Baker Lake residents may eventually have the chance to fly directly to Yellowknife without passing through Rankin Inlet.
The hamlet is trying to gauge interest in regularly scheduled flights to Yellowknife by circulating a survey among community members on the proposed route.
The surveys, which are a available for pick up at the hamlet office, were posted by Mayor Richard Aksawnee on Baker Lake’s community Facebook page on July 12.
Darlene Nukik-Amaruq, Baker Lake’s economic development officer, said the hamlet is not currently in a position to say whether any airlines have expressed interest in offering the flights.
Jessa Earle, Calm Air’s vice-president of human resources and marketing, told Kivalliq News that the airline had not heard anything about the route.
A representative for Canadian North also said that airline had no information regarding the potential new flights.
Nukik-Amaruq said any such service would depend on the response from surveys.
“If there’s enough interest, there may be a flight,” she said. “Hopefully in the next week I’ll get more forms returned to me.”
The survey asks respondents to state how interested they would be in direct passenger and cargo service between Baker Lake and Yellowknife on a scale of one to 10.
It also asks how frequently respondents would want to fly, what their top three reasons for travel would be and whether they would be interested in ordering items from big box stores in Yellowknife.
Silas Arngna’naaq, a former MLA from Baker Lake, is one of several residents who filled out a survey in support of the proposed route.
Arngna’naaq told Kivalliq News there used to be direct flights from Baker Lake to Yellowknife in the 1980s but they “fell through over time.”
On a personal note, two of Arngna’naaq’s children are currently working in Yellowknife. One of the reasons he is in favour of the route is because bad weather in Rankin Inlet can affect flights throughout the rest of the Kivalliq.
He pointed out that sometimes weather is bad in Rankin Inlet but good in Baker Lake. But because there are no direct flights from smaller communities to the NWT, travellers either get stuck at home or in a hotel waiting for storms in Rankin Inlet to clear.
“Very often you’ll be weathered out in Rankin Inlet and you’ll be weathered out from a flight from another part of the region,” he said. “When my daughter was getting called to the bar, it was perfect weather in Baker but fogged out in Rankin, so I missed her getting called to the bar. That’s just one example of the stories.”
Arngna’naaq also pointed out that having more flights to Yellowknife might open up new job opportunities for Baker Lake residents.
“There’s a gold mine in Baker Lake and the life of the mine is questionable. Agnico (Eagle) has lots of miners that local workers are already trained. I believe Agnico bought out TMAC Resources. If there were direct flights, Agnico would then be able to hire Inuit to work at that mine since they are already hired by Agnico.”
From a shopping perspective, Arngna’naaq said it would be much quicker and cheaper to order things online from Yellowknife than from Winnipeg, if direct flights were offered.