Rate hearings catch Iqaluit unprepared
Council to ask Nunavut Power for three-week delay
Iqaluit city councilors say they need more time to look at the proposed power price increases before making a presentation to the Utility Rates Review Council.
The URRC plans to hold public hearings in Iqaluit on Nov. 4 and 5. City council will ask that the Iqaluit hearings be moved to the end of the month, after the URRC has finished a 20-day tour of several other communities.
Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik sits on the board of Qulliq Energy Corporation. To avoid a conflict of interest, deputy mayor Chris Wilson took the lead on the power rate issue on behalf of the city.
Wilson confessed to council on Tuesday that he “fell asleep at the switch” and did not realize the impact that the rate increase could have on Iqaluit.
Ian Fremantle, the chief administrative officer, agreed that the city needed more time to prepare a “knowledgeable response” to the proposal.
“At first blush, it doesn’t look good for new businesses hoping to start up here,” Fremantle said.
Stu Kennedy, a city councilor and businessman, made a swift appeal for council to work with other groups, such as the Iqaluit Chamber of Commerce, which may also have an interest in opposing the proposed rates.
To make a strong case for a lower rate increase, Councillor Glenn Williams suggested illustrating for the Nunavut Power Corporation the impact on Iqaluit residents.
“There is a misconception that Iqaluit is a cheap place to live,” Williams said. “This is one of the most expensive places to live in Nunavut.”
Williams suggested a household study that shows the real cost of living in Iqaluit, the only community in Nunavut that levies property taxes on homeowners.
Councillor Simon Nattaq added his own suggestion for material at the hearings.
“If rates rise, perhaps somebody will mention to them the subsidy that the Government of Nunavut provides,” Nattaq said. “I hope that it will also rise when rates rise.”
Several council members said that Tuesday was the first time they had received notice of the public hearing, until Councillor Nancy Gillis presented the group with a full-page ad that the Nunavut Power Corporation placed in newspapers this week and last.