Igloolik hotel owners say 'sea can hotels' are costing them business

With two major construction projects underway in Igloolik, hotel and bed and breakfast owners in Igloolik expected a busy and profitable summer, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

One hotel owner says he’s lost at least $300K this summer

Kudlik Construction is housing workers in this 'seacan hotel,' instead of local hotels or bed and breakfasts. The company says it needs the temporary structure to accommodate all of its workers. (Submitted by Lee Turbide)

Igloolik hotel and bed and breakfast owners say they're losing out on a "boom time" in the hamlet.

They say workers for two major Nunavut government construction projects are staying in "sea can hotels" instead of their lodgings, even though government construction contracts stipulate construction companies must use local licensed accommodations.

"The summer has been probably one of the slowest summers we've had in years although there's lots going on in the community," said Elijah Evaluarjuk, who co-owns and operates the eight-room Tujurmivik Hotel.

The Nunavut government has two major construction projects underway in Igloolik: a $24.5 million new high school and the $13.2 million wastewater treatment lagoon expansion and water reservoir expansion.

Evaluarjuk says although they have government workers or other visitors stay at the hotel throughout the year, his hotel relies on construction workers in the summer to make ends meet.

A 'seacan hotel' housing workers building the new high school in Igloolik. (Submitted by Lee Turbide)

"That's when we make a little bit of money to keep the hotel going throughout the year. Up to now, we don't have any guests staying at any of the hotels," he said, referring to his hotel, Inns North, operated by the Igloolik Co-op, and LRT Construction and Lodging, a bed and breakfast.

Evaluarjuk estimates his hotel has lost at least $300,000 this summer.

The co-owner of LRT Construction and Lodging, Lee Turbide, says they have four workers from Kudlik Construction staying at a rented home, but the six-room bed and breakfast has been at half occupancy for much of the summer.

Turbide says she turned away bookings earlier this year expecting the bed and breakfast to be full this summer, just like it was last year.

Since the beginning of June, she estimates LRT has lost around $80,000.

Turbide says the company building the high school, La Federation des Cooperatives du Nouveau-Quebec Construction, built a "hotel" from shipping containers last summer, near the hamlet's airport. 

The sea cans are joined together in a single layer and have electricity and plumbing, says Turbide.

Kudlik Construction, which is working on the sewage lagoon and water reservoir project, is also housing workers in a sea can structure, according to Evaluarjuk and Turbide.

Hotel stay a "contractual requirement"

No one from the Department of Community and Government Services was available for an interview.

But in an email to CBC News, spokesperson Rosemary Boyd wrote that contractors on both projects were required to make use of local accommodations, and indicate in their tenders "the extent to which they intend to do so." 

"If suitable licensed room and board facilities are not available then the bidders are required to provide documentation to that effect and to obtain GN permission to have this contract requirement waived," Boyd wrote.

"In all construction contracts, in the absence of GN agreement to a change, GN expects that all terms of an executed contract will be adhered to," she wrote.

Boyd writes "a major portion of both contractors' on-site work is taking place through 2017 and 2018. CGS and its consultants are reviewing in detail as the work progresses."

'Too many workers,' company says

Boyd could not confirm if La Federation des Cooperatives du Nouveau-Quebec Construction and Kudlik Constrution have permission from the Nunavut government to waive the contract requirement to stay at local hotels.

In an email to CBC News, Kudlik Construction said it meets all the requirements of its contract. 

"Kudlik rents all the rooms available in the different local accommodations in Igloolik and stays in touch with the different operators weekly to manage the reservations," said the email.

"Even if we wish to only use the hotels in Igloolik, it's not always possible in high construction season because too many workers are on the job site. This is the reason why we installed a temporary camp to fit everyone when the local accommodation cannot meet our demand," said Kudlik Construction. 

La Federation des Cooperatives du Nouveau-Quebec Construction declined an interview.

About the Author

Jane Sponagle

Jane Sponagle is a reporter with CBC North in Whitehorse. She previously lived in Iqaluit where she covered a wide range of stories for CBC from the Nunavut legislature to where to find the best pizza in the Arctic.

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