GNWT looking at delay of Keewatin pipeline contract

After hearing complaint after complaint from people in Rankin Inlet, Baker Lake and Arviat, Public Works Minister Goo Arlooktoo is hinting that he may change his department’s plans for fuel resupply in the Keewatin.


IQALUIT Public Works Minister Goo Arlooktoo said this week that he may consider delaying the GNWT’s latest fuel resupply plan for the Keewatin until he after he meets with officials from Northern Transportation Company Limited.

Right now, NTCL barges based in Churchill, Manitoba supply fuel to most Keewatin communities.

But Arlooktoo says the GNWT can save money by moving as quickly as possible to a direct resupply system using ocean-going tankers based in Montreal.

Many Keewatin residents believe, however, that their region isn’t ready for such a system. At meetings in Rankin Inlet, Baker Lake and Arviat last week, many residents told Arlooktoo they want to delay the idea until after the Nunavut government is created in 1999.

Can NTCL cut costs?

“I went in there with an open mind,” Arlooktoo says of his mini-tour of the Keewatin last week. “The leaders that spoke and several people in the meetings all spoke against it.”

But he said the resupply system his government is proposing would save a lot of money over time.

That’s why Arlooktoo says he wants to talk to NTCL to see if the company has any suggestions about reducing costs in the event that the GNWT decides to delay the project.

“There’s no incentive right now to keep costs down,” Arlooktoo said.

He also said that the Baffin region which has always had direct resupply of fuel products from Montreal is “subsidizing” the cost of barge-supplied fuel in the Keewatin and Kitikmeot regions.

“The Baffin has a very efficient system that actually subsidizes the Keewatin, Kitikmoet and part of the West,” Arlooktoo said.

O’Brien still wants delay

Kivallivik MLA Kevin O’Brien, an aggressive critic of the GNWT’s plans, says he still believes that the only choice available to the GNWT is to delay direct resupply of the Keewatin until after 1999.

That, O’Brien says, will provide enough time to allow the GNWT to finish hydrographic studies of waters around the Keewatin so that captains sailing ocean-going tankers into the area will know where they’re going.

“The bottom line is that the charts aren’t done,” O’Brien said this week.

Safe for shipping?

He said that Captain Rick James, a retired Arctic mariner hired by the GNWT as a consultant on the hydrographic work, admitted that even he wouldn’t want to sail a tanker into areas that aren’t charted yet.

But Arlooktoo said all the affected harbours have been charted, and that it’s only a 10-kilometre corridor offshore from those communties that hasn’t been charted.

“We’re 99 per cent sure that the area is safe,” Arlooktoo said.

Arlooktoo also said that Nunavik communities on the eastern side of Hudson Bay have been getting direct resupply for many years.

O’Brien, on the other hand, said the GNWT should still abide by the conclusions of the Keewatin Resupply Committee, which last year recommended that the Keewatin move to direct resupply only after 1999.

“The GNWT has no business negotiating a contract on behalf of the Nunavut government,” O’Brien said.

Under the contract that the GNWT is proposing, a contractor would build and lease the new fuel pipes back to the GNWT, and then to the government of Nunavut over a long-term lease-back arrangement.

That has prompted Nunavut Tunngavik to oppose the deal on the grounds that it violates the Nunavut Act.P> Under the Nunavut Act, the interim commissioner can’t enter into a contract on behalf of Nunavut that extends beyond the year 2001.

O’Brien also said that he expects that the GNWT will eventually decide to delay the proposal until after 1999.

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