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Q& with Guy Vachon

Kirsten Murphy
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Sep 24/01) - He doesn't mince words and he doesn't like brussels sprouts. What outfitter and entrepreneur Guy Vachon likes is boating, hunting and time on the land -- two activities easily enjoyed year-round in Nunavut.

The longtime Iqaluit resident, husband and father of three daughters doesn't wax poetic when asked about the future. Ask him about tourism or politics and grab yourself a comfortable chair.

Happy at sea. Outfitter and entrepreneur Guy Vachon. - Kirsten Murphy/NNSL photo

News/North: What makes you happy no matter how crummy your day?

Guy Vachon: To go out on the water or on the land and forget all my worries.

N/N: What brought you to Iqaluit (from Ottawa) some 20 years ago?

GV: Canadian Airlines.

N/N: Seriously. Work? The lure of the North?

GV: Work and the adventure.

N/N: Did you plan to stay this long?

GV: I don't think anyone plans to stay anywhere.

N/N: What year did you graduate from high school?

GV: Graduate or when did I leave?

N/N: Ah ... leave.

GV: 1972.

N/N: If you could go back, what would you do differently?

GV: Study to be a brain surgeon (laughs). I never had any big plans.

N/N: But you own the successful Qairrulik Outfitting and run your own snowmobile shop, Arctic Cat Sales. That takes vision.

GV: I do what I want to do. I guess I'm lucky. Once in a while I get stuck with difficult clients. Boneheads. It happens.

N/N: Tourism is a hot topic these days. What's holding the territory back?

GV: Nunavut Tourism is going to have to work twice as hard to attract people to the area with what happened in New York (the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks). Because of the fear factor around travel.

N/N: Hypothetically, had those tragic events never happened, what's holding Nunavut back from being a major tourism destination?

GV: How can we compete against Florida? Europe? Africa? They've had big-time outfitting companies for hundreds of years. We're small time. We're already world-renowned but the services are not to expected standards.

N/N: What kind of services?

GV: Are there any Inuit centres? No. Historic seminars? A few things here and there. They can market the area but if they don't have the facilities, then what? There needs to be final destinations.

N/N: As an outfitter what's your busiest time of year?

GV: The summer. I'll go out a couple times a week. To Qaumaarviit and fishing and camping.

N/N: How long have you been doing it?

GV: Since 1987.

N/N: How long have you had Arctic Cat?

GV: (Looks for business licence, finds it, smiles) 1994.

N/N: What have you learned from working with the public.

GV: Some people are very nice and some are not so nice, and anything in between.

N/N: What's your most memorable trip?

GV: Falling through the ice and losing equipment. You always remember that but it's not such a good memory. Some are more disastrous than others.

N/N: You don't do much winter guiding?

GV: Too time-consuming. It's a lot of responsibility. People get cold and they want to go back.

N/N: How has Iqaluit changed since you arrived 21 years ago?

GV: Population explosion, boom in housing. The economy has gotten better.

N/N: You're known for speaking your mind. How serious are you about running in the next territorial election?

GV: I'd like to see lots of changes. There should be a proper recreational centre for all the kids. Not just for a select few who play hockey or curl. There should be a place for dart tournaments or pool tournaments. There needs to be affordable housing or even a proper shelter for homeless people, and employment creation programs.

N/N: Some people say the territory is going to run out of money. What do you think?

GV: The government is going to have to invent a tax or create something that creates a revenue. One of those things might be a casino.

N/N: A controversial suggestion.

GV: Everything you do up here people oppose, no matter what the subject is.

N/N: What's your least favourite vegetable?

GV: Is this a trick question?

N/N: No.

GV: Brussels sprouts.

N/N: What's your favourite country food?

GV: Elephant.

N/N: I mean Northern country food.

GV: Probably caribou, cooked.

Next you're going to ask me my best recipe.

N/N: Which is...?

GV: A secret.

N/N: Are you a good cook?

GV: I consider myself a good cook.

N/N: Do your wife and three daughters?

GV: Oh sure.

N/N: What's your specialty? Camp coffee and instant soup?

GV: (Chuckles) We won't get into that.

N/N: Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

GV: Above ground. I'm not one to make long-term plans, it's too easy to get disappointed.