Inuvik’s new Mayor Floyd Roland said he expects his political connections garnered through years of holding political office, including as NWT premier from 2007-2011, will help pull Inuvik out of the socio-economic rut it has found itself in over the past several years.
“The ability to get in and talk to different ministers, whether it be federal or territorial government on the different projects,” including the Inuvik-Tuk highway, “will be one of those avenues where having experience, getting into meetings and being able to present a business plan and strategies going forward (will be helpful),” Roland said.
Roland told The Journal prior to the election that dealing with the natural gas crisis and economic lull in the community will require someone with experience, and clearly most of Inuvik’s voters agreed, though voter turnout was only 30 per cent. Roland took the election by a landslide, coming up with 527 votes over newcomer Todd Shattler’s 145.
Inuvik Gas Ltd. recently let residents know its synthetic solution to the drying-up Ikhil well will likely cost households twice as much per gigajoule, from $19 to $37, beginning this December.
Though the Public Utilities Board was notified about the rate increase, as is required, it is without jurisdiction to rule on the issue.
Roland said mitigating energy costs for the town will be, in the short-term, his main priority after being sworn in on Nov. 14.
“Our role now as a council is to say, okay, we’re impacted as well because we have facilities that run on the gas,” he said. “We need to say, how can we work with the partners here? Because the town itself has little ability. We’re like a lot of other people and businesses.”
Roland said the town, along with the region’s Aboriginal governments, need to explore options with the gas company to cushion some of the shock to residents.
“An example would be, can we average the cost over a 12-month period or slightly longer until everybody can get caught up to it? Because nobody can deal with an additional $500 a month compared to what they were paying last year, so we need to see if we can work with the gas company to try to minimize that initial impact,” he said.
Having connections and experience, Roland said, will hopefully help bring the community out on top.
“Not everything will work to what we would like to see, but the important thing is you need to be able to get in before you can even present what a strategy would be, or options or a solution, to get in and request some support in different areas,” he said. “So that goes a long way to getting some answers fairly quick.”