Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut May 13, 2014 - 7:37 am

Senators visit Nunavut on energy fact-finding mission

“We certainly would support ways to find cheaper, cleaner, greener alternatives”

DAVID MURPHY
Senators (from left to right) Dennis Patterson, Grant Mitchell and Richard Neufeld at the Arctic Hotel May 9 in Iqaluit. Seven senators are touring the territories to study renewable and non-renewable energy development. They plan to publish a report based on their findings in late 2014. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)
Senators (from left to right) Dennis Patterson, Grant Mitchell and Richard Neufeld at the Arctic Hotel May 9 in Iqaluit. Seven senators are touring the territories to study renewable and non-renewable energy development. They plan to publish a report based on their findings in late 2014. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)

Parliamentary senators have been visiting the three northern territories this month to figure out how best to power northern Canada into the future — and that includes discussing Qulliq Energy Corp.’s proposed hydroelectric dam in Iqaluit.

The fact-finding mission, which started on May 9 and lasts until May 16, is part of a senate standing committee study on different types of energy development—both renewable or non-renewable — in the North, to be completed later in 2014.

For Nunavut Sen. Dennis Patterson, anything’s better than dirty fossil fuels.

When asked if Patterson supported QEC’s proposal for a hydroelectric dam in Iqaluit, he told Nunatsiaq News, “Yes, as a senator for Nunavut, I would like to see Nunavut reduce their dependence on fossil fuel.”

QEC met with the standing committee on energy, environment and natural resources in Iqaluit May 9 and gave a rundown of the project to the senators.

“[Fossil fuel] produces greenhouse gases, it leaves us vulnerable to world oil prices. It’s dirty, it’s risky to handle and expensive,” Patterson said.

“We certainly would support ways to find cheaper, cleaner, greener alternatives.”

That’s crucial in Iqaluit where the community burns one-third of all the diesel fuel purchased for Nunavut annually, Patterson said.

Patterson did, however, note public concern about the project — the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and the Iqaluit Community Lands and Resource Committee opposed part of the hydroelectric dam project last year.

“The energy corporation territorial [representatives] told us that this is now a factor that must be considered as they look to move forward in evaluating this option,” he said. 

But there’s another interesting prospect that might be in the works, Patterson said: connecting Rankin Inlet to the hydroelectric grid in Churchill, Man. — an idea that’s been talked about for years.

“It could conceivably support mineral resource development and particularly the Meliadine mine. As well as meeting community needs in that region on the route,” Patterson said.

Agnico Eagle is interested in the possible construction of a hydro transmission line to the North American grid in Churchill, Patterson said.

The seven-member senatorial team was to visit the mine in Rankin Inlet, Patterson said, as well as Kimmirut, Yellowknife and Whitehorse.

Senators are also hearing pitches from different energy sector organizations. For example, they heard from the Canadian Gas Association on May 8.

“That’s one of probably four or five meetings we’ve had. We’re going to be hearing from the Canadian Electrical Association, [and] we heard from relevant federal departments,” Patterson said.

The committee is meeting with mayors, MLAs, chambers of commerce, and the general public on its week-long northern tour, said the standing committee chair, Sen. Richard Neufeld.

Patterson said these types of missions are important to help politicians in Ottawa understand the issues Nunavummiut are facing.

“With only two representatives in Ottawa — our MP and myself — out of 308 MPs and 105 senators, it’s really valuable to myself and our MP to have political colleagues coming here to see for themselves our great challenges,” Patterson said.

“It’s no secret that most MPs and most senators haven’t had the opportunity to make it to the northern territories,” Patterson said. 

But none of the senate committee’s findings will be binding on government and it’s unclear what, if anything will come of the results.

Neufeld said governments look at these senate reports seriously, but “how they will look at them is entirely up to the government that is elected.”

“Many [senate] studies are very valuable, and carry a lot of weight with the government,” Neufeld said. “You will see some reaction.”

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