IQALUIT, Nunavut — Voters in a Nunavut-wide plebiscite have rejected allowing municipalities to sell land to private citizens or businesses.
It wasn’t even close.
Residents were asked if municipalities should be able to release land for fee-simple ownership of the kind almost all Canadians in non-aboriginal communities take for granted.
More than 80 per cent of those who voted said no. The idea was turned down in every one of the territory’s 25 communities.
Even in Iqaluit, which has the most highly developed real-estate market in Nunavut, voters rejected the notion by more than 2-1.
Advocates suggested the change would help create a private-sector real-estate market and bring new investment into the housing sector. They argued that fee-simple ownership would lead to more and cheaper home construction in a territory that desperately needs it.
Some said it would have made mortgages easier and cheaper to obtain and would have created a pool of local capital that could be used for business investment.
The territorial government was officially neutral for the vote, but Nunavut’s land-claim organization opposed the change.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. said the territory hadn’t released enough information on what the consequences could be and criticized the territorial government for holding the plebiscite when many Inuit are travelling or hunting in the long spring sunshine and on stable sea ice.
Turnout averaged just over one-third of voters.
Nunavut municipalities are not allowed to sell land they control and can only offer potential buyers long-term leases. A yes vote would have led to municipal councils being able to sell land outright for fee- simple ownership.
The issue of private land ownership is common to almost all aboriginal communities across Canada. Federal legislation to allow the practice has stalled despite all-party support. Only one First Nation — B.C.’s Nisg’a band — currently allows fee-simple ownership.