Air Labrador flying high over community partnership

Second weekly flight out of Iqaluit to begin next week

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

CHARLOTTE PETRIE

It seems Iqaluit and Labrador’s Happy Valley-Goose Bay can’t get enough of each other.

While members of both business communities are busy wheeling and dealing and mayors are signing off on political partnerships, Air Labrador is fueling up for a second weekly flight between Nunavut’s capital city and the airline’s home base of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Beginning next Tuesday, Air Lab will be offering a second flight with the same stops in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and St. John’s, Newfoundland.

“The future between the two communities, in one word, is awesome,” said Ward Pike, the airline’s vice-president of marketing and sales.

“Before too long, things are going to develop between us so well that we’ll be providing two to three flights a day – and you can quote me on that,” he added.

Discussions with mayors, deputy mayors and business people all resulted in the same thing, Pike explained.

“Everybody said, you got to add that second flight. So that’s what we did.

“And in order to do justice to the corporate market, including the government market, and allow everybody the opportunity to get back and forth every week for business we really do need a second weekly flight.”

Influence from the business community also resulted from a recent trade show and conference held in Voisey’s Bay by the Labrador North chamber of commerce. Nineteen delegates from Iqaluit attended.

Steve Cook, president of the Iqaluit chamber of commerce and executive of the Baffin regional chamber of commerce, said the experience inspired a host of new business ideas and partnerships.

More recently, the city of Iqaluit voted unanimously to enter into an agreement to twin with the community of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, adding political strength to a blossoming entrepreneurial relationship.

The addition of a weekly flight is only the beginning, Pike indicated. Come September, the airline plans to add a second aircraft.

The plane currently serving Iqaluit is a 19-seater Beech 1900D, the second aircraft will be the 37-seater Dash 8. The company also plans to replace the existing Beech 1900D with a second Dash 8, bringing the total number of available seats from its current 19 to 74.

Not only will seat capacity increase, but freight service as well.

“We don’t have a lot of freight capacity right now, which is going to change. And it’s definitely a result of an increased demand by industry people,” Pike said.

In particular, the increase in demand has come from wholesalers, food suppliers, and people from Newfoundland and Labrador living up North who want things that aren’t available in Nunavut.

Dave Hunt, president of the Labrador North chamber of commerce, believes in taking the freight industry one step further, from the air to the sea.

“We are looking at opening up our area as a distributor for the North, supplying not only things produced in Newfoundland and Labrador, but stuff we get from Ontario and Quebec,” Hunt said.

“We can turn a ship around from Labrador to Iqaluit in seven days, as opposed to the two weeks it takes the sealift to get from Montreal to Iqaluit. We’ve just got to find out how to make it competitive cost-wise.”

There are also four wholesalers in Happy Valley-Goose Bay that act as the distribution centre for the rest of Labrador.

“Food, cleaning supplies, Pepsi and Molson products and office supplies – those are some of the items we hope to deliver from Labrador for cheaper than Ontario or Quebec,” Hunt said.

A second flight means an additional opportunity for Iqaluit residents to visit Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and vice versa, said the community’s mayor, John Hickey.

Hickey played a big part in promoting the twinning of the two communities, and said he’s “ecstatic” about the partnership.

“A lot of us don’t understand each other because we don’t know each other,” he explained.

Hickey plans on remedying that situation. He’s been talking with the Lake Melville minor hockey league about setting up a tournament between the local team and Iqaluit’s minor hockey team, which would see each team travel to its opponent’s hometown.

He also remarked on the recent fire in Iqaluit that destroyed Joamie School, offering to send needed supplies or help of any kind.

“That’s what twinning is all about – getting to know each other better and helping each other out.”

Iqaluit Mayor John Matthews said he sees great potential for the venture.

“It is only very, very recently that work has been done on creating an atlantic connection and I think it’s just the beginning,” he said.

“I see it going a lot further in terms of eventually connecting beyond Labrador to Nova Scotia, and even New England, such as Boston, for example. The more we do here, the more likely we’ll see and increase in travel and communication between those places.”

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