Ottawa needs to provide $180-million to help address a water crisis in Iqaluit, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Tuesday.
Speaking at a news conference in Nunavut’s capital, Mr. Singh said that his party will be putting political pressure on the Liberal government to ensure that the federal support is provided. He was joined by the NDP’s Lori Idlout, who is the sole MP for the territory.
Infrastructure is a continuing concern and failing to address problems would be “unimaginable,” Mr. Singh said, adding that if there was a water crisis of this nature in any other major Canadian city, Ottawa would act immediately to fix the problem.
The request for federal support was made by the city about three weeks ago, Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell told The Globe and Mail. For the sixth year, Iqaluit’s water supply is short, he said, and its treatment plant is too small for a growing city. Residents have been asked not to wash their vehicles with potable water for the last number of years, he added.
Infrastructure Canada said in a statement Tuesday evening that it received a request for funding from Iqaluit for the city’s water infrastructure improvement program and the project is currently being assessed. The department also said it would continue to work with the city and the territory to arrive at a long-term solution.
In the city’s most recent water crisis, about 8,000 residents of the capital have been told since Oct. 12 not to drink what is coming out of their taps.
After declaring a state of emergency over a suspicious odour in its tap water, Iqaluit last month identified high concentrations of hydrocarbons, consistent with diesel fuel or kerosene, in samples from the local water treatment plant.
The city is now waiting for the territorial government to lift the advisory. Mr. Bell said that it is unclear how long this process will take.
“We believe the water is clean but at the same time, we are asking people not to consume just to be safe,” he said.
Because of how remote Iqaluit is, an engineer and testing equipment had to be flown in to the city, and there are only two flights a day, the mayor explained.
“It is a nightmare,” he said, adding that other northern communities are experiencing a delay in cargo as a result of the situation.
“A lot of their store shelves are empty because they’re not getting any fresh food, or not getting enough fresh food, so it is a ripple effect right across the territory. So we’ve got to get this fixed as soon as possible.”
with a report from Willow Fiddler and Kelly Grant
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