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Jim Little in tears as unit he led consigned to junk heap

City scraps solid waste committee


At times choking back tears, Coun. Jim Little angrily protested against a move by Iqaluit City Council to shut down its solid waste standing committee during a public works meeting April 18.

But that didn't stop councillors from dissolving the committee, following a 4-2 vote at Tuesday's council meeting. Little and Coun. David Alexander opposed the motion.

Solid waste matters will now be dealt with by the city's public works committee of the whole. However, council also agreed to strike a temporary committee that would make recommendations on how to extend the life of the city's dump, and improve the city's waste management efforts.

Little, who chaired the solid waste committee, wondered what the point was of starting from scratch.

"We had such great potential with the committee as it was," he said.

Councillors also decided to merge the engineering and public works committees of the whole.

Earlier, at the April 18 committee of the whole, Little accused city staff and other councillors of trying to undermine public participation in solid waste issues. The solid waste committee included members of the public, while committees of the whole include only councillors and city staff.

"It boggles my mind that (council) would consider for one minute telling the people of this community that their opinions, that their efforts as volunteers don't count," Little said at the meeting, his voice breaking. "They want to participate in the building and the establishment of a good healthy community and we are denying them that opportunity."

Hall replied that most city meetings, including those of the newly merged committee, are open to members of the public, who are also free to appear before council and committees as delegates.

Little also claims city staff targeted the committee because it raised questions about the city's practice of pumping sewage sludge and metal-laden run-off into a holding pond near the city dump. Committee members are worried the pond will overflow and contaminate nearby camping grounds at the causeway and the mouth of the Sylvia Grinnell River, Little said in an interview.

Gary Pon, another member of the solid waste standing committee, is also unimpressed with the decision. He said the city needs people who are willing to immerse themselves in the nitty gritty of waste management.

"The whole reason you have a committee like that is so you can vet the technical details, sweat the small stuff," Pon said, adding there's talk among committee members of continuing on as a community group.

The committee was founded in 2000 to guide the creation of a new landfill and encourage the city to divert more of its waste through recycling. That led to a short-lived door-to-door recycling program the city later scrapped because it cost too much money.

The committee has long since fulfilled its mandate and the city should have shut it down sooner, said Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik.

"If you look at the terms of reference, it's completed," she said. "We (the city) missed the boat in that sense."

But if that's the case, Little said, give the solid waste standing committee a new mandate instead of shutting it down.

"Maybe my drivers license ran out. Well you renew the drivers license. It doesn't mean you stop driving."

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