People in the Nunavut hamlet of Pangnirtung say they were taken completely by surprise by this week's federal budget, which included $17 million to speed up construction of a harbour in the community.

'Our reaction is, 'Yes!' Let's get to work on this thing and let's get it done.' —Ron Mongeau

The Pangnirtung harbour was listed among the federal government's "priority" infrastructure projects that will receive funding from the budget, handed down by federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on Tuesday.

The $17 million being pledged is on top of $8 million in federal cash announced for the harbour last year.

"We had no idea," Ron Mongeau, Pangnirtung's senior administrative officer, told CBC News.

"Our reaction is, 'Yes!' Let's get to work on this thing and let's get it done."

Speaking in Inuktitut, Pangnirtung Mayor Moses Qarpik told CBC News that without a harbour in the community, local boaters and hunters have had to sit in their boats, in the dark, to wait for the high tide in order to return to shore. That can create a dangerous situation, he said, especially on windy days.

Inshore turbot fishery

Having a harbour built in the community would also help Pangnirtung develop a summer inshore turbot fishery that would create local jobs, said Don Cunningham, general manager of Pangnirtung Fisheries.

The community can take advantage of a 500-tonne turbot quota that's sitting right on its doorstep, Cunningham said. Only a small number of fish from that quota are being taken now, without a harbour in place.

"It's a double win when you can catch the fish with your own local fishermen, so that's why the wharf is so critical to it," he said.

"Now we should be able to have access to that 500 tonnes of fish, both as raw material for the plant but also as… a serious commercial income source for a fair number of local fishermen."

Cunningham estimated that using the 500-tonne quota would be worth about $1 million for local fisherman with access to a harbour.

The community has not yet approved a final design for the harbour. Local officials say they hope to hold a conference call with the territorial and federal governments soon, in order to lay out what will happen over the next couple of months to speed up construction.