Iqaluit, the capital city of Nunavut, is experiencing a vehicle boom that is causing traffic congestion and environmental problems. The isolated city of about 7,000 people has no stop lights, and no roads to any other town, but still, about 300 new vehicles hit Iqaluit’s streets each year. There are now about 5,500 registered vehicles in Iqaluit. The territory as a whole has about 8,900.
The increasing number of vehicles is partly driven by the economic growth and opportunities in the mining sector. However, it also poses challenges for the sealift companies that ship the vehicles to the North. Waguih Rayes, general manager of the sealift company Degagnes Transarctik, said the company shipped a record 106 vehicles on a single voyage North this year, beating last year’s high of 93. He said the vehicles have to be put in containers so they can be stacked, which increases the cost.
Another challenge is how to deal with the derelict vehicles that are left behind when they reach their end of life. The city’s dump is already filled with old cars that can leach contaminants like lead and mercury into the environment. The Nunavut government is considering a $1,080 import fee on any vehicle shipped to the territory, which would help cover the cost of removing and recycling the scrap metal. Art Stewart, director of transportation, policy and planning of Nunavut, said the fee would help communities plan for the removal of old vehicles and send them down south. However, he also said it would be difficult to charge a fee on vehicles that are already in the territory.
The City of Iqaluit is also looking at ways to ease the traffic congestion and improve the parking situation. Kevin Sloboda, chief municipal enforcement officer of Iqaluit, said most Iqalummiut are familiar with “rush minute,” when everyone goes home or to work at once. “It just seems to be one of those things stagnating your traffic flow, so you get these mass congestions,” he said. The city is working on a new traffic bylaw that will include fines for parking violations. Sloboda said parking is not a right but a privilege. “We’re trying to make sure that people understand that,” he said.
The city is also considering raising its end of life vehicle fee from $200 to $1,000, which would encourage people to dispose of their old cars properly. Romeyn Stevenson, deputy mayor of Iqaluit, said the city has two different problems: one is dealing with the current derelict vehicles and the other is preventing future ones. He said the city will modify its solution once the territorial import fee is in place.
The vehicle boom in Iqaluit reflects the changing lifestyle and economy of Nunavut’s largest city. However, it also brings challenges that require collaboration and planning from different levels of government and stakeholders.