For the community of Kimmirut, the federal government’s rejection of a Government of Nunavut (GN) proposal to relocate its airport means continued lack of access to basic services most communities receive.
Senior administrative officer Kimberley Young says the relocation is necessary for a longer runway so bigger planes can reach the community.
“Which would lead to more food security, and which would lead to medevac and medical issues not having to be delayed or postponed,” she said.
Small planes like Twin Otters are all the current airport can accommodate.
“If there’s higher winds or something like that, we can’t get food in,” said Young.
Young says a few days of bad weather can lead to a plane-full of food going directly to the dump, because after days in Iqaluit, the food arrives rotten.
“We can go with no milk, no bread, no nothing for a week if we can’t get a flight in,” said Young.
The GN proposal for the airport relocation asked for $3 million of the $4 million budget, the cost of the design and engineering work.
Pangnirtung’s airport relocation project, $8.6 million out of a $12 million total project cost, was also rejected. Mayor Stevie Komoartok was not available for comment.
The Government of Nunavut submitted six projects for Transport Canada’s National Trade Corridors Fund, and all but one were rejected.
The fund is intended to support the flow of goods and passengers by reducing bottlenecks, and addressing capacity issues, help the transportation system withstand the effects of climate change,
address the unique transportation needs in Canada’s territorial North to improve safety and foster economic and social development, and build on investments made by a variety of public and private sector partners.
Along with the airport relocations and the Grays Bay Road and Port Project, the federal government rejected the Nunavut-Manitoba winter road and marine development in Qikiqtarjuaq.
“We’ve just been notified of the ones that were rejected. The other we’re still waiting to hear on. We haven’t been told it’s approved but we haven’t been told it’s rejected,” said Minister of Economic Development and Transportation Joe Savikataaq.
No news may be good news for the sixth proposal: airport terminal replacements for Naujaat, Chesterfield Inlet, Whale Cove, Kugluktuk and Kimmirut.
Savikataaq said all infrastructure projects matter to Nunavut.
“We’re so lacking and so far behind in our infrastructure needs in every department, and transportation is one of them,” he said.
“We’re only linked by air or by sea in the summer and all these projects were related to helping facilitate better movement of goods from the south to Nunavut. All of our needs are shipped up from the south.”
Savikataaq says the GN will continue to pursue funding under different federal funding envelopes.
“We haven’t given up on them. They should be done,” he said.
He said the winter road linking Manitoba and Nunavut is a viable project. The GN ask was $6.75 million of a $9 million total cost.
“I’ve always been preaching to the federal government that we’re the only jurisdiction in Canada that’s not connected by roads to the rest of the country. Once we get a road connection to Nunavut, the cost of living and the cost of goods should go down,” said Savikataaq.
“When they built the road to the Yukon, they didn’t think it would be viable. But it sure is. That road is used a lot. The road going into the Northwest Territories is used a lot.”
A road, says Savikataaq, would open up resources, trade and tourism.
“And I believe eventually there should be an all-season road.”
For Qikiqtarjuaq, a small craft harbour is integral to the well-being of the community, as it was for Pond Inlet and Pangnirtung, to support fisheries.
Qikiqtarjuaq Mayor Mary Killiktee was travelling and unavailable for comment.
Savikataaq expects to hear about the airport terminal replacements in the fall.
“We’re hopeful,” he said.
“Those terminals are at least 30 years old. They’re just inadequate.”