The City of Iqaluit council meeting July 24 was long and tense, peaking with Nunavut Brewing Company Ltd. partner Stuart Kennedy stalking out of chambers when the city’s proposed new water and sewer services bylaw failed at second reading.
Both the city’s fresh water source and its proposed new waterand sewer bylaw dominated the agenda and drew a packed standing-room-only crowd to its small chambers.
After a presentation by acting chief administrative officer Amy Elgersma, which demonstrated action does need to be taken immediately by the city to supplement Iqaluit’s water source, Lake Geraldine, councilors passed a motion to officially strike a task force. The task force, composed of city and GN officials, as well as water experts, has already been meeting, according to Mayor Madeleine Redfern.
It will continue to meet three times a week throughout the summer until the issue – caused by lower precipitation and increasing demand – is dealt with. Solutions are being sought for the immediate and long-term water needs of the city.
“We had a low precipitation in June. We don’t know how much precipitation we’re going to have for the remainder of the summer and fall, but we’d rather be proactive and not find ourselves in a situation in October where we don’t have enough water for the winter for the community,” said Redfern, adding a solution will be found to fill the lake by Oct.1.
“But we’ve always known we’ve needed to look at the long-term solutions. That’s partly why we budgeted as much as we did this year.”
The city budgeted $1 million for supplementary water supply design, $1 million for demand management and an initiative to deal with unaccounted-for water – bleeds and breaks in the city’s systems account for 40 per cent of water usage – and $100,000 for utilidor management initiatives.
“This information is actually very, very useful for lobby purposes, building our business case to the two levels above us and say, ‘We need to now get that extra support to move on our longer term secondary water source so our water needs are met,” said Redfern.
Coun. Joanasie Akumalik asked for clarification.
“So you’re suggesting we deal with the present water management plan before we can deal with Bylaw 200 (water and sewer),” he said.
“I made no such linkage,” said Redfern.
Bylaw goes to the public
The messier part of the meeting had to do with the bylaw.
Coun. Joanasie Akumalik – chair of the engineering and public works committee of the whole – started the ball rolling by putting forward a motion to bring the proposed new water and sewer bylaw to public consultation.
“I don’t know if residents have had a chance to take a look at the proposed bylaw, but it would be good for the city and the council to consult with the public and get feedback from the community,” said Akumalik, who had previously expressed concern about the introduction of licensed service providers. Akumalik and Coun. Kuthula Matshazi share concerns about privatization of city services.
But, to get started, the Nunavut Brewing Company needs to haul its own sewer and water because the city is already at the breaking point providing services to residents.
That motion passed, despite keen opposition from Coun. Kyle Sheppard.
“I oppose the motion emphatically. The issues being dealt with in the amendments to the water and sewer services bylaw are actually quite minor. The city has the authority already under the existing Bylaw 200 to issue licenced hauling to proponents,” said Sheppard.
“If anything this is just cleaning up the existing bylaw, adding additional restrictions, requirements.”
He said the changes were well within the reasonable expectations of council as elected officials without a costly and time-consuming public consultation.
The public consultation is to be held before Aug. 14.
Sheppard then attempted to introduce amendments to the proposed new bylaw, giving more explicit control to the city. Nevertheless, the second reading failed to pass.
Finally, Sheppard attempted to pass a motion to enter into a service contract with the brewery. That motion tied, with councillors Akumalik, Simon Nattaq, Noah Papatsie voting against, and Matshazi, Sheppard, and Deputy Mayor Romeyn Stevenson voting for the motion.
Redfern looked shocked to have to step in as the tie-breaker, but after a short pause, she voted against the motion.
Gasps filled the gallery.
Brewery seeks creative solutions
After the council meeting, Papatsie explained why he voted against the motion that might have allowed the brewery to open its doors.
“The brewery has been doing great making things happen but the real problem is the water issue plus changes during the proposal not once or twice, but almost three times, they changed it. If they want to make it happen they need to do it right way,” he said.
“Water shortage has been an issue for the city this past few years and making it worst by opening up a brewery will create disaster.”
He also said he had concerns about alcohol-related deaths.
“And it’s not stopping until we step in.”
Akumalik also spoke with Nunavut News about his vote against Sheppard’s motion.
“I’m concerned that there are enough drinking establishments and the brewery has made some amendments to have a tasting room, and I don’t understand if it’s going to be open for everyone or not,” he said.
Brewery general manager Katie Barbour says she understands the brewery has become a flashpoint for the public and the city on a number of issues – social issues related to alcohol city residents face, water usage and protective measures regarding the water source, private hauling of water and sewer, and environmental issues related to waste.
“It’s all become about (the brewery) and it shouldn’t have been. This is not about a brewery in West 40 or an industry trying to take off in the territory. This is about growth and future development,” she said.
“Without a doubt it’s obvious we were incredibly disappointed with the outcome of last night’s city council meeting. However, it’s not the first hurdle or obstacle we’ve faced as a team.”
Barbour said the rest of the week would be devoted to figuring out next steps.
“We’re looking for creative solution for a bit of a muddled problem.”
She did say the brewery, whose partners are Kennedy, Sheldon Nimchuk, Harry Flaherty, Cody Dean and Ambrose Livingstone, aimed to replace some alcohol import into the territory with a locally-made product, while being environmental stewards.
Barbour says the brewery, which currently has at least three paid staff, loses roughly $3,000 a day not being open.
“So you can do the math. We have been stalled let’s say, very fairly, a solid three to four months by this last component, this last piece of the puzzle,” she said, adding that last piece is hauling its sewer and water.
“Clearly they (the city) support the business or we wouldn’t have gotten this far. I have to think that. Development permits and business permits, all of those things have been granted by these same people. So to just figure out how to get the municipal services to service this area and service the brewery is really the goal, and to help everyone feel comfortable about the decision.”