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Kitikmeot airlift could be completed in a few weeks, says GNWT official

The airlift of cargo into Cambridge Bay, Kugluktuk and Paulatuk, NT, is on pace to be complete in a few weeks, weather permitting.

At a bid of $1.75 million, Summit Air, with its fleet of cargo planes, was the successful bidder on the GNWT's airlift contract for Cambridge Bay, Kugluktuk and Paulatuk. photo courtesy of Summit Air
The airlift of supplies into Cambridge Bay, Kugluktuk and Paulatuk, NT, stood at 166,500 kg as of Oct. 26.
photo courtesy of Summit Air

That was the assessment as of Oct. 30 from Derrick Briggs, director of Marine Transportation Services.

The airlift, involving various cargo planes, began on Oct. 18. A total of 166,500 kg had been delivered to the three communities as of Oct. 26, representing 28 per cent of the cargo to be shipped, according to Briggs.

He confirmed – as Kitikmeot residents stated earlier in October – that MTS is providing a full refund for nine Cambridge Bay residents and one Kugluktuk resident who purchased vehicles that won't be delivered by barge until next summer. Those vehicles, which are being stored in Inuvik for the winter, will now be shipped free of charge.

Cambridge Bay's Suzanne Maniyogina is one of the individuals who has accepted a refund, but as a mother of four with occasional back problems and no other vehicle in her possession, she's still stuck without transportation this winter. Her repeated requests for an interim vehicle from MTS have fallen on deaf ears, she said.

"I'm not getting anywhere with anything," said Maniyogina. "I'm still rushing and struggling, trying to make it to work, school and child care."

Peter Laube, owner of contractor Kalvik Enterprises in Cambridge Bay, said building and renovation materials for his business are "trickling in" but some items, like flooring, have been damaged in transit, he said. The building supplies were crated in Edmonton but then removed from the crates by MTS and placed on palets for the airlift – but sometimes it arrives in a confusing fashion, Laube said.

"They're putting different customers' stuff on the same skids," he said. "Unreal. Unreal."

Laube added that he's still trying to come to agreement with MTS for financial compensation for his business losses.

Wally Schumann, the GNWT cabinet minister responsible for Marine Transportation Services (MTS), survived an Oct. 31 non-confidence motion over his performance.

Despite the Department of Infrastructure's denials, Yellowknife MLA Kieron Testart insisted that the department's poor planning and pursuit of industry contracts led to the barge departing a month late for the Kitikmeot then encountering impenetrable sea ice in late September.

"Since the acquisition of MTS (in December 2016), the department has prioritized private cargo deliveries over community resupply. Communities are getting the short end of the stick. The minister has made excuses, but the truth of the matter is that MTS had ample opportunity to resupply Paulatuk and the other communities in Nunavut," Testart said. "(MTS) had become preoccupied with chasing private contracts in Alaska and the Sabina gold mine in Nunavut, putting business interests above the needs of everyday people."

The miscue has resulted in a projected $3.4 million in extra expense for the GNWT as it moves much of the remaining barge cargo by airlift.

Schumann repeatedly stated that one has to have "thick skin" to run a business and he said he stood by his decisions.