Gasoline prices will not have to skyrocket next month in Nunavut, thanks to new legislation that will allow the territory to double the fuel debt it is allowed to bear.
Bill 68, An Act to Amend the Revolving Funds Act, No. 2, passed third reading in the Legislative Assembly last Friday. This means that the Nunavut Petroleum Products Division can support up to $ 20 million in debt from the purchase of fuel, instead of the $ 10 million already authorized.
Because fuel revenues fell during COVID-19, the division is facing a deficit of $ 13.5 million for the current fiscal year and an overall deficit of $ 18 million.
The bill was introduced last week and passed within days. The territory is now legally authorized to carry this deficit.
The government tries to strike a balance with fuel expenses each year, setting annual gas prices based on the amount of bulk fuel purchased during a shipping season.
But because it is in debt, this bill acts like a band-aid. This means that the territory will not have to increase gasoline prices to recover this money faster.
But Finance Minister George Hickes said increasing the debt allocation would only solve part of the government’s oil problem.
“This will ease some of the pressure for the end of the year. But it does not solve the problem of being able to buy fuel as low as possible and sell it as low as possible,” he said.
What his department needs, Hickes said, is to be able to buy more bulk fuel in bulk. But this sitting, MPs delayed another bill that would provide for a $ 100 million vote increase over the government’s annual fuel spending limit.
Hickes said the delay had an “immediate impact on the price of fuel.”
But while Hickes said the legislation was “over-analyzed,” MPs said they weren’t about to start pushing paper just for the legislation to pass before the government dissolved in the United States. ‘fall.
MPs say they can’t rush law-making
With only two sittings before the October election, John Main, chairman of the Standing Committee on Legislation, said that goes for all bills still before the committee.
“We cannot be expected to pass bills without properly analyzing them, without doing due diligence, just because there is an election coming up,” said Main, who represents the constituency. d’Arviat North-Whale Cove. “When we choose not to go ahead with a bill, we have a good reason.”
As MPs focus this session on passing next year’s O&M budget, a number of motions have been tabled to extend the time regular members have to review the legislation ahead of the bill. submit to the House for consideration.
Members say it takes longer to prioritize a review of changes to the Mental Health Act, which has not been updated since Nunavut became part of the Northwest Territories. This bill has been at second reading since October 2019.
Legislation that would see a tax imposed on alcohol sold in the territory is also being delayed.
And besides the two oil-related bills, Hickes said he was disappointed with a motion passed to delay consideration of a bill that would allow the government to outsource civilian oversight of serious incidents involving the RCMP in Nunavut.
A public call for civilian oversight of the Nunavut RCMP followed deaths and reports of excessive use of force. In a high-profile incident last year, a man from Kinngait was hit by the door of a moving police truck.
The Ottawa Police Service is currently investigating any serious incident involving the Nunavut RCMP, and their reports do not have to be made public.
Iqaluit MP Adam Arreak Lightstone spoke out on the need for change.
“The current practice of the police investigating the police offers little accountability in the investigative process, especially when the final report is provided to the police themselves and they choose which parts of the report, if any. , must be made public, “he told the Assembly.
But it was Arreak Lightstone who motioned to delay putting the bill into the house. Members voted against Cabinet to make this happen.
John Main said he couldn’t elaborate on what the sticking points were with the bill. But he said MPs have the power to make changes to the law when they deem it necessary.
Bill 53, An Act to Amend the RCMP Agreements Act, allows the government to contract out civilian oversight, but does not require it.
Hickes said he was concerned the bill would die on the order table.
“When we look at civilian oversight, the current law basically prohibits it, so the police and other police forces are investigating our critical crimes,” he said.
“We have money in the budget to start making these measures transparent and investigations more open to public scrutiny.”
These bills will have to wait until the spring sitting to have the chance to come home. The current winter session is adjourned on March 16.