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Lines of communication
Road, power line top agenda at regional roundtable gathering

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Churchill, Man
A winter road to Manitoba, the advancement of hydro-electric connection and waste management were among the highlights of the Hudson Bay Regional Roundtable meetings in Churchill, Man., this past week.

Roundtable co-chairs Government of Nunavut (GN) Minister of Community and Government Services (C&GS) Joe Savikataaq and Churchill Mayor Michael Spence welcomed more than 80 delegates, including Manitoba MP Terry Duguid and Kivalliq Inuit Association president David Ningeongan.

Arviat Mayor Bob Leonard said the meetings represented a big step forward for both the winter road and the hydro line.

He said the two projects are gaining real momentum and, in his opinion, are going to go ahead.

"The next planning phase will take about a year and then the regulatory process will begin, so I see the road becoming a reality in about 10 years," said Leonard.

"That power line will change everybody's life in our region.

"The GN's infrastructure - the power houses, tank farms and everything - are getting old.

"We're going to have to invest in something really soon, so are we going to invest in what we're doing now and build more tanks and diesel generating plants to leave us right where we are now, with the most-expensive way of producing power."

Leonard said nobody messes around with fuel oil in Churchill anymore.

He said every house in the town uses electric heat.

"They have a made-in-Manitoba rate of about five cents a kilowatt hour.

"We pay 60-some cents per kilowatt hour for private homes in the Kivalliq.

"These discussions really highlight to me how slowly change comes about.

"It's good to keep dialogue going even though we haven't had a lot of success yet, but we're really on the verge now with the power line and road project."

C&GS manager of community operations Rob Hedley of Rankin Inlet said the roundtable has a real sense of immediacy in making the two projects a reality now.

He said everyone understands what needs to happen, so it's a matter of getting studies done, getting through regulatory processes and finding levels of government to sign cheques.

"I'm an eternal optimist, so I believe in the government eventually getting it right," said Hedley.

"We keep doing this because we are optimistic and we want to get it done.

"And, right now, it all seems to be going in the right direction."

Hedley said positive steps are also being taken to meet common challenges in the delivery of health care in Nunavut and Manitoba.

He said the idea is to create a partnership to ensure the higher level issues are being addressed.

"We also went out to see how Churchill handles its waste management, and it was neat to see how a Northern community is effectively handling waste and recycling.

"With things reaching panel discussions there's more involvement from the mayors and other stakeholders now, so that's also going really well.

"This is not a zero-sum game type of idea where there's a winner and a loser.

"The idea is to have mutually beneficial partnerships where everyone gains on both sides, and that's exactly the direction we seem to be headed now."

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