Pull the plug, say business owners
Business community upset by pipeline announcement

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

RANKIN INLET (Oct 29/97) - Members of the Keewatin business community fear for the future of the resupply system in the region after a recent GNWT announcement to build a direct fuel pipeline to four communities.

Goo Arlooktoo, minister of public works and services said the $4.9-million pipeline will bring down the transportation costs of fuel.

But business people who rely on the transportation of goods have said there hasn't been enough research into the project and worry about the price they may have to pay if the new plan doesn't work.

Ray Mercer, co-owner of M&T Enterprise Ltd., sees no reason why the current system should be changed at all.

"The system is not broken, why fix it," he said. "I think by upsetting one apple cart, you upset them all."

Mercer said that he would have liked to see the present tug and barge system kept in place until after territorial division.

"I would have preferred to leave this until the government that will have to live with this is in place," he said.

Mercer said that by bringing fuel into the Keewatin by tanker instead of transporting it by rail to Churchill and then by barge to the NWT jeopardizes the railroad service the Keewatin relies so heavily on.

"You may end up without a viable railroad to Churchill if you take too much away," he said. "If anything happened to the St. Lawrence, Churchill is the only other way up."

"Uncertainty is a scary issue," he said. "It may be a great thing, but we have to make sure people want it."

But Arlooktoo said that the pipeline sells itself with the estimated savings it could bring.

The GNWT has proposed to construct fuel delivery pipelines in Arviat, Chesterfield Inlet, Coral Harbour and Rankin Inlet to enable tankers to unload their fuel directly in the communities.

"As a government trying to save money, we have to enable those tankers to unload," he said.

Arlooktoo said that the new system would drop the transportation costs of fuel to about six cents per litre from this year's cost of 23 cents per litre.

Based on those figures, he added, the GNWT has made a conservative estimate of how much money can be saved over a 20-year period (two-thirds of the 30-year life of the tanks) that amounts to $65 million to $100 million.

After the completion of the pipeline, the GNWT will lease back the pipelines for a

five-year period ($1.4 million annually) when they will be owned outright by the Nunavut government.