NWT ‘still committed’ to fish plant it currently can’t afford

Boats at Hay River's Fisherman's Wharf in August 2019
Boats at Hay River's Fisherman's Wharf in August 2019. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

The NWT’s industry minister on Wednesday said her government was determined to build a new fish processing plant for Hay River, despite being unable to find anyone who’ll build the plant cheaply enough.

The territory cancelled a tender process for construction of the fish plant after the only two bidders both quoted sums far in excess of the budget – even though that budget had been disclosed to them ahead of time.

Cancellation of the tender leaves the fate of the fish plant, a centrepiece of the NWT’s strategy to revitalize its fishing industry, in limbo.

Rocky Simpson, the Hay River South MLA, raised the plant’s future in the legislature on Wednesday. Simpson asked industry minister Katrina Nokleby what would happen next.



“We remain committed to building the plant,” said Nokleby. “I recognize how important this project is to Hay River.”

In September, the CBC reported both submissions to build the plant were almost $5 million over the $8.9 million in federal and territorial funding so far secured – and more than $2 million over the project’s total budget.

Construction was supposed to have started this summer, with completion in late 2020.

Nokleby said on Wednesday there is, as yet, no new timeline for the plant’s development. The territorial government is re-examining its plans and may opt to scale back some of the fish processing lines and equipment requirements, she said.



“The bids that were received for construction of the new fish plant were significantly higher than anticipated,” Nokleby told Simpson in the legislature.

“Demands on the public purse are high and we want to make sure we are fully considering these types of decisions.

“We remain committed to the revitalization initiative and we want to move forward as quickly as possible with the fish plant. However, we have decided to take the time required to consider what other options we may have.”

For now, Nokleby added, cancelling the tender was “the only option available to us to maintain an open, transparent, and fair process.”

She said: “Our first step will be to get some better understanding of why the bids were so high.

“Ideally, we will find a way to move the project ahead within the budget that we have, but this will take some time.”