Nfld. & Labrador

Rigolet will take over gas station again while governments search for solution

A temporary contract to run the community's only gas station expires on Wednesday, with no operator set to take it over.

Interruption in service possible, as station set to close on Wednesday

The Nunatsiavut Group of Companies' contract to run the Rigolet gas station expires Wednesday, with no one set to take it over. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The only gas station in the Labrador coastal community of Rigolet is facing down Wednesday's deadline for imminent closure, and the community's government is taking it over once again.

The Rigolet Inuit community government sent a press release Monday saying it will take control of the pumps while the Nunatsiavut government works out a short-term solution.

That signals the problem has gone in a circle, as Nunatsiavut's previous short-term solution — an agreement with the for-profit business arm of the government — is coming to an end.

The federal government is also involved in trying to keep an active fuel supply to the 300 residents in the isolated coastal Labrador community.

Yvonne Jones, the Liberal MP for Labrador, said she has had numerous discussions in the last two weeks with government officials, particularly within the Department of Northern Affairs, to find a way to keep the fuel flowing.

The station has teetered several times on the brink of closure in the last year or so, changing operators from Rigolet's local Inuit government to the Nunatsiavut Group of Companies in July 2019. Neither group has been able to make it financially viable, and NGC set a Sept. 30 deadline to shut it down, as no private business owner had stepped up to take it on.

"Obviously, this is an unprecedented situation for us in the federal government," Jones said.

It's also a dire situation in Rigolet, as without the gas station the community's residents would need to ship fuel in by boat, ATV or — in the winter — snowmobile.

Entrepreneurs wanted

"We're looking at some kind of emergency or temporary relief with the federal government right now that we might be able to use in Rigolet, but it's not a permanent solution," Jones told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.

A permanent solution, according to Jones, would be turning the station over to private hands.

Labrador MP Yvonne Jones says there would be federal government support for a willing private operator of the gas station. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"They have some really good businesses in the community that are very solid, that are providing good services to people already. And we know there is some entrepreneurial interest to take over that service," she said, adding the federal government may be able to assist a potential candidate.

"We're very interested in working with them to do that."

While there has previously been private interest in running the gas station, Jones said she wasn't involved in those discussions and doesn't know why any past efforts stalled. Moving forward, she hopes any privatization problems can be avoided.

"There's going to be obstacles and challenges to doing that, but I'm certainly going to be there to help them and to see how the federal government can assist them through that process," she said.

In the meantime, she said any short-term aid Ottawa can supply would last a few months — but as Wednesday's fuel deadline approaches, Jones as of Friday had no timeline when that aid may kick in.

The Rigolet Inuit community government says it hopes to take over the station as soon as possible, but said it's likely there will be a gap between the station closing on Wednesday and then reopening again.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Labrador Morning

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