Two dozen attend workshop on long-term planning process

Iqaluit told to learn from Yellowknife's mistakes


Take it from Yellowknife, plan before you grow.

Mark Heyck, a city councillor in the Northwest Territories' capital, said Iqaluit can learn from Yellowknife's mistakes as it tries to put together a long term plan.

Heyck said Yellowknife historically responded to gold and diamond mining booms by throwing together as much housing for itinerant workers as possible, without considering the long-term consequences.

"If you don't have those [planning] principles in place when the growth hits, you're going to develop in a way the community's not happy with," he said.

Heyck was in town Monday to speak to nearly two dozen Iqalummiut at a public meeting meant to gather community input on Iqaluit's planning process, which is in its infancy compared to Yellowknife's, which started in 2004.

He described Yellowknife as a one-time model of unsustainable development, with a toxic legacy of 270,000 tonnes of the gold mining byproduct arsenic trioxide stored underground.

But the labyrinth of mine shafts that still run under the city also offer a glimmer of hope for the future: the temperatures down there stay at 35 to 40 degrees Celsius all year, Heyck said, and that has Yellowknife considering tapping them as a source of heat and a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

That's just one of the ideas contained in Yellowknife's community energy plan, which seeks to cut emissions from city operations by 20 per cent and from the entire city population by six per cent by 2014.

Yellowknife developed its plan through a series of public meetings and just created a committee including members of the public to push the process along. The key, Heyck said, is to stick with it.

"If you don't have a dedicated person working on it, it ends up on the desk of a person who's got a stack of work this high," he said, raising his hand to eye level.

Iqaluit city council voted Tuesday jto hire a full-time sustainability coordinator to replace Isabel Budke from the International Centre for Sustainable Cities in Vancouver, who was seconded by the city this summer to kickstart the planning process.

Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik has dragged some of the long-term planning proposals through a sometimes-reluctant city council, saying future infrastructure money from Ottawa depends on having a plan in place.

On Monday, she told the forum the process is "becoming a normal practice" for cities and also brings the community together.

So far, the city has "visioning workshops" with youth, elders, ratepayers and the private sector.

"Slowly but surely the groups are growing," Sheutiapik said.

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