Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut April 02, 2014 - 1:17 pm

Norterra deal “a long time coming,” Nunasi Corp. chair says

Nunasi still not sure if it can pay dividends to Nunavut regional Inuit organizations

SARAH ROGERS
Okalik Eegeesiak, chair of Nunasi Corp. says the corporation is focused on returning to profitability. (FILE PHOTO)
Okalik Eegeesiak, chair of Nunasi Corp. says the corporation is focused on returning to profitability. (FILE PHOTO)

The sale of Nunasi Corp.’s stake in Norterra “has been a long time coming,” said Nunasi’s chairperson, Okalik Eegeesiak.

Nunasi and the Inuvialuit Development Corp. announced April 1 that they struck a deal for the IDC to purchase Nunasi’s half of Norterra, giving the Inuit of the Inuvialuit region full ownership of Norterra member companies like Canadian North and Northern Transportation Co. Ltd., a marine shipping firm.

Nunasi, which is in the process of restructuring, said the move will help grow businesses and help the Inuit-owned corporation return to profitability.

But Okalik reassured Nunavut beneficiaries that, under IDC’s ownership, there will be no change in the level of service provided by Norterra’s companies in the territory.

“Some people are concerned about how service will be impacted, like through Canadian North,” Eegeesiak said April 2. “But it’s business as usual and we hope their good service will continue.”

IDC will continue to subsidize airfare for Nunavummiut passengers through Canadian North’s Pivut program, which offers discounts of at least 65 per cent off fares for beneficiaries and their spouses.

When asked what other plans Nunasi might have in store under its ongoing restructuring, Eegeesiak said that “Nunasi is always looking at way to improve, and we hope other opportunities will come along.”

Eegeesiak said Nunasi has a business strategy in place that for now still includes some partnerships with the Inuvialuit.

Nunasi and IDC remain shareholders of two companies, National Aboriginal Services Company and Pan Arctic Inuit Logistics Corp.

But the latter took a hit just this past week, when the federal government awarded a contract to Raytheon Canada Ltd. for the operation and maintenance of the North Warning System — 47 unmanned radar stations that stretch across the Canadian Arctic.

Raytheon will take over the job from Nasittuq, a joint-venture between Atco Structures and Logistics and Pan Arctic Inuit Logistics, which had done the work since the 1990s.

It’s unclear what impact that will have on Nunasi and IDC.

Eegeesiak acknowledged the corporation has seen a number of “immediate changes,” the impacts of which “don’t always materialize overnight.”

Financial details of the Norterra agreement are confidential, and Eegeesiak wouldn’t say what the sale represented in terms of stabilizing Nunasi’s bottom line.

“We just want to make sure that dividends are going to the regions and to the benefit of the people in the end,” Eegeesiak said.

Nunasi was not able to pay out dividends following its 2012-2013 financial year, and Eegeesiak said she is still unsure it will be able to pay dividends for 2013-14, as the corporation is currently undergoing an audit.

But in late 2012, the chairman of Nunasi’s board of directors, Wilfred Wilcox, told the Kivalliq Inuit Association the corporation wouldn’t be in a position to give our dividends for at least two years.

In past years, these annual dividends brought more than $400,000 a year to the regional Inuit organizations.

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