Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: -none- September 12, 1997 - 10:20 am

Iqaluit government building site isn’t a done deal


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT A new Iqaluit town council to be elected next month would have the power to overturn a decision made in July to locate Nunavut government buildings in downtown Iqaluit.

“They’d have to look at the consequences if they overturn that decision,” said Mayor Joe Kunuk, who steps down from that post next month, when a new mayor and council are elected October 20.

Kunuk, along with Tagak Curley, president of the Nunavut Construction Corporation (NCC); Eliot Roger, an official with federal public works and government services; and Ian Mosher, Iqaluit’s municipal engineer, fielded questions from a crowd of about 100 residents who turned out for a meeting last Thursday evening.

The focus of the meeting was to discuss issues such as increased traffic, road access, and pedestrian safety as Iqaluit grows into its role as Nunavut’s capital, but many people wanted to rehash a July town council decision to locate new government buildings in the downtown area.

Pitsiula Akavak, chair of the community wellness organization Illitiit, told the panel that council’s decision was short-sighted.

“Our children will be blaming us for this mistake… for the havoc we’re creating,” she said.

Some who spoke said locating two large government buildings near the Parnaivik building downtown will congest the area, reduce residential property values, increase vehicle traffic, and endanger pedestrians, among other complaints.

Council and mayor criticized

Speaker after speaker during the evening criticized Mayor Kunuk and his council for not getting public input before the process was so far along.

“I think we waited too long for this public meeting,” Apex resident Alicie Joamie said. “You should have had it prior to deciding where the building would be located.”

NCC’s Tagak Curley said there’s no time now to revisit decisions that have already been made.

He was especially frustrated with the suggestion that a new council could overturn the July decision which gave the go-ahead to locate the new government buildings downtown.

“There are legal consequences in decisions being made by the municipality,” Curley challenged. “We have exactly 18 months to open Nunavut government in Iqaluit. Anyone attempting to delay that process is going to have to accept that Nunavut will not have facilities at that time.”

Curley was also quick to defend council’s decision after one speaker suggested that some councillors voted for the site because they stood to gain personally.

Conflict-of-interest denied

“It wasn’t a wide enough selection of council to truly represent the Town of Iqaluit as a whole,” said resident Hal Timar.

Councillor Kenn Harper, a well-known businessman, denied he was in a conflict of interest when he voted on the motion.

“It’s generally a thankless task being an elected official in a municipality, but we do it,” Harper said. “I have always declared a conflict of interest when there was the suggestion of personal gain.”

But the issue of location was far from settled. As the night wore on, so did the complaints. Some speakers even believed the meeting was simply a process and not an honest effort to hear community concerns.

“I’m getting the feeling we’re not being listened to,” said Becky Mike, as the meeting inched towards midnight.

Markus Wilcke, the vice-chair of Illitiit, wanted assurances from the panel that community concerns would be an integral part of the development.

“Is it irreversible… to perhaps reverse the decision to truly take into consideration what’s been said here?”

Following mandate

In an oft-repeated statement, Curley said his mandate is to follow the direction given by council.

“I can only go by the parameters and direction given to us by council,” he said. “We’ve been relying on the wisdom and leadership of the council. We should respect the democratic process.”

There are a number of hurdles left for NCC and federal officials to clear before construction can begin on the buildings.

Town council must rezone the area from residential to commercial. Federal officials have yet to submit an impact statement to the Town on the effect its building will have on the municipality with repect to snow drifting, wind, parking and traffic flow.

NCC has no designs for the buildings and the federal Treasury Board has not yet approved funding. NCC is also negotiating with Kakivak, a subsidiary of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, to use part of its lot for the construction project.

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