Nunatsiaq News
LETTERS: Iqaluit December 10, 2012 - 8:00 am

Was Iqaluit ratepayers referendum fair and unbiased?


Was the City of Iqaluit referendum for a new aquatic centre fair and unbiased ?

I don’t think so.  I am in no way objecting to the idea of a new aquatic centre, which will be beneficial to the residents of Iqaluit, but I am objecting to the process by which the referendum was held.

The voters should have been given more unbiased information by the City of Iqaluit prior to the ratepayers’ referendum on borrowing up to $40 million dollars. 

Instead, voters were given information by staff that supported the new centre right from the onset, precluding any leeway for objective decision making, ultimately held by city councillors and homeowners.

The photograph of the director of recreation on a newspaper screaming for joy on the news of the yes vote shows just how much the staff pushed for that result.

The City of Iqaluit created the REACH committee and an “aggressive campaign for funding” began, according to their website, even before the referendum took place.  The City of Iqaluit proceeded with the referendum, even before any certainty of any confirmed commitments from either the federal government or the territorial government.

An architect was engaged for the design of the aquatic centre even before a business plan was put forth for city council approval in September 2011.  Ms. Elgersma stated at that council meeting that “Nunavut has the highest rate of inactivity in the country” – it seems, without evidence to support the claim.

It just seems City of Iqaluit staff are bent on getting what they want, even though ultimately, the city council and the ratepayers should have held the final decision-making authority, exercised free from bias.

The plans for the new aquatic centre have been in the works since about 2005 and continued past the no vote in the 2006 referendum. 

But each time the project was discussed by city councillors during meetings, staff would have insufficient information or withhold information – such as when Mr. Stevenson wanted to know the estimates of the project during an Oct. 15 meeting – even though I would presume the business plan that only city councillors can approve, would provide a rough estimate of the real costs of the new aquatic centre.

The pitch for the ratepayers referendum was held six years after the last one, which was a no vote for the borrowing.  At that time, the amount was only $12 million dollars proposed for the borrowing for the construction of an aquatics centre, and $6 million for a new city hall.  How did $12 million balloon to $40 million in six years? 

To put forth a new referendum in such a relatively short period of time afterwards undermines the decision of the Iqaluit homeowners.  If they said no the first time, just bang them with another one after, until they say yes. 

Interestingly, the plans for a new City Hall are going ahead despite the no vote in 2006 to borrow $6 million dollars for the building.  One would hope the costs would be borne by sources other than property taxes, because this is what ratepayers voted against in 2006, and wasn’t included in the recent referendum.

Why am I bringing this up even though the results are done? I am afraid of the next processes that will entail from here on end.

The push for a new aquatic centre seems to ignore the fact that the City of Iqaluit will have to undergo a water license approval process through the Nunavut Water Board for water use and disposal.

Given the biased process under the ratepayer’s referendum, I would be anxious whether that process will be fair and impartial. 

Where will the water be derived from for a 25-meter six-lane swimming pool, with an additional leisure pool, whirlpool and sauna to boot? Lake Geraldine? Does it even hold enough water? (Remember our water shortage fiascos last year after a water pipe burst?)

A previous City of Iqaluit report stated for example, that the reservoir could hold enough water for 5,900 residents.  This was in 2002, 10 years ago.

Where will the City of Iqaluit dump the chlorinated water from the new aquatic centre? Currently, the City of Iqaluit dumps human waste into a reservoir, the sludge is filtered and the remaining liquid waste goes into Koojjeese Inlet. 

How often will the chlorinated water from the 25-meter pool, the leisure pool and the whirlpool will be disposed of annually into Koojjesse Inlet? 

Does the City of Iqaluit, as a water use licensee, have plans for gathering baseline information on the current levels of chlorine it now dumps and the increased dumping of chlorine it will have in the future? The new aquatic centre will be seven times larger than the current one.

Many Iqaluit residents go fishing and netting on Sylvia Grinnell river and it’s delta, as well as near causeway. Many Iqaluit residents also go clam digging or seal hunting or beluga hunting.

I think this is one of the main reasons why there was a no vote in 2006, at least in the street talk I heard.  Either city staff don’t appreciate the importance of harvesting in Iqaluit or they just don’t care.

For the project to really move forward, the City of Iqaluit will have to be a little bit more realistic.  Either scale down the project for a more manageable and environmentally-friendly water use plan or use more funds for a larger lake reservoir and a filtering system that removes chlorine and other contaminants from pool waste water to acceptable levels that sea mammals can tolerate, including fish and clams.

I for one am quite hesitant to trust — I voted No in both referendums.

But in the second vote, my voting sheet stuck underneath the city councillor votes and I’m not even sure if it was properly scanned and counted, since the results were all digitally counted.

Iqaluit Ratepayer
(Name withheld by request)

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