Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut August 07, 2014 - 10:30 am

Iqaluit city councillor Akumalik unloads on Nunavut, federal governments

“I don’t think we should let them off the hook”

PETER VARGA
Unsafe, smoking dumps that violate government regulations are not unique to Iqaluit, and it’s time territorial and federal governments took some responsibility for them, Iqaluit city councillor Joanasie Akumalik said Aug. 6. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)
Unsafe, smoking dumps that violate government regulations are not unique to Iqaluit, and it’s time territorial and federal governments took some responsibility for them, Iqaluit city councillor Joanasie Akumalik said Aug. 6. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)

The territorial government’s treatment of Iqaluit’s dump fire shows it doesn’t understand the realities of the city, and the federal government isn’t any better, Iqaluit city councillor Joanasie Akumalik said Aug. 6.

“I don’t think we should let them off the hook,” Akumalik said at a meeting of council’s finance committee of the whole, Aug. 6.

The committee chair, Coun. Stephen Mansell reported at the meeting that the Government of Nunavut overestimated the city’s reserve funds as a means to pay to put out the dump fire.

In a public letter to the city sent Aug. 1, the GN claimed Iqaluit had $7.5 million in unrestricted reserves.

The city “does have the necessary funds to extinguish the fire, given the stated $2.4 million cost estimate and revised plan announced by the city last week,” the letter reads.

The city’s fire chief said more recently that the fire department’s projected cost to extinguish the dump fire comes to $3.3 million.

But Mansell, after consulting with city administration, found the city has only about $4.4 million in “unrestricted, unencumbered reserves.”

The government mistakenly assumed that some borrowing obligations for the city’s aquatic centre were unrestricted, he said, and it failed to consider “money set aside for emergencies,” such as water and sewer break-downs.

“I am confused, and maybe others are as well, with the message from the Government of Nunavut and the federal government,” Akumalik commented.

“They never fund the city very well in terms of infrastructure, and Iqaluit is always growing.”

On top of water and sewer line breakdowns, which seem too common, Akumalik said the city’s long delayed plan for a new landfill and waste management plan shows that both levels of government “have not fully enforced their own regulations to protect health and the environment over the years.”

“We see burning garbage all the time, in all communities,” he said.

Health concerns about the dump fire are also confusing, Akumalik said.

Even though the territory’s chief medical officer of health has stated that the dump fire is not a medical emergency, “we have a health advisory which states the dump fire smoke could have an impact on vulnerable people,” such as those with heart and lung disease, young children, pregnant women and the elderly.

Akumalik added he is baffled that the federal government would undertake a military exercise such as Operation Nanook, slated to begin Aug. 20, and costing several millions of dollars — yet ignore the dump fire.

“We hosted the prime minister during Operation Nanook in 2012, when it cost $16.5 million for the military exercise,” Akumalik said. “This coming exercise is to save a cruise ship.

“I think we should ask them to tackle a real problem instead of a scenario – and put out the dump fire. That way the tax dollars could be well spent.”

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