MNL happy with capital funding changes
On March 13, the provincial government announced a modified municipal capital funding formula and Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) is happy with the changes.
The Nunatsiavut Government (NG) introduced its budgetlast week and say the goal is to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of Labrador Inuit. The budget totals $93.4 million, up slightly from previous years.
Finance, Human Resources and Information Technology Minister Darryl Shiwak said they’re holistically approaching the issues they have, including housing, food and energy security.
“The way we look at it is that we’re trying to make life better in the communities, and it’s a holistic approach,” he told TC. “We don’t want to just approach housing in a silo and energy in a silo. Everything has to be connected and what we’re trying to do is pull everything together as a government. We have to look at these things as what can we accomplish in relation to everything else.”
He said they need to know what they need and what is coming down the road. In terms of housing, NG set aside a total of $2.6 million to enable Torngat Regional Housing Association (TRHA) to carry out its mandate to provide affordable housing in each of the five Inuit communities, an increase of about four per cent from 2016-17.
In addition to the funding they’re providing to TRHA, they also set aside funding to continue research on adequate designs for housing in a sub-Arctic environment and to finish a housing strategy they’ve been working on for the last few years.
“We have to make sure the budget is there to address the issues,” Shiwak said. “We’re working on the housing strategy and looking at maybe next fall to have the strategy done and roll it out. We need the budget for that, whatever programs that department has coming out of that. We’re trying to make sure we have the budget to address the issues for this year to set us up good for the future to address the housing needs.”
Shiwak said the people that do the housing construction do a great job but there are things they need to understand better to make sure the investments they put in endure, that NG doesn’t have to just come back in a few years and put more money into it, which is the goal of the housing strategy.
“We completed geotechnical work in Nain and Hopedale over the last few years and we’re completing Rigolet, Makkovik and Postville this summer so that will provide us with the information on where we should be building homes, what type of homes we should be building. That research is helping us go forward on housing.”
Funds have also been set aside for the implementation of solar and other sources of alternative energy, as outlined in the Nunatsiavut Energy Security Plan released earlier this year.
Shiwak said over the next three to five years that plan should roll out.
“We have different buildings going up in Nain and Hopedale and we need to know what energy requirements they have,” he said. “We need to not just know what energy requirements we have now but what we need in the future as well.”
In terms of food insecurity, NG will continue to employ a food security coordinator and provide funding for programming. Funding has also been budgeted to continue securing moose from Gros Morne National Park, providing a source of country food for their members. Money has also been set aside for further research on the Davis Strait polar bear population and the Torngat Mountains caribou herd.
“It’s not covering everything, but its covering what we need right now, as we move along as a government we’re trying to get more and more done. It’s a wide range but things we can accomplish now.”
Culture and language were also priorities for the budget, and Shiwak said to achieve this goal, NG will continue to promote and support regular projects, including the Inuttitut radio hour and the Labrador Inuttitut Training Program. They will also begin the development of an Inuttitut master apprenticeship program and a digital outreach and oral history initiative.
He said while they’re not a huge government they have a lot of people doing good jobs with these issues.
“We need to move fairly fast on these initiatives, like this housing strategy has been under development for a number of years. Once we’re to a point where we can move ahead with it, you can bet we’re going to move forward and put it in place fairly quickly. The main goal of this government and this budget is to improve the quality of life for residents. We have to be able to act quickly and having money stuck, not being able to do anything, isn’t where we want to be a as a government.”