Iqaluit city council wants this summer’s big infrastructure projects to continue
Deepsea port, new jail and housing developments still awaiting additional approval
Iqaluit city council supports the Government of Nunavut’s recommendation to push ahead with three big infrastructure projects in the territory’s capital this summer.
But Nunavut’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Michael Patterson, will have the final say in weighing the benefits of advancing these projects this summer against the risks they pose in potentially spreading the COVID-19 pandemic.
The three projects are the city’s deepsea port, correctional healing centre and two Nunavut Housing Corp. developments. The Government of Nunavut says that delays to these projects would create significant financial and public safety risks. Iqaluit city council unanimously agreed with the GN’s assessment during a meeting on Friday, May 1.
“I support everything,” said Coun. Joanasie Akumalik. “We need the harbour and we need the treatment centre and we need housing.”
On March 24, as part of its ongoing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Government of Nunavut implemented travel restrictions, only allowing residents and critical workers to enter the territory after a two-week isolation period in the south.
Among those potentially affected by these precautions are the specialized workers involved in construction projects throughout the territory during the summer.
Not having these workers may have implications for each of the given projects.
While acknowledging that the pandemic has created ongoing uncertainties, the GN has been evaluating which projects could reasonably proceed this coming summer.
In total, the GN has identified 55 critical projects spread across over 20 communities with a total project value of just over $594 million that it recommends proceed, if pandemic conditions allow.
Those projects range in size from some involving as few as three workers over a one-week period to others, like Iqaluit’s deepsea port and small-craft harbour, requiring more than 70 workers over an eight-month period
Part of the approval process for these critical construction projects involves the support of municipalities, with the option to either approve the projects in their jurisdictions or defer them to next year.
To assist in the municipal decision-making process, the territorial government assigned financial and public safety risk levels to each of the projects.
For Iqaluit’s deepsea port and correctional healing centre, the financial implications of delaying the 2020 season involve a risk of up to $19 million in delay claims.
In terms of public safety risks, or the negative impact on community well-being should the projects be delayed a year, the two housing developments and the healing centre were also flagged as high.
As a result, councillors unanimously supported the recommendations, with the condition that plans showing how each project intends to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 be provided to the city.
However, even with council approval, there is no guarantee that these projects will move forward.
In addition to community support, Patterson would need to sign off on the projects, and each would need to abide by any parameters laid out by him at that time.
Not part of the discussion were some of the city’s own construction plans, including water pipeline replacements and sewage upgrades.
“We’re reviewing those in detail right now and looking at all of the options to be able to get the work done without bringing workers from the south,” said Amy Elgersma, Iqaluit’s chief administrative officer.
“When we get a little further along, we may be coming to council for such recommendations.”
The next Iqaluit city council meeting is on May 12.