First Air, Nunavut community airports get Ottawa money for upgrades
First Air will get $12.7M towards a new cargo warehouse in Iqaluit, while $22.5M goes to terminal revamps in five Nunavut communities
(Updated at 2:25 p.m.)
Ottawa plans to spend roughly $35 million from its National Trade Corridors Fund on two projects to improve air cargo transportation and airport safety in Nunavut.
One will see a new cargo warehouse built for First Air in Iqaluit. The other will see aging airport terminals either upgraded or replaced in five Nunavut communities: Kugluktuk, Naujaat, Kimmirut, Whale Cove and Chesterfield Inlet.
Yvonne Jones, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Crown-Indigenous relations and northern affairs and MP for Labrador, made the funding announcement in Iqaluit on Wednesday, May 15, when she said that her government wanted to “ensure that Canada’s transportation networks remain competitive and efficient.”
The Makivik Corp.-owned First Air airline will get $12.7 million towards building an expanded cargo warehouse near the new Iqaluit airport. The new facility will be much larger and more energy efficient than its aging, nearly 70-year-old facility.
This project will make “a significant impact on the daily supply of goods year-round for northerners,” a release on the funding announcement said.
First Air says that it shipped 19.4 million kilograms of freight out of Ottawa to communities across the Arctic last year, including food, mail and medical supplies.
In applying for money for the fund, the airline said earlier this year that it expected its cargo demands to increase by over 28 per cent over the next five years.
The new warehouse will increase cargo capacity by 75 per cent for products needing refrigeration. That should reduce the amount of goods sent north that end up spoiled due to weather delays.
The construction of the warehouse, which First Air has pegged at about $18 million, will also create about 120 jobs.
In Ottawa, for a separate project, First Air has partnered with the Ottawa Airport Authority and Aeroterm—which manages Ottawa’s FedEx shipping operation—to apply for an $8 million grant to expand its warehousing and refrigeration capacity at that airport.
The outdated and undersized airport terminals in Kugluktuk, Naujaat, Kimmirut, Whale Cove and Chesterfield Inlet are also slated to be replaced or upgraded. The $22.5 million cost for those projects is expected to mean about 220 jobs during construction.
The inclusion of the Kimmirut airport in May 16 announcement means staff and passengers at its airport can now look forward to an end of its 40-year-old terminal’s problems, which range from mould to broken pipes.
The current terminal building sometimes fills up with furnace fumes and aircraft engine exhaust, an employee told Nunatsiaq News earlier this year.
The decision to put money into airport infrastructure follows a report tabled at the House of Commons last May, when the Auditor General of Canada slammed Transport Canada for failing to keep northern airports safe and efficient.
Nunavut alone would need $463 million, in 2014 dollars, to meet the infrastructure needs of its airports, including $76 million to relocate two airports, in Kimmirut and Pangnirtung, so they can meet Transport Canada safety regulations, that report said.
It also took note of the big problem in Pangnirtung, where one of Nunavut’s air carriers told them the runway is too short and limits the type of aircraft that can land there.
But Pangnirtung was not included in this week’s announcement, nor was the change of the airport location in Kimmirut.
Last month, proponents of the Grays Bay road and port project in western Nunavut learned that they would not benefit from the $400-million fund dedicated to the three northern territories over the next 11 years.