The Nunavut government is considering a $1,080 import fee on any vehicle shipped to the territory, but how it would work and whether or not existing vehicles will be charged remains unclear.

The territory's director of transportation, policy and planning was met by a number of questions from Iqaluit's city council Tuesday night during a briefing about the proposed fee.

Every year, hundreds of new vehicles are shipped to Nunavut by sealift, adding to the thousands already registered across the territory.

"We're so isolated from the south and its a burden on all the communities to get rid of scrap so the intent of the legislation is to help communities plan for the removal of old vehicles and send them down south," said Art Stewart, with Nunavut's Department of Economic Development and Transportation.

The department is considering collecting the import fee over several years, charging residents a portion when registering their vehicles once a year.

"We do have a lot of work to do on the regulations and obviously we're not going to satisfy all of the communities and all of the drivers but we will be able to have a regulation that will provide for fees to recover the costs of end of life vehicles," Stewart said. 

New and old vehicles 

Iqaluit councillor Terry Dobbin said the levy "has been a long time coming" at the meeting.

But when Dobbin asked about whether or not the fee would apply to existing vehicles in the territory, Stewart said it's something the department will have to consider.

"It would be difficult in some cases to grandfather, to charge a fee on vehicles that are already here," Stewart said.

While the territory is considering an import fee, the City of Iqaluit is looking at raising its end of life vehicle fee from the current cost of $200 to $1,000.

Several councillors questioned how the import fee would help the city deal with its current derelict vehicle problem. 

"There's two different problems here," said Iqaluit's deputy mayor Romeyn Stevenson, noting the import fee could still be years away.

"We have a lot of time where it's just us making the decisions for our problem. And then once this solution gets put in place, then we'll modify our solution, as far as I see it," he said.

Updated Motor Vehicles Act

Councillor Megan Pizzo-Lyall questioned whether or not the territory's proposed fee would make the city's end of life fee redundant.

"If we were to have people paying motor vehicles a thousand bucks over five years and they want to get rid of their vehicle, do they just bring a receipt to the landfill?" she asked.

Stewart said that will be some of the work that will have to be figured out but said the intent is to not charge residents twice.

The import fee is part of proposed changes to the territory's Motor Vehicle Act. The current act was inherited from the Northwest Territories in 1999 and has not been substantially updated since.

The bill is expected to be introduced this month in the territory's legislative assembly. 

It will require three readings before being passed, something Stewart does not anticipate will happen until the winter or spring.

Once passed, the new act will provide the powers necessary to impose the fee, he said.

Before the regulation is implemented, the department plans to consult with each hamlet.