Nunavut MLAs expect budget to announce new spending on suicide prevention

Nunavut's Finance Minister Keith Peterson will unveil the 2016-2017 operations budget today outlining the government’s priorities in a speech at 1:30 p.m. ET.

'There better be some money otherwise it's just lip service,' says Tununiq MLA Joe Enook

'Personally I always hope to see more funding for areas where social issues are involved,' said Tununiq’s MLA Joe Enook. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

Nunavut's finance minister will present the 2016-2017 operations budget today outlining the government's priorities, and MLAs hope there will be much-needed money allotted for suicide prevention, education, health, housing and social programs.

Minister Keith Peterson's $1.67-billion budget last year was Nunavut's fourth balanced budget in a row, with a small $23-million surplus forecasted in addition to a prediction of an increase in revenues to $187 million.

That budget gave the Department of Education a 10 per cent boost, with an additional 14 per cent increase to early childhood education.

Some MLAs hope that education will once again be the top priority in this year's territorial budget.

"In my opinion, education is number one in our priority and in our mandate, and health is a major concern across the territory, so we'll see how it unfolds," said Simeon Mikkungwak, MLA for Baker Lake.

'Put some money where their mouth is'

Tununiq MLA Joe Enook said he expects to see some funds for suicide prevention programs in the budget since Premier Peter Taptuna declared suicide a "crisis" in the fall session.

Health and Justice Minister Paul Okalik was also appointed as the chair of the special cabinet committee on quality of life tasked with implementing the recommendations from the coroner's inquest into suicide.

"There better be some money otherwise it's just lip service," said Enook.

"I have full confidence that they will have done their homework and put some money where their mouth is."

Housing, treatment centres, family services and programs that address health issues are his top priorities, but he is unsure if all those areas can be addressed in this budget.

"Personally I always hope to see more funding for areas where social issues are involved," said Enook.

"Money is tight everywhere and we will never get everything we need or want."

Peterson is expected to begin his budget address at 1:30 p.m. ET, and his speech will be carried live on CBC Radio One in Nunavut.

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