Western Nunavut to pressure new government on Grays Bay
“We need to target decision-makers in the government”
CAMBRIDGE BAY—The Kitikmeot Inuit Association wants to make sure the Grays Bay Road and Port project remains a top government priority, because the Oct. 30 territorial election could see western Nunavut left out of the territory’s leadership circle.
That’s because two of the Grays Bay project’s biggest champions, Peter Taptuna and Keith Peterson, are not seeking re-election.
The upcoming election could result in “a cabinet that may have quite different priorities than the ones which we have enjoyed under [outgoing] Premier Peter Taptuna,” KIA President Stanley Anablak said Oct. 16 in his president’s report to the annual general meeting of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association in Cambridge Bay.
Taptuna, who comes from Kugluktuk in western Nunavut, did not seek re-election. He will hold the premier’s position until the new legislative assembly chooses a new premier and cabinet this November.
After 13 years in the legislature, Cambridge Bay MLA Peterson, who served in the cabinet most recently as minister of justice and finance, also decided not to run again.
“Going forward, it is very important that the leaders of the 5th Legislative Assembly hear from Kitikmeot residents about just how crucial this project is for our region’s economic future. It has to continue to be a territorial priority,” Anablak said.
The $500-million Grays Bay Port and Road project will help remedy the Kitikmeot’s “high levels of poverty, high unemployment, a lack of affordable housing and a cost of living much higher than that found in southern Canada,” Anablak told AGM delegates.
To keep the big-ticket project in the minds of decision-makers, the KIA and its subsidiary and co-proponent, the Nunavut Resources Corp.—originally founded in 2010 to develop resource-rich Inuit owned lands—have hired lobbyists in Ottawa.
“We need to target decision-makers in the government, especially at the highest political levels if we are going to get any traction on this project in the timeframe that we need to work in,” said the NRC’s report to the AGM.
No information on the NRC’s finances was provided to the meeting, but earlier this year the Government of Nunavut, also a proponent of the Grays Bay project, said it would spend $2 million on the Nunavut Impact Review Board environmental review process for Grays Bay and “make this project ready for consideration.”
The challenge before the project promoters now is to raise the money needed—about $500 million—which likely can’t come from one source, such as the new national trade corridors fund, which has only $400 million over 11 years for the three territories.
The first phase of Grays Bay would see a deepwater port in western Nunavut at Coronation Gulf on the Arctic Ocean and a 230-kilometre all-season road between the port and the site of the abandoned Jericho diamond mine.
The project would aim to encourage mining development such as the now-shelved MMG zinc mine and serve as a cost-efficient corridor for goods to the region.
MMG said in 2014 that unless a partner was found to invest a “quite substantial” amount of money to build a deepwater port and airport at Grays Bay and a microwave broadband network (also one of the NRC’s goals) the majority Chinese-government-owned company wouldn’t go ahead with the project.
To allay environmental concerns about Grays Bay outside the region, where groups like the World Wildlife Fund have already criticized the project, the KIA also plans to let environmental groups and southern taxpayers know “this is an Inuit-led project where protection of wildlife and the land is a foremost concern.”
To delegates at the KIA meeting the message was that the Grays Bay road project will be caribou-friendly.
The road will managed in a way so as to not harm caribou, KIA delegates heard. These assurances were offered by Scott Northey, treasurer of the NRC; former KIA president and current NRC Chair Charlie Evalik; Rod Northey—Scott’s brother and a lawyer; along with a third lawyer, Jennifer King.
“Our objective is your objective—how do we avoid harm to the caribou,” said Rod Northey.
“This will not be a normal road.”
It will be a publicly available road, but it would have managed access, he said.
Protection of wildlife and land are a “foremost concern,” he said, and the project will be developed “in a manner consistent with Inuit values” and it will feature a “novel road management to avoid calving.”
Caribou in western Nunavut are, according to surveys, struggling to maintain their numbers, according to information provided to the AGM by the Government of Nunavut.
The population of the Bathurst caribou herd, which has in the past calved in the area of the proposed road, stood at around 450,000 animals in the mid-1980s, but as of 2015, that number had shrunk to about 16,000.
Since July, there’s been a hunting quota of 30 proposed pending a community-based management plan.
And then there’s the Bluenose East caribou herd, also in decline, under a quota of 340 this year, which has been in place since January 2107, while a management plan is developed,
The Dolphin and Union herd has also been named at special concern under the Species at Risk Act—and a management plan is pending for that herd.
The NIRB has to decide whether an impact assessment for the project, which filed a proposal with the regulators in August, is required.
The KIA says it supports a full NIRB assessment because government money won’t start to flow unless there is environmental assessment approval.
You can find more information at the Grays Bay Road and Port Project website.
There are also multiple documents related to the NIRB’s environmental screening at the NIRB’s online public registry.