Iqaluit planning committee approves beer-wine store work
GN to build addition to existing liquor warehouse
As debate continues at Nunavut’s legislature over the ethics of opening a beer and wine store in Iqaluit, members of the City of Iqaluit’s lands and planning committee said yes March 6 to granting the Government of Nunavut the development permit they need to build an addition to the city’s existing liquor warehouse.
GN officials at the meeting confirmed tentatively that the store could open soon.
“For now we are working to open the store this summer, that’s probably the best answer I can give you. Right now, this is what the Government of Nunavut is working to do,” the assistant deputy minister of finance, Dan Carlson, told the committee.
“We are very sensitive to the sensitivities about this particular project,” he added.
And those sensitivities were high among municipal councillors.
“I don’t support it… I think we’re making a mistake approving this before the legislative assembly can say anything,” said lands and planning committee chair Coun. Joanasie Akumalik.
“It’s controversial, but I’m going to ask for a vote.”
While the store development proposal ultimately passed the planning committee, the committee’s recommendation will need the approval of Iqaluit City Council.
Coun. Kuthula Matshazi abstained from voting on the proposal.
“I understand where the GN is coming from, there are people who feel strongly about the liquor store that they need to have access to beer and then there’s the other side that feels that its going to cause a lot of problems to people,” he declared.
“I have my own conscience but I don’t want to bring my own conscience into this discussion.”
Nunavut’s first walk-in beer and wine store will be an approximately 111 square-metre addition to the front of the city’s liquor warehouse, according to plans submitted with the proposal.
That’s coming with a superficial facelift for the building, with grey fiber-cement paneling replacing the metal façade at the front.
“The existing warehouse is a little bit of an eyesore… it will look tremendously better,” the project manger, Chileab Yue, explained to the committee.
Parking will also be designated on the warehouse lot, for a total of 13 spaces corralled by guardrails and boulders.
Carlson declined to provide council with a final cost figure for the project.
The beer and wine store has become a subject of contention between Nunavut’s finance minister, Keith Peterson, and Iqaluit-Sinaa MLA Paul Okalik since Peterson announced his government would follow through on the project last year.
Peterson’s reference to the beer and wine store during his 2017-18 budgetary address, Feb. 22, prompted a sharp rebuttal from Okalik, who criticized the minister for an alleged lack of consultation and accompanying treatment centre for alcohol addiction.
A few days later, Peterson delivered his own rebuttal, branding parts of Okalik’s statement as “alternative facts” and defending the consultations, surveys and 2015 plebiscite conduct by the government where Iqalungmiut voted 78 per cent in favour of the store.