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Show Nunavut the money: says premier
But first, show us your plan, Peter Taptuna tells federal party leaders

Casey Lessard
Northern News Services
Monday, October 5, 2015

Outlining six key areas - economic development, infrastructure, housing, devolution, culture and climate change - Premier Peter Taptuna hopes to bring Nunavut's issues to the fore in the federal election campaign through a Sept. 21 open letter to the four party leaders.

In a news release, Taptuna indicated that none have shown "a clear plan" for building "healthy communities and a prosperous economy in the North."

"Investment in transportation, housing, culture and technology, as well as continuing the devolution process, will ensure that Nunavut continues to grow economically and will assist Nunavummiut in addressing their social, cultural and economic needs," Taptuna's four-page letter to Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May states. "All investment in Nunavut results in a threefold reciprocal return to southern Canada, which is identified in job growth and the number of goods sold and produced."

The letter underlines Taptuna's desire for broader development of "our vast resources," with the premier stating that "Nunavut's economic potential remains largely untapped," despite being "an important driver for Canada's economic growth for several years."

But development is not possible without better infrastructure, he states. There is no road link to the south, only one harbour for Canada's largest coastline, and only two paved runways for one-third of the country's landmass. Diesel plants are the only power source, and they're old and unreliable, he states.

"We need ... predictable, long-term funding to replace these power plants with new and more efficient generators," Taptuna states, calling for a transition to hydroelectric and alternative energy.

And Nunavut needs a fiber-optic link to the Internet, he states, to generate online economic opportunities.

A university in Nunavut would help grow the economy and increase self-reliance, he states.

Adding to the critical infrastructure deficit is the "severe and compounding housing crisis," with Nunavut seeing a 39 per cent housing need, more than three times the national average of 12.5 per cent. The housing gap is 3,000 units, he states.

But the social housing units that already exist are an added drain, taking up nine per cent of the territory's operations and maintenance budget of $1.3 billion.

"The impact of these costs will be compounded by the current decline in federal funding for social housing, and the expiration of the existing operating agreements that are scheduled to end by 2038," according to the letter.

"Investments in homes and related public infrastructure create jobs and economic growth, and help to diminish Nunavut's inequities in health, education and poverty," he states.

Devolution would help increase Nunavut's economic opportunities, Taptuna states, noting Nunavut is the only territory remaining without control over Crown land and natural resources. Formal negotiations started last year but were put on hold when the election was called.

The premier called on the federal leaders to commit to strengthening the Inuktut language, and to invest in a Nunavut heritage centre. He also noted the infrastructure woes emerging as permafrost melts, and called on the leaders to outline their plans for addressing "the implications of a changing Arctic climate."

Ending his pitch, Taptuna indicates the symbiotic nature of the Nunavut-Canada relationship.

"The Government of Canada has been, and will continue to be, a key partner in creating the foundation for Nunavut's success," he states. "Investment in Nunavut is good business and responsible nation building for Canada, and for Canadians."

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