Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 06, 2017 - 7:59 am

Canadian North airline copes with loss of ACL freight contract

"It is a blow to our operations"

JANE GEORGE
Following the new agreement between First Air and the Arctic Co-operatives Ltd., the Cambridge Bay Co-op store now get its merchandise shipped via First Air instead of Canadian North. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Following the new agreement between First Air and the Arctic Co-operatives Ltd., the Cambridge Bay Co-op store now get its merchandise shipped via First Air instead of Canadian North. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Peter McCart, Canadian North's senior vice president, speaks to a gathering of Kitikmeot mayors in Cambridge Bay about the airline's loss of the Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. contract. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Peter McCart, Canadian North's senior vice president, speaks to a gathering of Kitikmeot mayors in Cambridge Bay about the airline's loss of the Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. contract. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

CAMBRIDGE BAY—Canadian North’s loss of the lucrative Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. air cargo contract for the Kitikmeot and Baffin regions of Nunavut to First Air this past summer is a huge blow for the northern airline, a company executive said earlier this week.

The airline’s senior vice president, Peter McCart, recently described it as “a big change,” but that might be an understatement: the contract represented more than 900,000 kilograms of air cargo per year in the Kitikmeot region alone.

The positive is that the contract’s loss opens more space on flights for people who buy items in the South and want them shipped north quickly, McCart said Oct. 4, at a meeting of Kitikmeot mayors in Cambridge Bay.

The negative is that the loss of a major customer such as the ACL means the airline has had to reduce or cut certain routes in the Kitikmeot and Baffin regions, he said.

“It is a blow to our operations,” McCart said, although he later added that the airline is already having some success in replacing the lost cargo volumes, which could result in more flights being restored.

McCart told Nunatsiaq News that Canadian North had put in a “competitive bid” for the ACL contract’s renewal.

He and others at Canadian North were taken off-guard when they learned, only nine days before the Aug. 31 expiry date, that they had lost out to First Air the longstanding contract to bring food and merchandise north.

“We know we didn’t get the contract, but we don’t know by how much,” McCart said.

Canadian North had worked with ACL before the Nutrition North Canada program came into effect April 1, 2011.

After 2011, its cargo delivery contract with ACL enabled the airline to introduce 25 new flights, mostly in the Baffin region.

Following its acquisition of Arctic Ventures in 2012, the ACL also started to use Canadian North, instead of First Air, to supply that store in Iqaluit.

Canadian North is owned by the Inuvialuit of the Northwest Territories through the Inuvialuit Development Corp.

Canadian North’s loss of the ACL contract follows the breakdown of its codeshare agreement with First Air, which is owned by Nunavik’s Makivik Corp.

Last November, First Air announced would pull out of that agreement.

Among other consequences, the end of the codeshare deal prompted Canadian North to stop serving the North Baffin community of Clyde River.

No one from First Air was able to attend the Kitikmeot mayors meeting, although a message from First Air, read to the gathering Oct. 5, said that the mayors of the region’s five communities would each receive round-trip tickets to Edmonton via First Air “to use as they see fit for their communities.”

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