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$40 million in federal funding heads to Nunavut

First Air will build a new cargo hangar in the capital thanks to a $12.7 million contribution from the National Trade Corridors Fund. Kugluktuk, Naujaat, Kimmirut, Whale Cove and Chesterfield Inlet are also getting new airport terminals with $22.5 million from the fund.

Michele LeTourneau/NNSL photo
Labrador MP Yvonne Jones, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett, announced $ 35 million destined for Nunavut from the National Trade Corridors Fund May 16 in Iqaluit on behalf of Minister of Transport Marc Garneau. Jones also announced an additional $5 million for the territory from the Airports Capital Assistance Program.

"The program is designed for both public- and private-sector partnerships," emphasized Labrador MP Yvonne Jones at a news conference in Iqaluit May 16.

Jones is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett, and announced the funding on behalf of Minister of Transport Marc Garneau.

The cargo hangar proposed by First Air will allow more goods to be stored and transported properly, while ensuring better-quality food and services reach many communities, said Jones.

Two proposals for Pangnirtung and Kimmirut airport relocations, for which the Government of Nunavut had requested a total of $11.6 million, were rejected by the feds. Kimmirut senior administrative officer Kimberley Young told Nunavut News in April that the community suffered food insecurity and health-related issues due to being dependent on smaller planes at the mercy of the weather.

Young said a few days of bad weather can lead to a plane-full of food going directly to the dump, because the food arrives rotten after sitting for days in Iqaluit.

"We can go with no milk, no bread, no nothing for a week if we can’t get a flight in," she said.

Jones said the federal government is looking at whether those two projects will even be needed.

"Because the airline configurations are changing," she said. "With First Air's addition of new aircraft going to those communities, it will be sufficient to handle the capacity and the frequency, and ensure an overall better service."

First Air president Brock Friesen announced new aircraft are coming within weeks. He noted the current cargo warehouse is 69 years old, and the new warehouse – expected to be completed by early 2020 – would ensure the efficient and timely shipping of fish from Pangnirtung to southern markets.

"We cannot underemphasize the importance of fish," he said.

A subsequent news release stated the First Air project is expected to create an estimated 120 jobs during construction, while the five new airport terminals are expected to create an estimated 220 jobs during construction.

Canadian North responded to its competitor receiving millions in federal funding.

"Overall, Canadian North is pleased to see the Government of Canada and the Government of Nunavut investing in Northern aviation infrastructure. Canada's northern airline sector is the cornerstone of Northern transportation and is essential to the health and sustainability of the communities we serve," said communications manager Kelly Lewis.

"Our own Iqaluit hangar and cargo handling facility opened in 2009 and was built to accommodate long-term growth. As a result, we have no reason to upgrade our facility at this time and it was not necessary for us to apply for this funding."

Jones also announced $5 million from the Airports Capital Assistance Program for a Clyde River airside/runway improvement project.

Additionally, Jones said a new program based on food security to replace the existing Nutrition North Program would be unveiled in the next few months, but was unable to provide a time frame.

"But I can tell you work is well underway to finalize what a new program will look like."

Jones said that food security goes beyond subsidizing the price of fruits and vegetables. Infrastructure investments, such as to First Air's new cargo warehouse and improved airport facilities, were part of the big picture to bring down the cost of food.

Minister of Community and Government Services Lorne Kusugak, speaking on behalf of Minister of Economic Development and Transportation Joe Savikataaq, said the new terminal buildings would be built over the course of the next four years.

"The residents have been waiting for these projects for many years, just like we're waiting for a new terminal in Rankin Inlet," said Kusugak.

"Nunavut's participation in the economy has grown dramatically over the decades since the current air terminals were built. Now more than ever, airports are gateways for communities to join the world economy. Once completed these new terminals will continue to serve their communities for decades to come."

Kusugak said he was just as pleased with the news about Clyde River, adding aircraft and passenger safety would be improved while extending the life of the runway for the next 10 to 15 years.

Jones noted more than 300 proposals came in from across the nation to access the National Trade Corridors Fund, and the current announcements were coming out in the very first year of an 11-year program.