The author last visited Tuk in 1985, 28 years ago. Little has changed in almost 3 decades.
In 1985 Tuktoyaktuk was on the cusp of an energy boom. Major players, like Beaudrill and Dome Petroleum were planning big expenditures to develop offshore energy resources. The oil companies even built the town’s water storage facility. They built two giant complexes to house the hundreds of workers that were expected to be needed.
Alas, Dome Petroleum developed serious problems as a result of the 1986 drop in world oil prices and substantial debts from past takeovers. In November 1987, after months of negotiation, an agreement in principle was reached that lead to Amoco Canada Petroleum Co Ltd buying Dome for $5.5 billion. Beaudrill, the maker of the giant drilling platforms used in the Canadian arctic is gone. And so are the platforms. The giant Kulluk barge was used in 2011 by Shell off shore in the Alaskan arctic.
The Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk has a population of 870, in 2006 down 6.5% from the 2001 Census total of 930. There are 274 private dwellings. The population are Inuvialuit. Private businesses include a Northmart Store, a car rental company, a taxi company and three B&Bs. Traditional hunting activities are very important to the community, notably harvesting beluga whales and polar bears. Tuk’s employment rate is very low, about 40%, compared to over 60% for the NWT.
Tuk can only be reached by air or water in the summer season and only by ice road in winter. The federal and territorial governments have committed $300M over 4 years to construct and all season road between Inuvik and Tuk. This major capital project will create 688 full time jobs during construction and 42 to operate and maintain the road. The project will start this year.
Economically Tuktoyaktuk has a thriving subsistence harvest economy, yet a depressed cash economy. The population is declining, as young people move away for better opportunities. The Tuk-Inuvik highway will provide badly needed jobs to the community of Tuktoyaktuk. It will lower the cost of living and improve tourism possibilities. The infrastructure will make off-shore drilling more attractive for the future.