If all goes according to plan, the Government of the Northwest Territories' airlift to resupply Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk residents will begin later this week.
The GNWT received a low bid of $1.75 million from Summit Air to fly goods into the communities that were deprived of a final sealift barge in early October due to increasing ice. The shipping of materials by plane comes as a relief to some, but remains insufficient for others because timelines won't meet some business's commitments to fulfill contracts and vehicles are being excluded from the airlift, said Jim MacEachern, who attended a public meeting with GNWT officials and about 40 community members in Cambridge Bay on Monday evening.
"There definitely was backlash, there's no question about it," MacEachern, the community's assistant senior administrative officer, said of reaction at the public meeting. "People are frustrated. Everyone has their own unique situation. It's not a one-size-fits-all type of solution... the businesses are going to take a significant hit."
The reason that the GNWT's final barge, under the Marine Transportation System division, was a month behind schedule – originally scheduled to arrive in Cambridge Bay on Aug. 27 – still hasn't been fully explained, according to MacEachern.
"They talked about how bookings in May were lower than expected," he said. "I think people appreciate that they (the GNWT) are going out of their way to try and help, but there's still a lot of confusion and angst about how it transpired, why it transpired, why people aren't getting their vehicles."
The GNWT will store those stranded vehicles in a compound in Inuvik until next year's sealift.
In Kugluktuk, NWT government officials met with close to 25 residents on Oct. 11. The question also arose there about how the shipping delay occurred, leading to impassable ice conditions.
"The bottom line is, and we realize and they realize, they should have been here earlier before the ice came and got it done," said Don LeBlanc, Kugluktuk's senior administrative officer. "I guess somewhere along the line someone is going to have to admit, 'Yeah, we made a boo-boo.' Mother Nature didn't help."
Although many people are unhappy with the circumstances, LeBlanc said the government officials seemed forthright in providing responses.
"They came across very professional and very honest. They didn't hesitate to tell it like it was," he said, adding that the GNWT representatives also went on air through the local radio station for a half hour to explain the actions they're taking.