavut MLAs are pleading for reconciliation and unity in the wake of Monday's capital plebiscite.
IQALUIT-Now that the hard-fought Nunavut capital plebiscite is finally over and done with, Nunavut MLAs are urging Nunavut residents to come together as one.
"We don't see ourselves as Baffin, Keewatin, and Kitikmeot," Aivilik MLA Manitok Thompson said. "We see ourselves as a people."
Thompson and other Nunavut MLAs had gathered together at the Legislative Assembly building in Yellowknife Tuesday morning for a press conference with Chief Plebiscite Officer David Hamilton to announce the results of the Nunavut public capital vote.
According to an unnofficial count announced Tuesday be Hamilton, Iqaluit gained nearly 2,000 votes more than Rankin Inlet.
Thompson said Inuit residents of Nunavut will have no problem accepting that result. But she said that may not be the case for non-Inuit, who are not so familiar with consensus thinking.
Inuit will accept it
"From an aboriginal perspective, it's not a problem," Thompson said. "We've always governed ourselves as a consensus government where the majority rules, and we live by that. I think it's going to be more of a problem for the non-aboriginals. We accept that. That's their decision."
Natilikmeot MLA John Ningark, the chair of the Nunavut caucus, repeatedly told reporters that Inuit have survived in the Arctic for thousands of years because they know how to work together.
"We hope all residents of Nunavut will be celebrating the fact that we have a result," Ningark said. "We are now one step closer to realizing our dream. That dream is to establish Nunavut... from here on we will work together."
Ottawa must accept result
Baffin South MLA Goo Arlooktook, who is also the deputy premier, said Ottawa now has no choice but to accept Iqaluit as the capital of Nunavut.
"As far as I'm concerned, this is a very decisive vote. Sixty per cent of the people who voted in Nunavut have chosen Iqaluit and we will be recommending... to the federal government that they go with this recommendation.
"The Nunavut Implementation Commission had recommended that Iqaluit be the capital on technical grounds. And now the people of Nunavut have asked for Iqaluit also, so I cannot imagine what reasons the federal cabinet would have for going against that," Arlooktoo said.
Reach out to Keewatin, Kitikmeot
Iqaluit MLA Ed Picco also said it's important to build unity, and especially important for acknowledge the Keewatin and Kitikmeot regions.
"I think the people have spoken. Now we have to step forward and come together to make sure that Nunavut is actually in effect on April 1, 1999, and to reach our hands out to not only the Keewatin region, but to the Kitikmeot region..."
Hamilton will do an official vote count on December 16-17. After that, he'll transmit the result to Indian Affairs Minister Ron Irwin, NWT Premier Don Morin, and NTI President Jose Kusugak.
It's expected that Irwin will soon make a major submission to the federal cabinet on the creation of Nunavut.Back to top
Fired up because of Nunatsiaq MP Jack Anawak's support of the Liberal government's gun control legislation, delegates at NTI's annual meeting in Taloyoak last week called for his resignation. They also criticized him for not supporting Article 24.
JASON van RASSEL Nunatsiaq News
TALOYOAK-Nunatsiaq MP Jack Anawak says he won't resign just because Nunavut Tunngavik says he should.
Delegates at NTI's annual general meeting in Taloyoak took aim at Anawak for supporting the federal government's gun control law. Saying Anawak hasn't represented the interests of Nunavut Inuit, they voted 28-0 in favor of a resolution calling for his resignation. Fourteen delegates abstained.
But in an interview last Friday, Anawak said it's NTI that's out of touch with the people it represents.
"There's a lot more important things that they should be dealing with as Inuit organizations," Anawak said.
Instead of focusing on a gun law which he maintains won't interfere with the rights of Inuit, Anawak said NTI should concentrate on tackling problems like high food prices, suicide and family violence.
"That's what the people are concerned about."
Anawak issues challenge
He also challenged his critics to run against him in the next federal election.
"They're welcome to run in the next election against me," he said.
Anawak dismissed the previous day's criticism as pre-election grandstanding by some NTI delegates.
"Some of the people who were the loudest have a campaign going," he said. President Jose Kusugak and second vice-president Raymond Ningeocheak are up for re-election this March.
Speaking to delegates Thursday, Anawak said that the "non-derogation" clause in the Firearms Act ensures that it won't violate aboriginal rights that are protected by the Constitution and the Nunavut land claim agreement.
"Even though gun control is in place, our way of hunting will not change," he said.
But delegates were unconvinced. Moses Apaqaq of Sanikiluaq said the law infringes on the constitutional right of aboriginal people to hunt.
Despite being "quite proud" of Anawak, Apaqaq said he was duty bound to ask for his resignation because that's what the people of Sanikiluaq told him they wanted.
"I've been told that we have to remove Jack," he said. "I feel that you have to remove yourself."
Apaqaq then tabled the resolution calling for Anawak's resignation.
"I would like to see us make a motion to remove Jack from his seat because he is not doing his duty on behalf of the Inuit of Nunavut."
Kivalliq delegates protest
However, because 11 delegates from the Kivalliq Inuit Association had walked out of the meeting earlier in their own protest against Anawak, there weren't enough people at the table to vote on the motion.
As the delegates decided to shelve the motion until they had a quorum, Anawak leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest.
"You have every right to make a motion, but I was elected by the people and I have to be removed by the people," he told them.
Although Anawak was criticized by delegates mainly for his support of the gun control law, he was also taken to task for not supporting the implementation of Article 24 of the land claim agreement.
Article 24 requires that companies owned by an Inuit majority get "reasonable support and assistance" to compete for government contracts. NTI says the GNWT has not changed its contracting policies to honor Article 24.
"When are you going to start giving us support?" NTI president Jose Kusugak asked Anawak. "It gets tiring that he's always opposing us," he added.
NTI in court?
Anawak said he hasn't supported parts of the agreement because they don't go far enough to help Inuit.
"I still say that we did not get enough land. I still say that we did not get enough funding."
But NTI first vice-president James Eetoolook told Anawak that as the MP representing Nunavut, he has a duty to make sure the land claim is followed.
"Are you resisting our request that we want you to assist us in getting the federal government to follow the agreement?" Eetoolook asked.
Anawak said he tries to represent his constituents-but that doesn't necessarily mean doing what NTI wants.
"I try my best and I try to do what's best for the people of Nunavut, but you can't get everything that you ask for," he said.
In addition to the resolution asking Anawak to resign, delegates passed another resolution last Thursday clearing the way for a possible court challenge to the Firearms Act.
Last Wednesday, delegates passed a similar resolution allowing NTI to take "any steps necessary" to get the GNWT to comply with Article 24.Back to top
by John Amagoalik
Canada needs a new generation of leaders.
The old generation, now in power in Ottawa and the provincial capitals, are tired and are stuck in a rut deepened by decades of old-style politics. This applies not only to the parties in power, but to the opposition parties as well.
Endless debates about being distinct or equal have further sunk our leaders into the mire of entrenched positions. Anyone, including the Prime Minister, trying to climb out of this muck ends up being grabbed by the ankles by people like Preston Manning and Lucien Bouchard and dragged back into the mud. It's frustrating to watch this senseless wrestling match.
The bad political situation is further exacerbated by a heavy debt. The bad old days of big fat government are long gone. This passing generation of Canadian leaders has badly managed the finances of Canada. It is our children and grandchildren who will bear the burden of this mismanagement.
If Lucien Bouchard does become the premier of Quebec as expected, we can expect another confrontation with the separatists in a few years time.
By that time, will our leaders have it together and be able to defeat the separatists again? Or will they be stuck in the same old arguments, allowing the separatists to win? If Lucien Bouchard is allowed to get his Yes vote, we can expect civil disorder to follow.
If we are to avoid going down that road of uncertainty, we must get our act together in the next couple of years. If we are to do that, we must first struggle out of the mud. Do our leaders have the will and the strength to do that? Many don't.
A new generation must step forward. They must have open minds and flexible attitudes. They must avoid entrenched positions and false humiliations.
As for the separatists, they should recognize that their world of perceived repression is not real. It is also time to turn a page in history. The battles on the Plains of Abraham happened a long time ago.
It is time to put our Canadian house in order. If we are to do that, the Aboriginal peoples of Canada should play a leading role. It is our home and native land.
This corner quotes
A Swedish civil servant commenting on the referendum scandals and allegations of kickbacks in the Air Canada/Airbus deal.
"I think it's very childish."
Nunatsiaq MP Jack Anawak, speaking to a reporter, after the Kivaliqmiut delegates walked out on him at the NTI annual general meeting.Back to top
It was encouraging to hear the advice delivered by Nunavut's MLAs this Tuesday morning, just moments after Chief Polling Officer David Hamilton had read out the results of the Nunavut capital plebiscite.
It was especially encouraging to hear the timely reminder provided by Aivilik MLA Manitok Thompson: "We don't see ourselves as Baffin, Keewatin, and Kitikmeot," Thompson said. "We see ourselves as a people."
As Thompson said, it's worth remembering that the three artificial "regions" into which Nunavut is divided are arbitrary administrative conveniences that the people of Nunavut did not create. They were imposed in the early 1970s by the Yellowknife-based GNWT, and there's nothing old or traditional about them.
Yet based on how they lined up for or against one another in the Nunavut capital campaign, an outsider could have been forgiven for thinking that those three regions were semi-independent nations.
But Inuit leaders like Thompson know better than that. For example, in Coral Harbour, part of Thompson's constituency, there as many people living there whose roots are in northern Quebec and south Baffin as there are people whose roots are in the Keewatin.
You'll find the same thing throughout Nunavut-family ties, ties created by traditional relationships of all kinds, cutting right across the territory, and across all the artificial boundaries imposed by "communities" and "regions."
When Natilikmeot MLA John Ningark reminded reporters on Tuesday morning that Inuit have survived for thousands of years by working together, he could also have said that it's those ties that kept them together through all the hard times.
Similarily, other leaders, even leaders who were directly involved in the capital campaign, have wisely extended the hand of friendship to those on the other side.
Iqaluit Mayor Joe Kunuk, for example, has said that he will work to carry out the Nunavut Implementation Commission's Iqaluit capital model, a plan that would see far more jobs created in communities outside of Iqaluit than in Iqaluit itself. Kunuk has also suggested holding a Nunavut leader's meeting early in the new year, in either the Kivalliq or Kitikmeot regions.
That's a good idea. It's crucial that Nunavut leaders put aside their regional differences-which, given Monday's plebiscite result, don't mean much anymore-and present Ottawa and Yellowknife with unified positions on the many unresolved issues facing Nunavut.
The most important of those is Ottawa's continued commitment to Nunavut.
Indian Affairs Minister Ron Irwin dodged that question the last time somebody asked it, at the September 29 meeting in Rankin Inlet at which he announced the capital plebiscite, and he's been dodging it ever since.
Another question that Ottawa has dodged is whether it supports the type of decentralization recommended by the Nunavut Implementation Commission-the decentralization model that made Iqaluit the most attractive capital choice for Nunavut voters.
Nunavut residents-and residents of the new western territory-deserve better answers than what we have been getting recently from Ottawa. The Progressive Conservative government was not reticient about providing written assurances that they would pay the reasonable incremental costs of creating two new territories. It's time the Liberal government does the same.
Unfortunately, we are now represented in Ottawa by a Liberal MP who, so far, has been unwilling to publically fight the federal government whenever it has proposed policies opposed by most people in Nunavut.
That's why it's especially important for Nunavut's mayors, MLAs, Inuit association officials and other leaders to create a united front. We'll need that unity, and we'll need it soon. JBBack to top
Last updated December 15, 1995. E-mail comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org