A bad decision


This Tuesday, four of Iqaluit’s eight town councillors made a bad decision.

They did so by reaffirming their commitment to an equally bad decision they had made last fall ­ to embrace the idea of planting new government buildings on Iqaluit’s four corners.

Iqaluit’s municipal government has a long history of questionable decision making. This decision continues that noble tradition.

Iqaluit’s residents have a long history of being alienated from their municipal government. This decision ­ made mostly behind their backs ­ will alienate them even more.

Iqaluit already has a well-deserved reputation for being a physically ugly and unappealing town. This decision will make the town of Iqaluit even uglier. Indeed, this decision is so bad it makes Rankin Inlet look like a good place to put Nunavut’s capital, after all.

The worse part of it, of course, is the demonstration of utter contempt for the common sense and intelligence of Iqaluit residents displayed by Iqaluit’s council and administration.

Whether they’re elected council members or salaried public officials, no one in the town has, until recently, shown that they’re even interested in listening to residents on this issue.

The reason for that, likely, is that keeping the public out of the decision for as long as possible was a deliberate strategy, created for the convenience of the municipal and federal bureaucrats whose only interest is in getting the job done, whatever the consequences.

It’s a strategy that allows them to now tell us that it’s too late to change the four-corners plan, for fear of upsetting the planning and building schedule that bureaucrats from the Town, the federal government and Nunavut Construction Corporation cooked up last fall.

“We can’t retract the direction we gave NCC and the government of Canada,” Councillor Kenn Harper said this Tuesday. “That would be irresponsible. It would damage our integrity and hold the council up to ridicule.”

Harper’s interest in preserving his council’s integrity and protecting it from ridicule is commendable. It’s too bad he didn’t think about that last fall, when he, the mayor, his fellow councillors, and the town’s administrators began a process that led to a decision that is, well, ridiculous.

There’s little to be done about it now.

Iqaluit Town Council has the legal right to make the decision they made. Unless it can be shown that the council violated a bylaw or some other legal requirement, those who oppose the decision to build at the intersection of Airport and Ring Roads have no recourse.

Still, after having been forced into it by the weight of public opinion, Iqaluit’s town council has now said it and the developer will consult people on issues like building design, traffic and parking.

It’s just a morsel of respect thrown in to sweeten the sour bucket of contempt that Iqaluit town councillors have just dumped on our heads. But Iqaluit residents should take advantage of it anyway.

Here are a few inconvenient questions you may want to throw at your favourite town councillor the next time you get a chance:

* One of the new three-storey buildings to be put up at the four corners is for the Town of Iqaluit.

The building is to be 25,000 square feet in size. Has anyone bothered to do any rational planning and research to find out if the Town needs this amount of space? How will the Town pay for it? And will Iqaluit’s long-suffering ratepayers get a chance to find out what they’re paying for before they get stuck with the bill?

* The Nunavut legislative assembly’s temporary meeting hall will be located in one of those buildings. Will there be enough room to accommodate a large public gallery? Will there be room for adequate translation services in Inuktitut and French? Will there be room for videoconferencing equipment and other electronic media? What about daycare? Room for taxi stands?

* What will happen to Nunavut Arctic College’s arts and crafts building, home to one of the college’s more successful and popular programs? Will they get another lot? And has Nunavut Arctic College even agreed to having their building dragged away?

* Has Iqaluit’s hunters’ and trappers organization agreed to having their building dragged away? Will they get another lot?

* Iqaluit residents would like to walk their streets without fear of being run over. Will there be sidewalks? Traffic lights? Pedestrian crossings? And will there be money to pave our deteriorating roads?

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