Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 23, 2014 - 8:17 am

New Iqaluit airport dominates Nunavut’s capital budget

Of $205.6 million in capital spending, Iqaluit airport eats up $77.3 million

PETER VARGA
A First Air jet flies over Iqaluit’s beach at the height of the 2014 sealift season. Marine infrastructure won't get any improvements next year, according to the Government of Nunavut’s capital budget estimates for 2015-2016. Spending on Iqaluit's new airport will be sky-high, taking up more than 37 per cent of the capital budget. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)
A First Air jet flies over Iqaluit’s beach at the height of the 2014 sealift season. Marine infrastructure won't get any improvements next year, according to the Government of Nunavut’s capital budget estimates for 2015-2016. Spending on Iqaluit's new airport will be sky-high, taking up more than 37 per cent of the capital budget. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)

Of the $205.6 million that Government of Nunavut officials plan to spend on capital projects next year, they’ll spend a whopping $77.3 million on their Iqaluit airport project, the GN’s main estimates reveal.

About 40 per cent of the territory’s capital budget for 2015-16 — $81.4 million — will go to the Department of Economic Development and Transportation.

Almost all of that — $77.26 million — will go to one project: the GN’s massive $418.9 million airport, a public-private-partnership that will take more than 30 years for the GN to pay off.

Tabled by finance minister Keith Peterson on Oct. 21, the capital budget is now in front of MLAs, who are going through it in committee of the whole

The Iqaluit airport spending figure dwarfs all other GN capital spending items for 2015-16.

Next in line, by the size of their capital estimates, are:

• Education: $37.8 million

• Nunavut Housing Corporation: $30 million

• Community and Government Services: $27.9 million

• Health: $17.1 million

• Nunavut Arctic College: $4.8 million

• Justice: $2.3 million

The departments of Family Services, Environment, Culture and Heritage, and the Office of the Legislative Assembly follow with capital estimates of less than $2 million each.

As minister of the department with the biggest spending plans, Kuksuk was first to face MLAs in a committee of the whole session, Oct. 22, for the start of a line-by-line review of the 2015-16 capital budget.

Kuksuk said his department’s $77.2 million payment for the Iqaluit airport is just the start of a series of yearly instalments that the government will pay into the project until 2048.

“The funding in 2015-16 will be used to service out payment obligations,” he told MLAs in a pre-written statement.

A consortium of firms, known as Arctic Infrastructure Limited Partners started work on the new airport complex in June.

The project is a private-public-partnership, or “P3” — undertaken jointly by the government and AILP.

The GN payments are going to AILP, which “assumed operation of the airport on July 21, 2014,” Kuksuk said.

Through a new entity called Nunavut Airport Services Ltd., the private firm now manages the Iqaluit airport.
“A value-for-money analysis determined that the government would save in excess of $100 million” by doing the project as a P3, Kuksuk said, repeating information that the GN released many months ago.

The ED&T department’s remaining $4.4 million in spending is divided into four groups of small projects.

Topping the small list are investments for airports throughout Nunavut.

This includes purchases of runway inspection vehicles and maintenance equipment for airports in specific communities, to the tune of $599,000, and the purchase of heavy equipment for five communities, amounting to $1.7 million, Kuksuk said.

The GN will also spend $500,000 “to make minor improvements to community marine facilities across Nunavut,” the minister said.

“While modest, this investment demonstrates our commitment to the development of marine infrastructure,” Kuksuk said.

Funding for regional visitors’ centres is the smallest of the four categories, amounting to $101,000 for renovations to centres in three communities.

Under the heading of “motor vehicles,” Kuksuk’s department allotted $1.2 million in 2015-16 for a new motor vehicle information system.

The system “manages the data for all Nunavut’s driver’s licenses, (Nunavut) general identification cards, and vehicle registration information,” Kuksuk said.

George Hickes, MLA for Iqaluit-Tasiluk, noted that Nunavut drivers are not informed when their vehicle registration’s due date is approaching, and asked if drivers would receive renewal notices under the new system.

Lack of renewal notices are likely responsible for the rash of lapsed registrations police discovered in Iqaluit last year, he said.

Kuksuk’s deputy minister, Pauloosie Suvega, agreed.

“Our hope is that the new system will have that feature, to allow standardized notifications to go out,” he said.

The government’s “modest” $500,000 investment in marine infrastructure drew a barrage of questions from Pat Angnakak, MLA for Iqaliut-Niaqunnguu.

She noted that past governments had started drafting plans for a deep-sea port in Iqaluit, and marked the building of small craft harbours throughout the territory as priority.

“Over the years, many community members stand up and say they want more marine infrastructure. So what are your long and short-term plans to get additional funding?” Angnakak asked Kuksuk.

“In terms of the long-term future, large docks, harbours and so on, the federal government is the government that would need to come up with large infrastructure dollars in this area,” Kuksuk replied.

Lack of marine infrastructure in Iqaluit is starting to cause a safety hazard in the territorial capital, Angnakak said.

She estimated that more than 100 boats take to the sea every summer.

Their number grows every year, she said, yet the city only has two launches — a small breakwater and a crumbling causeway — to accommodate them.

“It’s becoming a real safety issue,” Angnakak said, adding the government should work more closely with all municipalities to fill the need for docks and harbours.

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