With 300 new cars a year, Iqaluit's streets get busier

This year, a record 106 vehicles reached Nunavut on a single cargo ship. None of Nunavut’s communities are connected by road, but the number of vehicles in communities continues to rise.

Iqaluit now has about 5,500 registered vehicles; Nunavut as a whole has about 8,900

Waguih Rayes of Desgagnes Transarctik supervises the loading of a cargo ship that will deliver cargo - and vehicles - to Nunavut's communities during the short summer shipping season. (Peter Worden/CBC)

Rush hour in Nunavut is, for the time being, non-existent, but Iqaluit’s chief municipal enforcement officer Kevin Sloboda says most Iqalummiut are familiar with “rush minute.”

“Everyone goes home at once. Everyone goes to work at once. It just seems to be one of those things stagnating your traffic flow, so you get these mass congestions.”

Traffic backs up in Iqaluit during 'rush minute,' when government workers rush to or from work or home for lunch. (CBC)

The isolated city of about 7,000 people has no stop lights, and no roads to any other town, but still, about 300 new vehicles hit Iqaluit’s streets each year. There are now about 5,500 registered vehicles in Iqaluit. The territory as a whole has about 8,900.

“The number of vehicles definitely is increasing,” says Waguih Rayes, general manager of the sealift company Degagnes Transarctik.

This month the company shipped a record 106 vehicles on a single voyage North, beating last year’s high of 93.

Vehicles en route to Nunavut travel in special containers so they can be stacked. (Peter Worden/CBC)

Rayes says the number of vehicles aren’t just congesting Iqaluit’s streets, but also the ships themselves.

“It’s becoming a problem for us in terms of shipping because we cannot stack vehicles. We can stack containers, so we put vehicles in containers and this unfortunately increases the cost.”

But that problem is coming from a positive development: economic growth.

“People are getting better jobs,” Rayes says. “The mining sector is offering better opportunities for work.”

Many new cars come in, but few old cars go are taken out of the territory. The derelict vehicles can leach contaminants like lead and mercury.

As the number of cars increases, Sloboda says the city may eventually look at an import levy to offset the cost of stripping, crushing and removing old vehicles.

A truck destined for Nunavut is loaded on the Anna Desgagnes in Ste. Catherine near Montreal. (Peter Worden/CBC)