Nunavut faces the steepest transportation challenges out of any province or territory in the country. Composed mainly of Arctic islands and vast, frozen wilderness, moving people and cargo is crushingly expensive and logistically daunting.
There are virtually no roads connecting communities, shipping lanes are frozen half the year, there are minimal re-fuelling stations and weather wreaks havoc on any and all modes of travel. Getting from point A to point B is an ever present struggle throughout Nunavut.
This difficulty in supplying goods and bringing people together affects productivity, adds layers of complications to medical travel and means even the best laid travel plans are often all for naught.
The recent airline merger of Canadian North and First Air has thrown more uncertainty into the mix.
That being said, in the face of the tremendous challenges, people have found a way to thrive.There has been progress in the past decade in terms of harbour development, particularly in Iqaluit, where a deepwater port is under construction. Marine travel is a very large and essential part of transportation in Nunavut and needs proper respect and funding as such.
Iqaluit’s new $72 million port, equipped with nearly four hectares of loading zone, is currently expected to be operational by summer 2020.
But as great as big ticket items such as this port might be, it only stands to directly assist a portion of Nunavummiut.
Communities need breakwaters, refuelling stations with proper mooring posts and small craft launches, among other things.
Earlier this year, to the exasperation of MLAs, the Government of Nunavut put a halt to marine infrastructure projects in order to conduct a study of community needs.
“I think we all know, for those of us who live in the communities, that there doesn’t really need to be a detailed study done,” said Aggu MLA Paul Quassa at the time. “We know what the community needs and what has to be done with regard to marine infrastructure.”
Pond Inlet is set to complete a small-craft harbour soon, which is to allow the drop off of goods during sea-lift season. Pangnirtung is the only other community nearby with a engineered harbour.
The GN may have felt there was good reason to delay the projects but developing marine infrastructure should be a never ending process.
Another option to promoting new infrastructure routes would be resource development.
Although there are strong arguments for and against mining and other forms of resource extraction, one major pro is the development of energy and transportation infrastructure.
If investment can be encouraged and infrastructure built, mobility between peoples will increase and help form a strong and healthy territory.
Once, Inuit were able to get all that they needed from the land and got around well enough with the use of dog teams and qajaq. But as Nunavut opens itself to the world around it there comes an expectation that the amenities of the outside world will be delivered efficiently and fairly.
This expectation needs to be accommodated if Nunavut is to grow and prosper.