Once again, Nunavut Tunngavik shits the bed

This is one of many goofy grip-and-grin photos that your humble content provider has been obliged to take wth his old Nikon Coolpix 8800 digital camera. Here, NTI president Paul Kaludjak and Nunavut's one-time housing minister, Peter Kilabuk, show off the Inuit housing plan that eventually found its way into the Kelowna accord and then into a $200-milllion social housing handout that the Conservative government announced in 2006. (ARCHIVE PHOTO)

It’s not often you’ll find a reckless distortion of truth and a big whopping post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy packed into three mendacious little sentences.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. managed to accomplish this feat in a press release issued Sept. 24 and which I’ve embedded at the bottom of this post. It’s their reaction to the boondoggle that the Nunavut Housing Corp. produced when they attempted to build badly-needed public housing within two big construction programs financed by the federal government.

The housing corporation’s financial blunders mean, in effect, that Nunavut has committed itself to spending $110 million it doesn’t have. That’s equivalent to roughly 10 per cent of the territorial government’s annual budget, which now ranges beyond $1.1 billion a year.

The Nunavut government is effectively forbidden from borrowing money or selling bonds because of a federal law, called the Nunavut Act, that prohibits Nunavut from carrying long-term debt greater than $200 million. Since the GN already carries a long-term debt, mostly inherited from the Northwest Territories, of about $140 million, they can’t borrow their way out this crisis.

So the only way to find the $110 million they need to pay all the contractors who built public housing under the two botched housing schemes is to make cuts in numerous existing programs, many of which, arguably, are already underfunded.

This likely explains why this fiasco has sent some observers into quasi-menopausal fits of hysteria, as is evidenced by this quotation from the aforementioned Nunavut Tunngavik press release.

Immediately after securing $200 million for public housing in 2006, the NHC walked away from its housing partnership with NTI, as defined by the 2004 GN/NTI 10 Year Inuit Housing Action Plan. The government chose instead, in defiance of Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Article 32, to develop and implement the Nunavut Housing Trust initiative without Inuit participation. The results are disastrous and have far reaching effects beyond the monetary loss.

Being a 30-year Nunavut resident, your humble content provider watched this story develop in 2006 with an interest that was as much personal as professional.

And during the year 2006, not once do I recall NTI ever complain that the housing corporation “walked away” from its “partnership” on public housing. Not once in the year 2006 did I hear NTI ever allege the GN, or anyone else, acted “in defiance” of the Nunavut land claims agreement. Why were NTI’s lawyers, the people who really run the organization, so silent then and so vocal now?

I do recall that the national Inuit syndicate, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, which NTI partly controls through it’s one-fourth ownership of ITK’s board, spent much of 2006 heaping praise upon itself for having lobbied successfully for the $200 million federal contribution, a Kelowna accord commitment that the Conservative government actually carried out.

I also recall ITK, with no objections from NTI, urging in 2006 that housing construction materials be shipped on that year’s Nunavut sealift, long after the Nunavut Housing Corp. could have done any rational logistical planning.

I’m still convinced that the housing corporation made a big mistake when they caved in to ITK’s childish political posturing that year. By rushing their implementation of the public housing construction program that year, under pressure from ITK, the housing corporation likely produced the inaccurate per-unit cost figures that led to the current crisis.

The press release also contains the usual nonsense alleging breaches of the Nunavut land claims agreement, in this case, Article 32, which obliges government to “consult” Inuit when designing new social programs that affect Inuit.

But in the case of public housing, I rather think that historical evidence reveals that on the housing issue, governments have likely consulted every animate being they could find in Nunavut. Does the Nunavut Ten Year Housing Plan not provide fulsome evidence of such consultation?

And nowhere in Article 32 do I find words that say Nunavut Tunngavik must help run such programs. Maybe their copy of the land claims agreement contains different words than mine?

The most absurd part of the press release, however, is the part that says the housing corporation’s financial blunders occurred because the GN did not include Nunavut Tunngavik in the design and implementation of its social housing construction programs: a  classic example of the post hoc ergo propter hoc error, also known as the rooster syndrome.

Nowhere does Nunavut Tunngavik ever express any sympathy, or even knowledge, of the Nunavut government’s core problem: it’s shortage of qualified staff, especially financial experts.

But that avoidance of the importance of financial management, I suppose, is to be expected from a organization whose president can’t even handle the possession of a corporate credit card.

Finally, in a manufactured press release type of quote, Nunavut Tungavik’s “acting” president, James Eetoolook says the housing corporation ‘is not meeting the needs of Inuit.”

The facts, however, show that the housing corporation, in spite of its cost overruns, will build 1,011 new public housing units in Nunavut, the number they were supposed to build.

So on yet another serious public policy issue in Nunavut, NTI once again manages to shit the bed.

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4 Responses to Once again, Nunavut Tunngavik shits the bed

  1. balbulican says:

    Jim, I don’t know how I managed to miss your blog for so long, but I’ve found you now. Fascinating stuff. Thanks.

    • James Bell says:

      Thanks for your comment — and don’t worry about missing out on it. 🙂 I’ve managed to let it lie fallow for months at a time when I’ve been too busy with other stuff…

      Take care…


  2. Terry Audla says:

    Hi Jim,

    That’s Peter Kilabuk not Keenainak.

    • James Bell says:

      Thank you Terry…

      Someone else pointed out my sloppy error early this morning and I corrected it then.

      But thanks for the reminder. If you reload the page you’ll see that I’ve changed it…


Comments are closed.