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Jobs, better food, and a breakwater

Stephanie McDonald
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 20, 2007

ARCTIC BAY/RESOLUTE - Some residents in Arctic Bay and Resolute see ways life could improve as a result of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Aug. 10 announcement of a deep-water port for Nanisivik and a military training centre for Resolute.

The Hamlet of Resolute hopes that the announcement of a military training centre for their community will bring advantages.

"With more people coming to Resolute, especially the military, hopefully we could get a breakwater," SAO Josh Hunter said.

The community currently has no safe loading and unloading area.

The Natural Resources Polar Shelf building in Resolute will be used as a base for winter warfare training courses, search and rescue based activities, sovereignty operations and rapid response to any critical events.

The facility will receive an initial capital investment of $4 million over five years. There will be an annual expenditure of $2 million for new jobs and maintenance of the facility, according to Capt. Joanna Labonte, an army public affairs officer.

Labonte anticipates that there will be two full-time civilian administrative positions created, but no full-time military personnel stationed in the community. Instead, military personnel will be constantly moving in and out of the town.

The existing facility can accommodate 100 people.

Hunter said Resolute has a long history of military exercises. In addition, each year the community hosts researchers, scientists, tourist, explorers and cruise ship passengers.

Cambridge Bay had been considered as a potential location for the military training centre, but assessments showed that Resolute was more ideally suited.

In Arctic Bay, Mayor Darlene Willie was happy to hear the news of an enhanced port in nearby Nanisivik.

"Instead of spending all the money for a new port, there is already a port in Nanisivik that just needs an upgrading," she said.

The Department of National Defence had visited the community once in the past year, but no official word had come through until the Aug. 10 announcement, Willie said.

Arctic Bay SAO Joeli Qamanirq was also pleased with the federal government's choice of site, but he was unsure if the project would create any employment for local residents.

One advantage he does see is increased availability of food. When the Nanisivik mine was operational, there was a guaranteed shipment of food into Arctic Bay. Currently a 748 aircraft services Arctic Bay and Resolute.

"It's too small," Qamanirq said of the plane. Earlier this summer the food supply in town was almost depleted.

Lieut. Commander Sue Stefko, navy public affairs officer, said Nanisivik is an ideal location because of its sheltered harbour, nearby jet-capable airstrip and proximity to the Northwest Passage.

The dock will be used to re-supply, refuel, load equipment and transfer personnel onto vessels stationed in the High Arctic.

The Canadian Coast Guard will also continue to use the facility.

Stefko anticipates that construction will begin in 2010, and the port will be initially operational by 2012. It should be at full operational capability by 2015.

The Aug. 10 federal announcements weren't so well received in the territorial capital, however.

"We're disappointed, of course, that it wasn't here in Iqaluit," said the city's economic development officer Michael Bozzer. "We feel we had a strong case, and probably the most economically viable case for a deep-sea port."

A plan for a commercial and military port in Iqaluit has been ongoing since the late 1970s and early '80s. In December 2005, before becoming prime minister, Stephen Harper publicly spoke of the need to have it built.

While the port won't come through the Department of National Defence, Bozzer said that the city is still looking to private investors who have expressed interest.

Any future port in the capital city would be for commercial purposes with military capabilities.

The need for a port is obvious, Bozzer said, as there were delays and problems with this year's sealift.

A port would decrease the cost and increase the availability of goods coming into the territory, and could have the ability to boost tourism and economic development opportunities.

"It's a setback, but we're not giving up," Bozzer said.

The City of Iqaluit estimates that a port would cost between $50 and $80 million. That is less than the $100 million estimate put on refurbishing the existing dock in Nanisivik.