North

N.W.T. gov't sold 10 barges without advertising they were for sale

The Department of Infrastructure said it was not necessary to advertise the availability of the barges because many people were already aware they were potentially for sale.

Territorial government says it couldn't find policy stating the sale of surplus goods must be advertised

In 2017 and 2018, the territorial government sold off 10 barges similar to these. It said there was no need to advertise the sale because those in the know in the shipping industry knew they were potentially for sale. (NTCL)

The Northwest Territories government quietly sold off 10 barges it had purchased from the bankrupt Northern Transportation Company Limited without advertising they were for sale.

The government's newly-formed Marine Transportation Service sold the barges in 2017 and 2018. The Department of Infrastructure said it was not necessary to advertise the availability of the barges because many people were already aware they were potentially for sale.

"NTCL's (Northern Transportation Company Limited's) bankruptcy in 2016 received meaningful coverage in the commercial marine shipping industry," said the department in an email. "It is not unusual for a business owner to closely examine the resources of a newly purchased entity, or for other commercial enterprises to show interest in purchasing a portion of the assets of a previous operation."

According to the department, seven of the 10 barges were sold to two Yellowknife businessmen.

Don Morin, a former N.W.T. premier and founder of Yellowknife's biggest aurora tourism business, bought two self-propelled, 36-metre-long barges for $42,000 apiece, and a 60-metre barge for $105,000. Yellowknife developer Les Rocher bought four barges, paying $47,500 for a 36-metre barge and $67,500 each for three 45-metre barges.

A Fond-du-Lac company, Athabasca Lakeside Barging, bought three 36-metre barges for $47,500 each.

The territorial government said the barges were sold as part of the clean up of NTCL's Hay River yard. (Submitted by Department of Infrastructure)

Morin said he found out about the barges through "the moccasin telegraph," and is hoping to use them as part of a fishing operation. Rocher refused to comment.

The government bought most of NTCL's assets in December of 2016 for $7.5 million. It purchased them to ensure that communities along the Mackenzie River and Arctic coast would continue to get their annual fuel and goods barge resupply.

Minister of Infrastructure Wally Schumann said the department planned to sell the barges for scrap metal as part of a clean up of NTCL's Hay River base.

"This was part of the clean up process, and people came forward that were interested, and we took the opportunity, instead of selling it as scrap," said the minister. Schumann said the government helped get the barges in working order by using welders and other workers it employs for the cleanup to patch up, paint and sandblast some of the barges that were sold.

Though the government has a policy dictating how surplus assets are accounted for in government books when sold off, the finance department was not able to find any policy describing when surplus goods must be advertised as for sale.

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