NTI: Keewatin fuel pipe plan violates Nunavut Act

Nunavut Tunngavik has joined a long list of people and organizations who have been pouring scorn on a GNWT plan to change the way Keewatin communities get their fuel supplies.


IQALUIT Nunavut’s Inuit land claim organization says the GNWT’s proposal to award a long-term contract to lay more than 10,000 metres of fuel pipe in four Keewatin communities may violate the Nunavut Act.

“Section 73(1) and 73(4) of the Nunavut Act prohibit the Interim Commissioner from entering into agreements that will extend beyond April 1, 2001 and require that the governor-in-council approve such a agreements,” an NTI news release says.

The GNWT plan, which has produced an uproar in the Keewatin and in the legislative assembly recently, would have the pipeline work paid for over a long-term lease that would extend beyond the year 2001.

The pipes would recieve fuel products transported to the Keewatin from the South on ocean-going fuel tankers. Right now, fuel is shipped to each Keewatin community from Churchill, Manitoba on small barges owned by the Northern Transporation Company Ltd.

The communities of Chesterfield Inlet, Coral Harbour, Arviat and Rankin Inlet would all get new fuel pipelines to be built, owned and leased back to the territorial government by whatever company wins a request for proposals expected to be issued by the GNWT.

The new plan, NTI says, could saddle the future Nunavut government with a financial burden they wouldn’t have created or asked for.

“The pipeline proposal will create a long-term commitment that will not provide any benefit prior to April 1, 1999 and only questionable benefits after that, while creating a long-term liability on the Nunavut government that it will not be able to limit,” NTI says.

KIA takes same position

On Wednesday this week, the Kivalliq Inuit Association issued a news release announcing their formal opposition to the project.

“This proposal makes no sense, no matter what you look at it,” KIA President Paul Kaludjak said. “The GNWT has overstepped its bounds by trying to make this decision.”

Both KIA and NTI say no changes should be made to the Keewatin resupply system until after April 1, 1999, when the Nunavut territorial government will be able to deal with the issue.

That’s a view shared by many other Keewatin organizations.

On Oct. 20, Glenn MacLean the president of the Keewatin Chamber of Commerce wrote to Public Works Minister Goo Arlooktoo, saying that “it is with total disbelief that this announcement was made concerning the fuel resupply issue.”

MacLean said the Keewatin business community unanimously supports waiting until 1999 before changing the system of fuel resupply in the region and that they have no choice but to “protest and condemn this decision.”

That idea was one of several recommendations made last year by the Keewatin Re-Supply Committee, a group of Keewatin leaders put together by Public Works Minister Goo Arlooktoo to study the now-defunct idea of putting a multi-million dollar tank farm into Rankin Inlet that would replace the port of Churchill, Manitoba as the Keewatin’s fuel transportation hub.

Contrary to re-supply committee

The re-supply committee recommended that the Keewatin region should eventually move towards direct re-supply of fuel, but only after 1999.

The man who chaired that committee, Kivallivik MLA Kevin O’Brien, is one of several MLAs who have been bombarding GNWT cabinet ministers with questions in the legislative assembly about the new proposal.

On the second day of the assembly’s Oct. 22-23 cabinet review, Arlooktoo fended off numerous questions about his government’s proposal.

“I think it’s one of those issues that’s caught everyone’s attention,” O’Brien said.

“The cabinet appears to be breaking the rules that they made and that they agreed to and it doesn’t seem to matter what we say anymore. I think the ordinary members are getting to the point where they’ve just had enough.”

O’Brien said that includes consultation with the four affected communities to make sure that the pipes aren’t badly located, and an environmental review to study the risks of having ocean-going tankers entering uncharted waters around those four communities.

No environmental review

But that environmental review can’t be done until after hydrographic mapping of the waters around the four affected communities are studied.

“If you’re going to bring in big ships into these communities through these corridors, you have to know where you’re going and to get the environmental review, you have to get the mapping done.”

And he said an environmental review is a necessary safeguard that all Keewatin residents have an interest in.

“What happens in those waters is going to affect people for the next 100 years such as an Exxon Valdez incident,” O’Brien said.

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