Bare bones budget
Year three of Resolution Island project to proceed

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Resolution Island (Jun 26/00) - The announcement was finally made, but it wasn't exactly music to the ears of the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation.

Anxiously awaiting to hear from Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault on the level of funding for year three of the Resolution Island clean-up project, QC and its president Jerry Ell learned on June 16 they'd get $3.5 million.

That amount is far less than they wanted, which means the number of jobs available will be cut by as much as half.

"We were looking at 60 jobs. The $3.5 million won't be able to cover that. Given that funding level, we're looking at about half the jobs," said Ell.

He explained that had they received additional money from DIAND, their partner in the project, they would spend $1.4 million on salaries and training Inuit beneficiaries. After crunching numbers and altering the work plan for the upcoming season, Ell said he figured he had about $800,000 to put out on paycheques.

All is not lost, however. Ell said project manager Harry Flaherty was working on a proposal requesting training dollars from the Kakivak Association, a Baffin birthright corporation.

"We're hoping to make up part of the difference so we at least can continue the training program. It's important for us to have a trained workforce because of the amount of work that will be coming out over the next ten years," said Ell, referring the number of abandoned DEW-line sites scheduled for clean-up over the next decade.

"It's crucial for us to continue the training opportunities," he said.

An advance crew of ten or so employees was planning to leave Iqaluit today for the former pole vault station to begin $50,000 worth of repair work on the kitchen and living quarters caused by polar bears over the course of the winter.

The rest of the employees will follow in the first or second week of July, but because work is beginning almost three weeks late, less of the contaminated soil will be excavated and more of the PCBs will remain in the environment for at least another year.

Considering PCB levels go as high as 8,000 parts per million -- approximately 160 times higher than Canadian environmental laws permit -- that's not good news.

When asked if the level of funding and the late announcement was indicative of his department's level of commitment to Nunavut and the environment, DIAND Minister Robert Nault said it wasn't.

"I don't think it would be fair to suggest we have not been committed. The priority will be making sure we deal with the environmental degradation that's out there," said Nault, during a press conference in Iqaluit.

He said the level of funding was low because he'd had to evaluate the department's spending, but he said he did not anticipate that it would remain low in future years. That, he said, meant the project might not have to be extended past its original timeline of five years.

"It does mean that if we were to continue with this reduced funding over an extended period of time, it would necessitate another year. But I'm not of the view that we will continue at this level of funding for the foreseeable future," said Nault.

He also said he wanted to investigate the possibility of implementing multi-year funding arrangements for future projects.