With a serious shortage and a looming 100-per-cent price increase in Inuvik, both mayoral candidates are making the community’s natural gas crisis the focus of this election.
Inuvik Gas Ltd. announced early last month that the transition to synthetic natural gas from its quickly-expiring Ikhil gas well will nearly double costs from $19 to $37 per gigajoule by the beginning of December.
For candidate Todd Shattler, a 25-year contractor in the town of Inuvik, that announcement was enough to push him toward a first run for office.
“To me, the gas situation is the first because if we allow this price to double, the rest of it doesn’t matter, because no one’s going to be left here,” he said. “It’s going to be a ghost town. I’ve had people, elders or seniors, tell me ‘I’ve lived here my whole life, but I may have to leave because I can’t afford my house.’”
While he doesn’t want to see the gas company stranded, he said it’s not fair to make citizens pay.
“The gas company mismanaged the flow of their well, so why is it the people’s fault? It’s not. But when you’re a corporation and you have investors, that’s who you care about,” he said. “They’re trying to sink a town to save a private corp., in my eyes. And I can’t accept that.”
Shattler is not the only one concerned with the gas crisis. His challenger, former NWT premier Floyd Roland, said both the Aboriginal governments and town need to work together on the long-term to solve the serious issue.
“They have the ability to partner up with some of our industry and the town and I think we can come up with a joint solution,” he said. “It’s been the resource industry that has built this community up. Oil has played a big role in the past. I can recall days growing up as a little fellow watching others get busy in the oilpatch, as they called it. Now it’s the gas situation. You look at our potential here – we know that at some point our reserves will come into play.”
But, Roland said, the economy cannot afford to simply wait for industry to get on board with oil and gas projects.
“There’s going to be a balance, I believe, between the resources we have in our ground here in the North and relying on some of the things we used to do well in the past: our tourism industry, and keeping people working through construction,” he said. “We need to start looking at expanding our economic base instead of being totally reliant on the non-renewable resource industry.”
Both Roland and Shattler mentioned the Inuvik-Tuk Highway project as an important element to the economic growth of the community.
Shattler also said he’d be lobbying the minerals industry, which was recently exploring mining development from Yellowknife to Paulatuk, to return to the region.