Pick Tuktoyaktuk for new port: Handley

The premier of the Northwest Territories is urging Ottawa to choose Tuktoyaktuk as a place to build a new deep sea port in the Arctic.

N.W.T. Premier Joe Handley wants Ottawa to build its new deep sea port at the northern coastal community of Tuktoyaktuk in addition tosomewhere in Nunavut.

During the election campaign, the Conservative government promised to build a port in Nunavutto increase the military's presence in the North. It is considering seven possible locations, including Iqaluit.

In an interview last week, Handley saidthe western Arctic is as important as the eastern Arctic when it comes toprotecting Canada's sovereignty.

"I don't want to take anything away from Iqaluit or from the importance of the water," he said. "Davis Inlet between Greenland and Canada, that is important as well, but so is the western Arctic."

Protecting Canada's northern boundaries is alsoabout keeping people in the North, he said.

"My message has been that we can't just look at icebreakers and that's it and remote monitoring of the Arctic," said Handley.

"We need to have people on the ground. How do we keep people in Tuk and communities like that? One way is get the infrastructure in there that makes it affordable for them to stay there, and also for tourism."

The community of1,000 on the Beaufort Sea relies on oil and gas development as well as tourismto sustain its economy.

Problems with Tuktoyaktuk

Retired Col. Pierre Leblanc, former commander of theCanadian Forces in the North, said a port at Tuktoyaktuk may be good for the local economy and enhance Arctic sovereignty but it's not the best choice.

"One of the concerns with Tuk is that it's built on permafrost and it's melting away," said Leblanc. "They would have to do appropriate studies to find a place that is secure enough to build that port so that it doesn't disappear in five years."

Nor does he like Iqaluit for a location, saying it's not even on the Northwest Passage.

Leblanc said he prefers Resolute Bay, 1,570 kilometres north ofIqaluit on Cornwallis Island, because it's the most centrally located.

The federal government is expected to make a decision about the port's location within a year.