There’s no funding earmarked to address Iqaluit’s water crisis in the Department of Community and Government Service’s capital budget, which will be presented Tuesday, Minister David Joanasie said Monday.

Iqaluit-Sinaa MLA Janet Brewster pointed out that a long-term solution to the city’s water and sewage infrastructure needs is estimated at more than $100 million.

“It’s widely understood that our ability to grow as a capital and address such issues as the housing shortage is under threat by the constraints imposed by this infrastructure crisis,” said Brewster.

She asked Joanasie when his department will submit a request for federal financial assistance to bring an end to Iqaluit’s water woes once and for all.

The minister replied that the territory’s infrastructure deficit is widespread and other Nunavut communities also face boil water advisories periodically.

“We are working with the city (of Iqaluit) as well as other partners federally to try to address the city’s challenges around the aging infrastructure and we also have Rankin Inlet, for example, my colleague brought up and there are many others,” he said, adding that the City of Iqaluit receives $4 million in block funding as a tax-based municipality as well as a share of the federal gas tax fund.

Brewster asked when the GN will be releasing its proposed Drinking Water Strategic Framework, which was supposed to be ready in 2020-2021.

Joanasie noted that the study involves multiple departments and he wouldn’t commit to having it ready before the end of this sitting, “but at the earliest opportunity.”

Sanikiluaq, Rankin Inlet requests

That same day, Hudson Bay MLA Daniel Qavvik reminded his colleagues that Sanikiluaq “has experienced serious issues with its drinking water supply for a number of years now.”

Joanasie explained that a new water treatment plant is required in Sanikiluaq and the project is in the planning stage.

“The community’s water infrastructure is not capable of treating the unique water quality situation and their water source. The treatment technology that’s being proposed there is for the new treatment plant to have reverse osmosis and this is due to the high salinity,” said Joanasie.

Qavvik noted that a 2019 GN report estimated the cost of a new water treatment plant at close to $8.8 million while it would cost a projected $32.5 million to instead obtain water from a new source that is eight kilometres from the community.

Joanasie said the government hasn’t yet decided which route it will go.

Also on March 7, Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet MLA Alexander Sammurtok inquired about the status of a new water treatment plant for Rankin Inlet.

The minister responded that a business case for upgrades to Rankin Inlet’s aging water infrastructure should be complete by the end of this month.

“The capital funding which we will be requesting as CGS for Rankin Inlet may not be in the 2022-23 budget, but as the planning is near completion, requests for capital funding will be made for the water treatment facility in Rankin Inlet,” said Joanasie, who added that planning for a new wastewater treatment solution for the community is almost complete as well.

Once the business cases are done, then “we will try to proceed with the funding applications and secure funding where we can,” he said.

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