Snow place to get a plow: Nunavut MLA slams GN hamlet equipment funding
“We are finding now that some communities could end up with surplus in mobile equipment"
Sanikiluaq doesn’t have enough snowplows to dig itself out after a storm, due to the flawed way in which the Government of Nunavut funds equipment for small communities, says Hudson Bay MLA Allan Rumbolt.
“This winter, there were several occasions where we only had a D6 to plow snow. I do not think that is acceptable,” Rumbolt said on May 29 in a committee of the whole meeting at the Nunavut legislature.
A D6 Caterpillar is a kind of bulldozer that can be used for snow removal
But the D6 is no match for the snow and blizzards sometimes seen by the island community of Sanikiluaq, Rumbolt said.
His community, which has a population of about 1,000, only has one plow because a second plow is often broken, and even the one that works better hasn’t started every time the hamlet needed it this year.
“To me, the amount of equipment we have is inadequate,” said Rumbolt, who, as a longtime MLA, remembers when in 2009-10 the GN moved to a block funding model for mobile equipment that was meant to give communities more freedom to buy heavy equipment.
At the time, “I wasn’t sold on the amount that communities get,” Rumbolt said. “To me, it was OK if you had all the equipment up to date.”
But for communities like his, where equipment was 20 or 30 years old already, the snowplow-buying program didn’t work.
“It is very hard to catch up,” he said.
“How does the government work with hamlets to ensure that they have enough equipment to do the work that is required in their communities?” Rumbolt asked, while MLAs reviewed the budget lines for the GN’s operations and maintenance budget.
Lorne Kusugak, the minster of Community and Government Services, said he remembers when that funding change was made nine years ago, but agreed that communities that started with ageing equipment then are having problems now.
And the same block funding program has led to an imbalance where some communities have more equipment than they need for the number of roads there are, he said, while others—like Sanikiluaq—are left without the tools they need to dig themselves out from an extended Arctic storm.
“We are finding now that some communities could end up with surplus in mobile equipment because they do not have as many roads to plow, clear snow, and grate,” Kusugak said.
Kusugak said the CGS department is looking at using funds from the 2018-19 budget to “revamp” the program.
While he hadn’t heard about the lack of plows in Sanikiluaq, Kusugak said his department is “mostly” aware of equipment shortages in each community when it comes to “their struggles with snow removal.”
“It is something that seems to be trending throughout the territory,” he said.
Years in which the territory sees “a huge dump of snow” make that need more apparent.
Snow clearing has a large impact on the lifespan of infrastructure like buildings and roads, MLAs heard earlier this month, during a committee review of the auditor general’s report on climate change in Nunavut.
But Kusugak said he understands that communities are challenged to keep up with that pressure.
“You barely get enough time to remove snow, never mind moving it to appropriate places,” he said.