A chat with Jack
Nunavut Interim Commissioner Jack Anawak talks about budgeting for Nunavut
IQALUIT (Dec 21/98) - Last week News/North had the opportunity to talk to Nunavut Interim Commissioner Jack Anawak and chief of staff Penny Muller about the budget for the Office of the Interim Commissioner.

Anawak: The budget we're going to be announcing in the next little while is the budget for April 1.

News/North: What I mean is how much money did the feds allot for the setup of Nunavut?

Muller: There's $150,000,000 over four years and that includes a number of things. That includes the cost of the infrastructure, the Nunavut Construction costs, there's a budget for the interim commissioner.

I believe there is $10 million from 1997 to 1999 and that includes the budget for hiring the staff of the government of Nunavut. That was only a portion of the $150 million and Nunavut will have its own budget for 1999-2000 which is the formula financing.

News/North: What I'm interested in is that pot of money the feds allotted. Can you give me an actual figure?

Muller: They didn't give us a sufficient amount. We went back to them for more and we haven't actually got that amount confirmed yet. I think what they had set aside for us, the government of Nunavut salaries were $5 million for salaries and $3.7 million for ONM - Operations and Maintenance Costs.

We went back to them and said that's not sufficient, we'd like $10 million for salaries and $7 for ONM. They sort of verbally committed it but it actually hasn't been pinned down. That's what we've had to do so we've been operating on the assumption that $10 million and $7 million, that the extra money is going to come but we haven't actually got it pinned down fully yet.

News/North: Because they gave you insufficient funds, how has that limited your government?

Anawak: It doesn't really limit. All we're doing is ensuring there's enough money to go on to April 1 and because of the efficiency of the set-up of the departments, we're actually ahead of schedule so what we're doing is phasing in the jobs maybe to a later date - before April 1 but say a person was supposed to start February 1, we might have that person start on March 1 or March 15. It's not a case of a hiring freeze or anything. It's just different timing on the phasing in of the positions than was originally planned.

News/North: Is that because you don't need that staff or because the funding isn't there?

Anawak: At this point, the deputy ministers have had the ability to set up their departments up to a point where what we might have thought would be in place by January 15, might be in place now. As a result, it's not so much that there's no money, it's just that we can put off a particular person's job until a certain time so that it complements what the DMs (deputy ministers) and ADMs (assistant deputy ministers) will have set up.

News/North: So you're about four weeks ahead of time?

Anawak: Anywhere from three to four.

News/North: I understand there's been a limitation put on travel.

Anawak: Again, there has to be the understanding that we expect the picking up of whatever we're doing towards April 1st so I think we have to ensure there's money in place to allow that extra activity is going on prior to April 1 to pick up. It's just a safeguard to ensure that there's money in place.

Q: Is there anyway to avoid that crunch?

Anawak: No. I think for us, April 1 is 14 1\2 weeks away but for people it's still a long way and so people don't realize that in a matter of weeks, Nunavut is going to be. The crunch is going to come anyway as people begin to realize it. We feel we have given them a lot of information but until the magic date, people don't really associate it. I think it's inevitable that the crunch will come.

News/North: But if you had the actual funding in place to bring those people on staff and to let people to travel, would it make it any smoother over the next 14 weeks?

Anawak: I don't think so. I think our staff is sufficiently aware of what needs to be done and a months delay for somebody's start-up date would not really be a problem.

News/North: In terms of the services that have to be contracted back to the GNWT, are they part of the original set-up costs or do they fall under the budget in 1999?

Anawak: The idea was that there would always be that contracting back. The only question was at what level, how many services. The intent was always there.

News/North: If you had gotten more money from the feds, would there be less contracting back? How many services are being contracted back?

Anawak: Around 40 now. No. It's not so much having the people, it's having the ability and the necessary equipment and infrastructure in place. It was going to be anyway. What we are trying to ensure is that all the contracting back is in the services area and the program delivery area.

News/North: How much is it going to cost Nunavut to contract those services back to the GNWT?

Anawak: Those discussions are ongoing and I think it will depend on the agreement that we make. Agreements have not been reached so it would only after an agreement was reached that we would be able to tell you approximately how much of our budget will have to go towards contracting back.

News/North: Is there a point in our future in Nunavut that those services will stay here at home?

Anawak: Oh yes.

News/North: Is there an estimated time on that?

Anawak: That's more the prerogative of the premier and the cabinet but, as soon as possible. Why would we want to contract out any longer than was necessary services we may be able to set up and provide? The cabinet and premier will basically determine that.

News/North: Did you make your spending goals with the money the feds gave you to set-up? Were you within your budget or did you feel strapped by it?

Anawak: No. It's just a matter of making the thing work regardless of how you do it. And we did, we made it work. I think we have done a good job in getting the kind of set-up we have to date. We have not felt we were behind. There have been some frustrations but other than that, it's fine.

News/North: What frustrations?

Anawak: Some negotiations that take longer than necessary. All in all, I think we're in a very good position for the Legislative Assembly to take over on April 1.

News/North: Can you tell me more specifically how the money has been spent?

Muller: I don't know if we can break it down today but salaries, office space, consultants, information technology.

News/North: What's left undone at this point?

Anawak: I think more housekeeping stuff, ensuring that the staff comes in at a certain point, making sure that we have the ability to deliver on April 1 and making sure that the priorities of the DMs are clearly spelled out. When I say priorities, areas they might want the ministers of the government to look at as soon as possible. It's just a matter of setting up the framework and the housekeeping stuff like finalizing negotiations on residential and office space, more mundane type of things.

News/North: How many more staff will you bring on?

Anawak: In our particular office, not really anybody but in the departments, we're looking in the neighbourhood of 47 more for April 1.

News/North: Did you feel like Minister Dent cooperated on the negotiations at this point and what was your decision based on - profits or the cost of providing electricity to Nunavut's communities?

Anawak: The whole negotiations on the (NWT) Power Corporation have been because of philosophical differences more than anything else. As far as we were concerned, we had an agreement in place and the Government of the Northwest Territories was prepared to push the legislation forward on the agreement we had. A day before, they pulled the legislation out because the Western Coalition had some problems with it. That was an eleventh hour pull-back of something we were looking forward to finalizing and all we're doing is ensuring that if these kinds of things are going to occur, then we'd better have a contingency plan in place.