Fed­eral gov­ern­ment an­nounces fund­ing for long-awaited Iqaluit port

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

For decades, high tide has been rush hour in Iqaluit as fish­er­men and hun­ters scram­ble to run their boats up on shore and an­chor them be­fore the sea ebbs.

“All the boaters and hun­ters start to come in all at once,” deputy Iqaluit mayor Si­mon Nat­taq said through a trans­la­tor . “Some­times it can get pretty dan­ger­ous.”

Those days may be­come a thing of the past. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment on Thurs­day com­mit­ted up to $64 mil­lion to fi­nance a deep­wa­ter port, which has been at the top of Nu­navut’s wish list for years.

“I’m glad it’s in my life­time,” laughed trans­porta­tion min­is­ter Mon­ica Ell.

“It will re­al­ize more eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and re­duce po­ten­tial eco­nomic dis­rup­tion. We have tourism op­por­tu­ni­ties - I’m think­ing of cruise ships be­ing able to come here more of­ten. For ships, they have a safer and quicker op­por­tu­nity to un­load goods brought here.”

Ell said con­struc­tion projects have been de­layed by up to a year when ships have been un­able to off­load heavy equip­ment due to ice or bad weather. A port means those de­lays would end.

All but one of Nu­navut’s 25 com­mu­ni­ties are on the coast. Only one has any kind of dock­ing fa­cil­ity.

Nu­navum­miut through­out the ter­ri­tory have long com­plained that coast­lines from New­found­land to Van­cou­ver Is­land have hun­dreds of gov­ern­ment-owned har­bours, while they have noth­ing.

Even in Iqaluit, sup­plies shipped from the south must be loaded onto barges and hauled up onto the only Coast-Guard-ad­min­is­tered beach in Canada. Cruise ship tourists must cross some­times choppy wa­ters on in­flat­able boats if they want to visit the com­mu­ni­ties they pass.

At least one Inuit fish­er­man has died while try­ing to get to his boat moored off­shore, which he was try­ing to move in ad­vance of a storm.

As early as 2006, fed­eral min­is­ters had a pro­posal - com­plete with de­signs and eco­nomic im­pact - for seven ports around the ter­ri­tory. The to­tal cost would have been $41 mil­lion over five years. The sin­gle port in Thurs­day’s an­nounce­ment is ex­pected to cost $85 mil­lion, which in­cludes about $20 mil­lion from Nu­navut.

Fed­eral en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter and soon-to-be fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive can­di­date Leona Aglukkaq called the pro­ject a “game-changer” that will bring big ben­e­fits.

“As it is now, many of the fish­ing in­dus­try goes to Green­land to off­load,” said Aglukkaq, who was in Iqaluit for the an­nounce­ment. “This has been a pro­ject that has been talked about for many, many years. I was very hon­oured to de­liver this pro­ject for the peo­ple of Iqaluit.”

Sources say a fed­eral elec­tion is ex­pected to be called this week­end and Con­ser­va­tive min­is­ters are ap­pear­ing coast to coast to make fund­ing an­nounce­ments.

“Ev­ery time I come to Iqaluit I make an an­nounce­ment,” Aglukkaq said. “When I come home, I like to share with my con­stituents what I’ve been able to de­liver.”

The port would in­clude a small-craft har­bour and larger fa­cil­ity for other ves­sels. It is ex­pected that it would re­duce the off-load­ing time for dry cargo to 20 work­ing days from 60 and cut fuel off-load­ing to five work­ing days from 15.

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