This Christmas season, Nunavut is getting a visit from the Grinch rather than Santa. The Government of Nunavut has confirmed that the territory will receive $34 million less than expected in federal transfers in the upcoming fiscal year.
The news came from a finance ministers' meeting in Ottawa earlier this week. Today, Keith Peterson, Nunavut's finance minister, confirmed that the territory will receive $1.462 billion in 2016-17 through the Territorial Formula Financing (TFF) transfer, $34 million lower than expected.
Some Nunavut MLAs are not pleased.
"A day before eh, Merry Christmas Nunavummiut," said Joe Enook, the MLA for Tununiq. "I'm just in total shock right now, because Canada wanted change and so did we, and this is the change that we were looking so forward to?"
The lower transfer amount could mean much less money for essential programs and infrastructure than some MLA's were hoping for, including David Joanasie, the MLA for South Baffin, who called the news "quite a shocker, to be honest.
"I mean, so much need in every department, and they have to split up the pie now. That pie has just got a little smaller," he added.
"The impacts on TFF are significant," said Peterson in a media release.
Peterson said the revisions reflect "technical changes to how Statistics Canada collects and measures important economic indicators, which are not reflective of Nunavut's reality."
He added that the Government of Nunavut is working with the federal government "to ensure northern Canadians are not penalized by technical changes."
Hunter Tootoo, Nunavut's member of parliament met with Peterson today.
"Let's be clear, it's not cuts," he said. "It's just the way the information flows through the formula, which is all in legislation. This is something that no one foresaw coming and we're taking steps to address it."
The Territorial Formula Financing is an annual unconditional transfer from the Government of Canada to the three territorial governments. The funds are allocated to allow territorial governments to provide a range of public services comparable to those offered by provincial governments.
The funds are intended for hospitals, schools, infrastructure and social services. They are meant to alleviate the high cost of providing public services in the North.
Each territory's allotted fund is adjusted annually to reflect changes in population growth and changes in territorial-local government spending using Statistics Canada data.
"The Minister of Finance appreciates the impact that this revision is having and has asked federal officials to work with their territorial colleagues on options to address these concerns," said the federal Department of Finance in a statement to CBC.