The GN is currently reviewing First Air’s application for a parcel of land in Iqaluit where the company hopes to build its new cargo warehouse.
The company received $12.7 million towards the new building from the National Trade Corridors Fund in a May 2018 announcement.
“Requests for leases on airport land are all reviewed for potential impacts they may have on the airport operating environment,” said John Hawkins, assistant deputy minister of transportation for the Department of Economic Development and Transportation.
“The department is working with First Air to ensure that any proposed development does not impact the safety, operational efficiency, or long-term development of the airport.”
Additionally, Hawkins says the application must conform to airport zoning requirements, regulatory standards, operational plans, and the airport master plan.
With the construction of the new Iqaluit International Airport, which opened in summer 2017, a new commercial area to the west of the airfield was created to allow for new hangars. Prior to that, Canadian North’s new cargo hangar opened in the area in 2009, and was built to accommodate long-term growth.
First Air’s current cargo facility is 70 years old. While the trade corridors funding is to help support the flow of goods, its goal is also to help support new technologies and innovation.
In 2017, First Air shipped almost 20 million metric tons of cargo freight out of Ottawa to Northern communities, including food, mail, medical supplies and other goods. The company expected cargo demands to increase by 28 per cent over the next five years.
Marketing and communications manager Dan Valin said the company is working with the GN to maximize available land space.
“We want to ensure that we make the best use of the space to have a facility that meets the needs of our operations,” he said, adding the company has designs in place, with different footprints and configurations depending on the total space allotted.
Valin also noted the merger in the works between First Air and Canadian North does not change plans for the facility.
“As far as the Canadian North facilities are concerned, we are still evaluating the infrastructure plans within the context of the merger at this time and we will ensure that all infrastructure is optimized for our operations,” he said.
The air carriers are currently awaiting final regulatory approval for that merger.
Valin says 2020 is still the target date for completion.
When Yvonne Jones, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs made the funding announcement last year, she emphasized that 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.
“The new facility will improve our food storage capacity – both cold storage and dry storage – this will hopefully benefit all of our customers and will allow us to improve the food life cycle in the shipment process,” said Valin.
“Improving the life cycle with better cold storage facilities for example can lead to less food loss and less requirements for extra shipments or new shipments. This could lead to cost savings.”
The new facility is also expected to ensure the efficient and timely shipping of fish from Pangnirtung to southern markets.
“The improvement of our cold storage capacity will allow us to better manage shipment capacity with them, which will allow them to send larger shipments if needed,” said Valin.
The First Air project is expected to create an estimated 120 jobs during construction.