Iqaluit mayor: Nunavut capital needs “transformational investment”
“We can’t do it by ourselves”
Huge changes and opportunities for business lie ahead for Iqaluit, but the city could use more support from government to help build and maintain its infrastructure.
That was main message from Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern during an April 26 breakfast talk hosted by the Iqaluit Chamber of Commerce, the first event in the chamber’s new series.
What Iqaluit chiefly needs now is “transformational investment,” said Redfern, speaking at the Hotel Arctic before an audience of about 50 people, which included a cross-section of businesspeople, government officials and politicians including Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson and Nunavut Health Minister George Hickes.
Redfern talked about how thriving Arctic communities are showing what’s possible, places such as Tromsø in Arctic Norway, home to a university that has transformed from a fishing village into a vibrant city.
But to get from here to there in Iqaluit, “we can’t do it by ourselves,” Redfern said in her pitch to the business community which, according to her count, now includes about 300 businesses.
Redfern conjured up an evolving northern city with one billion dollars of new infrastructure coming in the next five years—a new correctional centre, Nunavut Arctic College campus and a port, just to mention a few of the projects.
But Redfern said Iqaluit has even bigger infrastructure needs and the cash-poor city can’t easily access or raise the 25-per-cent equity contribution needed to apply for federal infrastructure programs.
So even if Ottawa provides up to 75 per cent for a project, the city can’t come up with the remaining 25 per cent on its own.
And the Government of Nunavut, at least this fiscal year, can’t provide further assistance beyond the gas tax and capital block funding, which means Iqaluit and other Nunavut communities are going to miss out on these federal infrastructure funds.
“That model doesn’t work for us,” said Redfern, suggesting 10-90 split for the infrastructure would work better for Iqaluit, with its small tax base.
Among Iqaluit’s other pressing needs: a “big energy fix,” Redfern said.
The city pays $1 million for its diesel-furnished electricity, which likely won’t be impacted significantly by alternative energy projects any time soon, she said.
The carbon tax, which obligates provinces and territories to place a surcharge or levy on carbon-based fuel starting in 2018, could be directed to help build, for example, the hydroelectric project Iqaluit has lobbied for and which has been on hold since 2015.
Iqaluit also needs improved telecommunications: “We’re paying a lot for very, very poor service,” she said.
And that’s not all. Iqaluit’s roads, pipes, drainage and booster stations also have to be fixed or replaced to support bigger infrastructure projects.
The city also needs a new housing subdivision, a seniors’ centre, more daycare spaces and a university, which would feed economic growth.
Interesting, said Terry Dobbin, a businessman and city councillor, who attended Redfern’s talk. But he added he’s more keen to see Iqaluit focus on basic municipal services.
The Chamber of Commerce’s second breakfast is scheduled for May 25 with Sherri Rowe, Nunavut’s deputy minister for Economic Development and Transportation, who plans to talk about “Nunavut Today and the Opportunities in Our Future.”