Nunavut Legislature kicks off winter sitting

MLAs are back in the capital for a three-week winter sitting of the Nunavut Legislature that starts Monday.

Expect territory's largest deficit in Tuesday budget address

House leader Elisapee Sheutiapik says there is a lot of work to do this sitting because it's the last year for the current government before an election. (Beth Brown/CBC )

MLAs are back in the capital for a three-week winter sitting of the Nunavut Legislature that starts today. 

Tomorrow, Finance Minister George Hickes will table a draft operations and maintenance budget for the coming fiscal year. Going through those budget lines will make up the bulk of work for regular members over the coming weeks. 

After a year of emergency spending for the COVID-19 pandemic, the government is projecting its largest ever deficit.   

With just one year left in the current government's term, house leader Elisapee Sheutiapik said there's a lot to be done in the coming weeks.  

"I would, as you can imagine, anticipate a busy session, considering this is our last year, and really it's the last role-up-the-sleeves and get at it kind of session," she told CBC News. 

Besides reviewing the new budget, the standing committee is also expected to review a bill to amend the RCMP Agreement Act. Bill 53 considers civilian oversight of Nunavut law enforcement.  

Cabinet also plans to introduce a bill to update the Access to Information and Privacy Act. 

The MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove, John Main, said COVID-19 continues to impact community life and the livelihoods of his constituents.

As chair for the regular members caucus, Main said he supports pandemic response efforts of both the federal and territorial government. 

But he also said COVID-19 has added a layer of stress to Nunavut's existing struggles with housing, education and healthcare.

"When we come out of this pandemic, when that day finally comes, I think we are going to need a real frank discussion with the federal government in terms of healthcare in this territory," Main said. 

As cases remain in Arviat, Main will join the assembly this session by video. 

The MLA for Iqaluit Manirajak, Adam Arreak Lightstone, said he's looking to see more transparency from the government about its vaccine rollout, and a long term vaccination plan.  

He said the public needs more upfront details about each shipment, when they are coming and what communities can expect vaccinations and when. 

"I would like to see that information for every shipment of vaccine that the government receives, not just to the current or upcoming shipment," he said. 

In Iqaluit, the chambers will remain closed to the public. Question period can be streamed online from the Legislative Assembly website, or watched on local cable. 

With files from Beth Brown and Matisse Harvey