Sanikiluaq has suffered extraordinarily during the pandemic with weekly commercial flights cut from six to two, MLA Allan Rumbolt told the legislative assembly on Monday. In addition, residents must fly from the Hudson Bay island to a southern province and then isolate for two weeks before boarding another plane to reach a Nunavut destination.
Rumbolt said he has encouraged Transportation Minister David Akeeagok to create an “air bridge” directly between Sanikiluaq and Iqaluit, at least weekly, and he asked the minister for an update on that front.
Akeeagok replied, “One of those options is to travel within Nunavut, either to Iqaluit or to Rankin Inlet – one of the two as a possibility – but I don’t want to really speculate or try to confirm that because we rely on the airlines for those travel routes.”
Rumbolt pointed out that the lack of flights into Sanikiluaq has impacted the income assistance program because workers are delayed flying into the community.
Akeeagok, speaking on behalf of Family Services Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik who is absent from the assembly during this sitting, acknowledged that Covid has “created huge program challenges.” He applauded the Department of Family Services for creating a 1-800 number to call the regional office “but the underlying thing is that we do need staff to travel there and the only way we have been able to do it is through charters… I think this is definitely an area that we need to look at.”
Rumbolt also asked for an update on the implementation of more federal funding to ensure continuity of air service.
Akeeagok said there’s ongoing dialogue with Transport Canada.
“It’s a very sensitive bilateral agreement because it does involve airlines and it does involve our government operations, along with dollars that are attached to it. Until that agreement is done will we determine whether to table it or not,” he said.