Port promise moves along

“It wasn’t said, but it’s implied”



A recent meeting with the Conservative government’s defence minister “shows a lot of promise” that Nunavut’s capital will have its dream of a deep water seaport realized, says Iqaluit’s deputy mayor.

But that’s unlikely to happen until the next election, and only if the Conservatives are re-elected.

Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik, Deputy Mayor Glenn Williams and Iqaluit MLA Ed Picco met Gordon O’Connor, minister of National Defence, in Ottawa last Tuesday to discuss the Conservatives’ election promise to build a deep water port in Iqaluit.

“The minister explained to us he has a very large, long to-do list,” Williams said at a council meeting this Tuesday.

O’Conner told them his priorities include replacing the Canadian military’s aging search and rescue aircraft and transport planes, Williams said.

But O’Connor remains dedicated to following through on two major improvements to the Canadian military’s presence in the Arctic, Williams said.

The first improvement would develop a location in Nunavut for cold-weather training of military staff. The second improvement involves building a port.

However, O’Connor’s department appears to have no short-term plans to begin developing the port.

“It wasn’t said, but it’s implied we’d be looking at this new port after the election,” Williams said.

The Iqaluit delegation left with O’Connor a copy of the city’s strategic plan to develop a deep water port. That plan, written last summer, estimates that a port could be built for $49 million, and completed as early as October 2009, if there’s the political will.

Williams said he remains hopeful that the early steps of developing a port can begin before the next federal election. Those steps include conducting environmental studies and submitting an application to the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

“We’re still hoping we’ll get a certain amount of funding, so we can go ahead with environmental monitoring and baseline data,” he said, explaining the largest amounts of money are required only after the first two years of development.

During the last federal election, the Conservatives appeared to promise stationing 500 troops in Iqaluit — a claim that puzzled many onlookers, who wondered where these troops would stay and what exactly they would do.

Williams said O’Connor cleared the matter up during the meeting.

“That seemed to be a bit of a misunderstanding. They want the ability to handle as many as (500 troops), with troop changes,” Williams said. “They wouldn’t necessarily be permanently staffed positions.”

O’Connor plans to visit Iqaluit this summer to inspect the potential port site, Mayor Sheutiapik said at the meeting.

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