Residents in the Beaufort Delta are frustrated with a decision by the GNWT to cancel the Marine Transportation Services barge up through the communities for season deliveries.

Ray Ruben, mayor of Paulatuk said he got word on Sunday from Merve Gruben, Mayor of Tuktayoktuk and Herbert Nakimayak, MLA for Beaufort Delta that there would be a cancellation of the barge with goods from Hay River.

The recent buildup of ice in Kitikmeot waters has made conditions much more challenging for the GNWT’s Marine Transportation Services division than when this photo was taken in September 2017. The last barge of the season is unable to get into Kugluktuk or Cambridge Bay, causing a huge headache for businesses, municipal governments and residents who are relying on the delivery of those supplies.
photo courtesy of the GNWT

Ruben posted the announcement on his Facebook page late Sunday and several community members expressed disappointment and outrage. Ruben said he was still trying to assess what the cancellation would mean for the people in his community.

“Absolutely not,” he said when asked if he knew what the barge cancellation would mean. “We have an idea of some of the larger groups like the Northern Stores, some of the hamlets and on some of the impacts on a larger scale. But there are so many people and individuals out there who are going to be affected. I was out looking at the larger groups and trying to focus on the community and people and what it’s going to mean for them.”
Ruben said the barge’s delivery of goods impacts prices, particularly with groceries and gas. Flying the goods in would be an option, but this would be very expensive and would hurt consumers, he said.

“It was all so really sudden,” he said. “The season is short. I can’t even speculate on where they are going to go with this (decision).
“In the past we have always been too quiet and have just let things happen as they happen. Now we can’t even get a barge so we have to be the squeaky wheel to get the grease.”
Aside from food and fuel, other items like skidoos, boats and quads to help people with harvesting season will be delayed, he said.

As of Tuesday evening, the GNWT Department of Infrastructure provided no updates on the barge cancellation.

Ruben said that officials from Northern Store were working with the GNWT to see what the options might be to get groceries and goods on its shelves for the winter season. The main fear, Ruben said, is the uncertainty of what flying all the goods might have on consumers. The Paulatuk Northern Store would not comment for the story and directed News/North to the company representative in Winnipeg. Derek Reimer, business director of the Northwest Company would not comment on the issue, saying he wanted to leave his logistics team to work out the best option for the company.

Merven Gruben, mayor of Tuktoyaktuk said the issue does not impact his community directly, but he is worried about more remote, neighbouring communities like Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk.
He says weather forecasts in the coming days show that temperatures are supposed to get warmer and may allow for barge delivery. He has also been trying to encourage Ruben to keep nagging the GNWT politicians to ensure the barge still makes it before freeze-up..

“We are all kind of pissed off and hoping that it will soon happen,” he said. “It is not too late.”

Calls to Nakimayak on Tuesday were not returned by press time.


Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. He came from Prince Edward County, Ont., and obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University...

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