The NWT’s infrastructure minister says there is currently no reason to expect any delays to this year’s sealifts for Arctic coastal communities.
Questioned by Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson in the legislature, Katrina Nokleby said: “Everything is on track for this upcoming season.” Two years ago, communities missed out on vital shipments after barges were delayed.
“Start the boat right now. Start getting it ready. The GNWT has one chance every year to get this job done,” Jacobson had implored her.
The sealift is important for communities in Jacobson’s electoral district as barge delivery is cheaper than air transport, providing food, fuel, building supplies, and vehicles at a lower cost.
This year, four new double-hulled barges mostly funded by the federal government will come into operation. The double-hulled barges are considered safer than their single-hulled predecessors.
Alongside other barges the territory has acquired, a total of eight double-hulled barges will be operating this year, Nokleby said.
In 2018, the NWT government cancelled shipments to Cambridge Bay, Kugluktuk, and Paulatuk, blaming impassable conditions in the Amundsen Gulf after barge departures had been delayed.
Shortly after the cancellation was made public, then-infrastructure minister Wally Schumann survived a no-confidence vote in the legislative assembly largely brought on by the failure to re-supply the three communities.
His successor, Nokleby, faces a no-confidence vote of her own on Friday, though regular MLAs have been unwilling to explain why.
Marine Transportation Services, or MTS – the territorial government’s name for the barge service – has been run by the GNWT since late 2016, when it purchased the bankrupt Northern Transportation Company Limited.
Nokleby said MTS could be transformed into a Crown corporation in future as the NWT government studies how best it can do its job of resupplying northern communities.
“We are reviewing at the moment the changes that we could be making to MTS and the structure of the organization,” she told Jacobson.
“We are not at a stage yet where we have determined what that is going to look like, but it is generally viewed that creating a Crown corporation would provide the maximum benefit and flexibility going forward.
“A marine business consultant has recently been engaged to review and build upon the previous work and make recommendations of viable options as to the business structure that is best suited for the way that we do business in the North.”