Team Nunavut gets additional travel funding
300 Nunavut participants to attend upcoming Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse
In mid-March teams from across Canada’s northern regions and elsewhere in the circumpolar world will descend on Whitehorse for the Arctic Winter Games.
On Tuesday afternoon, Nunavut’s MLAs ensured that Team Nunavut would be among them, approving an additional $544,000 operations and management appropriation for the 2019-20 budget.
When originally budgeting for the games, the Department of Community and Government Services requested a little more than $1.6 million.
Since then, the cost of air travel to the games has increased, from $723,000 to just over $1.2-million.
“Airlines indicate these higher costs relate to fuel prices, additional mileage to Whitehorse, increase in participant numbers, and an additional plane to transport sled dogs to compete in mushing events,” said Finance Minister George Hickes.
When later asked for clarity as to which airlines would be providing transportation for the team, Hickes responded that he didn’t have the name, but identified that there would be a mix of chartered and scheduled flights.
Some MLAs found the large increase in costs concerning.
“I would say maybe there wasn’t enough preplanning,“ said Paul Quassa, MLA for Aggu.
He wasn’t alone.
“It’s a big hit, the $2 million. That is four public housing units,“ said John Main, MLA for Arviat-Whale Cove, referencing the new combined price tag to send the team to the games.
According to Hickes, Team Nunavut will be sending 300 participants—athletes, coaches, managers, youth ambassadors and mission staff—to the games this coming year, 54 more than they did in 2018.
“When we look at the N.W.T. or the Yukon, how many participants and athletes are they sending to the Games? Are they in that 300 range or are we sending the largest team?” asked Main.
Hickes didn’t know.
Roughly $200,000 of the new budget goes to an additional plane required for the two sled dog teams that will be competing in March.
“$100,000 per dog team. That is pretty steep,” said Main, later adding, “We support the young people, but we have to take the costs into consideration.”
Cathy Towtongie, MLA for Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet, drawing upon her experience in the field, also weighed in.
“I have been with the Canadian Dog Racing Association for about 30 years. Looking at the costs, it seems huge, but I want the regular members to know that the lead dog, if you are going to be competing, is $6,000, the wheel dog is $3,000, and if you are going to get a competitive type of sled, standing sled, it’s going to be approximately $3,000, including the fact that these types of dogs, they are now putting computer chips into the dogs so we don’t switch them. Looking at that cost of airline, $200,000, in perspective to me, would be realistic.”
Before approving the additional funds Main chimed in once more.
“I would just like to voice my concern that apparently the government did not, to the best of our knowledge, approach any other parties in terms of sharing the cost of the Arctic Winter Games. I would strongly recommend that for future years and future expenditures of this type that private organizations are approached in terms of cost-sharing because I do not believe that the government has sufficient funds to pay for everything by ourselves without partners all the time.”
With that the vote was taken, the funds approved and Team Nunavut—dog teams and all—will have a chance at the podium in March.