Delay the Keewatin resupply plan


For a large number of Keewatin residents, perhaps most of them, the government of the Northwest Territories has lost its legitimacy.

Since the 1995 territorial election, no region in the NWT has had more direct experience with the current government’s arrogance and dishonesty.

Because of this, relations between many Keewatin residents and the GNWT have deteriorated to a level where any new initiatives even useful ones are likely to be greeted in by Keewatin residents with suspicion and hostility.

What’s astounding about all this is that the Keewatin one of the smallest regions in the NWT is disproportionately represented in the territorial cabinet by two members, Keewatin Central MLA John Todd and Aivilik MLA Manitok Thompson.

The GNWT’s many failures in the Keewatin region are almost all directly linked to the abysmal failure of these two MLAs in properly representing the people of their region within the executive branch of the territorial government.

Look at the evidence: Since 1995, the list of Keewatin residents rising up to oppose GNWT-sponsored initiatives in the region usually reads like a who’s who of the Keewatin’s political leadership.

These initiatives include the odoriferous conflict-of-interest scandal that attached itself to the GNWT’s $90 million eastern Arctic fuel distribution contract in 1995, the GNWT’s concurrent attempts to gain a share in Canarctic Shipping, the Rankin Inlet tank farm fiasco of 1995-96, a bizarre deal earlier this between the Keewatin Regional Health Board and the Kiguti dental services firm, and the KRHB’s sudden decision this summer to drop its longstanding arrangement with the University of Manitoba.

The latest ill-conceived GNWT initiative to be inflicted upon the Keewatin is a plan is to fast-track a new system of delivering petroleum products to Keewatin communities.

Right now, Keewatin communities get their fuel supplies from barges that depart from Churchill every summer. The fuel gets to Churchill by rail from western Canada.

Late last year, the Keewatin Resupply Committee, made up of the region’s mayors, MLAs and other officials, recommended that after the creation of Nunavut in 1999, the Keewatin should gradually move towards a different system: direct delivery of fuel products from Montreal via ocean-going tankers.

But the GNWT, whose cabinet endorsed that report, is now distorting the resupply committee’s recomendation’s to justify something quite different. That plan is a proposal to go ahead with the new system before 1999, and before necessary hydrographic, environmental, and economic studies can be completed.

Under their proposed approach, a $10 million system of pipelines would be installed in four communities and be financed through a long-term lease between whoever wins the contract and the GNWT. After division, it would be up to the government of Nunavut to make those lease payments.

The GNWT, therefore, is prepared to inflict this dubious plan not only on the people of the Keewatin, but as a financial burden to be borne by all the people of Nunavut. All by itself, the lease-back proposal is a violation of the Nunavut Act, as Nunavut Tunngavik has recently pointed out.

And because hydrogaphic work in the region hasn’t been finished, the GNWT’s plan would have ocean-going tankers loaded with petroleum products sailing into areas that haven’t been charted. That’s an unnacceptable environmental threat.

Interim Commissioner Jack Anawak, who is theoretically responsible for representing the future Nunavut government’s interest in dealings with Yellowknife and Ottawa, has already shown that he’s the GNWT’s interim commissioner, not Nunavut’s.

Anawak, who has the power to waive the Nunavut Act to allow the GNWT to enter into contracts on behalf of Nunavut that extend beyond the year 2001, said in a interview with CBC last Friday that the GNWT’s Keewatin resupply plan is a good idea.

Since the plan is backed by Anawak’s longtime political/business ally, John Todd, it’s not surprising that Anawak has so quickly forgotten his job description.

That means Goo Arlooktoo, the NWT’s deputy premier and the person, who, as minister of public works, is responsible for heading up the GNWT’s Keewatin resupply project, must take the lead in standing up for the people of the Keewatin and for Nunavut.

After hearing directly from the people of Rankin Inlet, Baker Lake and Arviat earlier this month, Arlooktoo must know that the only honourable course for the GNWT is to delay the project until after 1999.

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