A fibre optic “mega-project” that will bring high-speed internet to Iqaluit and Kimmirut by 2023 has skyrocketed in price to $209 million from an estimated $126 million when it was first announced.

In August, then-federal minister of Rural Economic Development Bernadette Jordan visited Iqaluit to announce $151 million in federal funding toward a fibre optic cable project that will bring faster internet to Iqaluit and Kimmirut. She was flanked by Nunavut’s Minister of Community and Government Services Lorne Kusugak, left, and Bruno Pereira, president and CEO of Qulliq Energy Corporation. NNSL file photo

The federal government is covering $151 million while the GN is on the hook to pay the rest.

The greater expense drew condemnation from Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main on Wednesday as he pointed out that the original estimate was a “class A” projection that involves considerable scrutiny by the government.

“It seems to be a fundamental breakdown in the capital planning process and it seems to be the precise kind of issue that we’re supposed to avoid by going through pre-planning with this stuff,” said Main, who added that other priorities like housing, group homes, elders’ facilities and community learning centres could have made use of the extra money that will now be devoted to the additional fibre optic cost. “It’s unacceptable… It’s clear that this government has to manage mega-projects like this properly and, if we don’t, then the whole territory pays the price.”

Main called upon Community and Government Services Minister Lorne Kusugak to explain the reasons for the growing budget but Kusugak said he didn’t have that information in front of him at the legislative assembly.

The project will involve the installation of approximately 1,700 km of underwater fibre optic cable from Nuuk, Greenland, to Iqaluit. It will then be extended to reach Kimmirut, bringing internet speeds of up to one gigabit per second.

Derek Neary

Derek Neary has been reporting on developments in the North for 18 years. When he's not writing for Nunavut News, he's working on Northern News Services' special publications such as Opportunities North,...

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