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Gas vouchers coming soon

Brent Reaney
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (July 20/05) - Kivalliq residents who believe they were affected by gas problems this past winter should have access to compensation forms by Aug. 1.

Simon Twyee, 65, remembers being stuck on the land about 35 miles outside Rankin Inlet this past winter when his snowmobile would not start. He says he is satisfied with the gas compensation program announced last week by Shell Canada and the Government of Nunavut, and just wants the coming year's fuel to be improved.

Research done by Nunavut's fuel supply company, Shell Canada, and the Nunavut government, found most problems involved spark plug fouling in snow machines or ATVs during extremely cold temperatures.

As part of the program announced last week, customers in affected communities can receive gas vouchers valued at $6 per fouled spark plug, up to a maximum of 30 plugs, or $180 per vehicle.

"Anything over that, they will need a receipt," said Levinia Brown, Community and Government Services minister.

Forms are expected to be available from hamlet offices Aug. 1 and must be postmarked by Sept. 30. People will be expected to provide their address, phone number, the type of vehicle affected, as well as its serial number.

The government said customers can expect vouchers to be mailed to them within a month after dropping off their application.

Shell says tests show only gas from the company's Scotford refinery in Edmonton was affected by the problem.

Because of this, all Kivalliq communities except Whale Cove are eligible.

Brown says communities not supplied by Scotford, such as Pangnirtung or Cape Dorset - where similar fouling problems were reported - will not receive compensation.

Rankin Inlet's Simon Twyee hunts every day, year-round.

The 65-year-old remembers being unable to start his snowmobile out on the land while setting his nets about 35 miles outside town this past winter.

Luckily, somebody gave him a ride back to town before the situation became desperate.

"It would be nice if there was something better," he said through an interpreter about the community's gas supply for the coming year.

After reading a syllabics press release about the compensation program while filling up his ATV at the Rankin pumps last Thursday, he only shrugged when asked if the plan does enough.

But will he take it?

"If they give it to me," he said, and then laughed.

Brown says she believes most people will accept what's being offered.

"It's the best we could do. It's better to have this compensation than nothing at all," she said.

Shell will pay for the vouchers, though the Petroleum Products Division will administer the program.

Shell spokesperson Denita Davis said the company has already spent about $500,000 to remedy last winter's situation, and said it's too early to know how much the vouchers will cost the company.

"The important point is to prevent this issue in future winters," she said from Toronto.

As for this year's gas shipment, Davis said Shell will modify the entire Nunavut supply, including putting an additive into the gas that was found to alleviate the fouling problems this past winter.

And in last week's announcement, Shell said for the first time that it will also investigate claims of engine damage with proper documentation.

Engine damage claims will go through the Petroleum Products Division using a toll-free number that has not yet been established. The government expects to make announcements over the community radio about the program soon.

- translation assistance

by Tommy Kabvitok