Our airports need upgrades as badly as Iqaluit: Nunavut MLAs
“Kimmirut and Pangnirtung are also urgently in need of new airport facilities"
Two Baffin MLAs have been peppering Nunavut’s minister of economic development and transportation, Peter Taptuna, with questions about Iqaluit’s proposed new $300-million international airport.
They say the airports in their communities need urgent upgrades.
South Baffin MLA Fred Schell started off the questioning Sept. 6 at the legislative assembly, saying, “Kimmirut and Pangnirtung are also urgently in need of new airport facilities.”
“Can the minister indicate if the P3 approach for the Iqaluit airport will permit capital dollars to be freed up for [a] new airport in Kimmirut?” asked Schell.
Taptuna could only say that because of the $77-million given to Nunavut from the federal government to complete the airport as part of a P3 or public-private partnership agreement, that it “saves our funds for doing other projects and infrastructure buildings within the smaller communities.”
Schell then questioned Taptuna on the finalization of the contract details for the new Iqaluit airport.
Schell asked if there are cancellation penalties for changing the scope of the project down the line, something that’s happened recently to the government of Ontario when it decided not to go ahead with construction of new gas plants.
The cancellation penalties for the gas plants cost up to $900-million, according to the Toronto Star.
“I do not get involved with the contract negotiations that are done through the department,” Taptuna said, adding that signing ceremonies for the airport’s finalized contract should “take place within a week or so.”
Schell has been pressing Taptuna for new airport facilities for years now.
Pangnirtung MLA Hezakiah Oshutapik also jumped in on the line of questioning Sept. 9, when he called Pangnirtung’s airport “inadequate” and asked about the status of a preliminary design for the airport.
Pangnirtung’s airport, at less than 900 metres, limits the types of planes that can land there and is too short for planes to land with a full load.
And it also lies in the centre of the town of 1,600 people.
“There’s very few options for relocation,” Taptuna said, adding “terrain and geology” limit Pangnirtung’s options for a relocated airstrip.
“There’s been planning and design work being done at this time,” he said, adding other options, including an extension of the airstrip, are being considered.
“But for the relocation of the airstrip, it’s one of those things that we do need assistance from the federal government to help us with the cost of the construction of relocation,” Taptuna said.
Although Oshutapik said he “was very proud to have been able to vote in favour of funding to go towards relocation of Pangnirtung airport” in a members statement, he later questioned where $1.83 million in government-approved capital funding had been spent.
Taptuna didn’t have the cost breakdowns for each community, but said $250,000 went towards upgrading a fence around the perimeter of the airport “for safety reasons.”
Taptuna said in 2004 it was estimated that the airport fix-up would cost $40-million.