O'brien knocks task force
Committee chair slams minister's plan

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

ARVIAT (Oct 20/99) - Housing Minister Manitok Thompson's plan for addressing Nunavut's housing crisis is nothing more than a duplication of efforts and a waste of time, says Arviat MLA Kevin O'Brian.

Thompson has publicly announced her intentions for the Nunavut Housing Corp. to begin building public housing units next summer.

The minister also announced the creation of a seven-member task force as part of her overall strategy to deal with Nunavut's housing shortage.

"We will be looking at funding within the Housing Corp.," says Thompson. "This may require a shift of resources from other programs to public housing.

"We also need to explore other funding options to help alleviate the housing shortage."

O'Brian chairs a standing committee put in place to deal with housing issues.

He says he's not on the minister's new task force because he made it clear he doesn't think it is necessary.

An opinion, he says, also expressed by the Keewatin Regional Chamber of Commerce at its recent annual meeting in Baker Lake.

"The task force is delaying the inevitable," says O'Brian.

"We know what the problem is; an extreme shortage of public housing."

The standing committee made its own recommendations on addressing the housing crisis to Minister Thompson this past month.

The main thrust of those recommendations was an ambitious plan to divert any surplus from decentralization costs towards purchasing building material to construct 75 public housing units.

O'Brian says it was inappropriate for Thompson to bypass a committee put in place to address housing issues in the announcement of her own plan.

"As far as the minister's plan, I don't see a plan," stated O'Brian emphatically.

"I see this as nothing more than a duplication of efforts and a waste of time."

The MLA says task force findings will have to come back to the standing committee for presentation and debate before going to the House.

He says the committee will have to review whether they're realistic in dealing with housing concerns.

"I'm not taking anything away from members who agreed to sit on the task force, but you have to look at the timing of the study which will have no impact on this year's housing construction.

"If all parties concerned agree housing is in a crisis situation, we shouldn't have to wait another year to deal with it."

O'Brian says he could agree with further study on the rent scale problem, but quickly adds models have been put forth which would have addressed the rent scale levels.

"People have had enough of these studies and delays into any type of action.

"I don't think the minister's plan will be completed in time for consideration during budget preparations for the next fiscal year and that is totally unacceptable."