Incorporated in 1995 as part of the formation of the new Canadian territory, NCC was formed to build, own, and lease commercial and residential infrastructure required by the Government of Nunavut.
Clarence Synard, who moved to Iqaluit in 1995 and has been with NCC Investment Group Inc. since 2005, is the current Chief Executive Officer (CEO). We spoke with Synard about the history of NCC and how it is shaping the future of Nunavut.
Development of NCC
“The Nunavut Land Claims, which was settled in 1993, included a commitment for the establishment of a separate territory,” he says. “Subsequently, federal legislation was passed in the form of the Nunavut Act, which constitutionally allowed for the new territory and the new Government of Nunavut to be implemented commencing April 1, 1999.”
The new Nunavut Territorial Government would require an infrastructure of office buildings, legislative facilities and staff housing. “The decentralized model of the government magnified these requirements,” says Synard. “Inuit leadership, through Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (“NTI”), recognized that these infrastructure needs contained the elements of a significant investment opportunity for the Inuit beneficiary corporations along with substantial business opportunities that would provide a great boost to Nunavut economic development.”
After a “partnering arrangement” was negotiated, NCC was established as an arm’s length private corporate vehicle by which the Inuit could pursue these economic opportunities. The four Inuit birthright development corporations of Nunavut (Nunasi Corporation, Qikiqtaaluk Corporation, Sakku Investments Corporation and Kitikmeot Corporation) became the owners of NCC, and all remain equal shareholders today. This ownership structure enables NCC to operate in all three regions of Nunavut: the Qikiqtaaluk Region, the Kivalliq Region and the Kitikmeot Region.
The Government of Nunavut infrastructure project included 10 office buildings in 10 different communities to accommodate the decentralized model of government. The Iqaluit location includes facilities for the Legislative Assembly. 250 staff housing units were allocated to 11 different communities, aligned with the regional administrative centers.
When NCC was created, two subsidiaries—NCC Properties Limited and NCC Development Limited—were incorporated along side of it to manage and to build a real estate portfolio and to provide third party construction services. The bedrock of these companies is providing Inuit with opportunities for employment and contracting while delivering the highest quality products and services, for both construction and property management operations and tenants.
By 2001, NCC completed buildings valued at $160 million for lease to the Government of Nunavut. By 2008, NCC completed Inuksugait Plaza, its premier residential and commercial complex in Iqaluit valued at $40million.
In 2011, Atuqtuarvik Corporation and NCC Properties Limited entered into a partnership, NCC/AC Industrial Park. The partnership completed the construction of three buildings in Iqaluit between 2011 and 2013, consisting of 25,500 square feet of heated warehouse space. This warehouse space is leased by the Government of Nunavut and various private sector businesses.
In 2017, NCC and the Government of Nunavut entered into a lease-to-own agreement for the 10 office buildings constructed as part of the initial infrastructure project. In accordance with this lease-to-own agreement, the Government of Nunavut will make monthly extension rent payments for a 10-year period following the end of the initial 20-year leases. At the end of the 10-year extension rent period, the Government of Nunavut will take ownership of the 10 office buildings.
Two years later in 2019, Qikiqtaaluk Properties Inc. and NCC Properties Limited entered into a partnership, QPI/NCCP Plateau Development. “The partnership was established for the purposes of developing and constructing mixed-use commercial and residential buildings on the Lower Plateau in Iqaluit,” says Synard. “One of the new buildings, which is almost completed now, will house NCC’s new corporate head office, as well as the head offices of Qikiqtaaluk Corporation and Nunasi Corporation.”
In 2021, NCC sold 126 of its original 250 residential units to the Nunavut Housing Corporation. NCC is now in the process of pursuing investment opportunities to rebuild its asset base. For example, in April 2022, NCC acquired a portfolio of 43 rowhouse units in Iqaluit.
Also in 2021, NCC launched a property management services operation in the Kitikmeot Region.
In early 2022, NCC Properties Limited and Sakku Properties Ltd. entered into a partnership, NCC Kivalliq Properties. The partnership currently owns a mixed-use building in Rankin Inlet and is considering other opportunities in the Kivalliq Region.
“In terms of our construction operations, since inception, NCC Development has completed construction projects valued at over $500 million,” says Synard. This includes infrastructure, offices and housing for the Government of Nunavut, including the Legislative Assembly Building in Iqaluit, commercial buildings, social housing, residential buildings and homes, hospitality buildings, special-use facilities and industrial-use space.
Housing is a large issue indeed and continues to be, says Synard. “The lack of affordable housing leads to over-crowding and homelessness. From this, it brings on even more issues on the health side of things. We feel that if the housing needs are met for Nunavummiut, then many of the other issues we face will improve. “
The largest issue with housing is the lack of different housing types in the continuum—the housing stock is primarily composed of public housing and staff housing with some private home ownership. “We are currently working with Inuit organizations and the government to fill in the gaps and create new housing models that will address the issues,” says Synard. “The Inuit organizations and government need to collaborate to tackle the crisis we are faced with. Discussions around this are now occurring. The approaches in the past have not worked and we feel that Inuit organizations are the solution to lead the way in addressing this serious issue.”
A robust investment strategy assesses all investment opportunities against a set of criteria, which are aligned with the strategic priorities of NCC. Criteria must consider social and fiduciary factors to be deemed a good fit; Return on Investment is measured not only by the fiscal bottom line, but its social Return on Investment equally. “For example, does the investment help to address the housing crisis, will the investment generate employment opportunities for Inuit, will the investment provide opportunities to engage other Inuit-owned business, will the investment help to satisfy a need of the community,” asks Synard.
Synard has recently been recognized as Business Person of the Year at the Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2021 Qikiqtani Business Achievement Awards. He is quick to point out that it was a group effort. “Without the amazing staff we have at NCC as well as the leadership from our board of directors it would never have happened. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by an amazing team of hard working and dedicated individuals that make this company into what it is, and it is this team that will ensure NCC has continued success in the future,” he says.
Be that as it may, Synard’s individual contributions to the community are exemplary, giving back to the community through volunteering at many organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, where he served as buildings and site committee chair, fundraising chair and vice chair; by being Vice Chair for Skills Canada Nunavut; President of Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce; Vice Chair of the Building Advisory Committee, to name only a few.
Synard is proud to see the inclusion of NCC in the transition and growth of Nunavut since its territorial status on April 1st, 1999. “In 1999, there were many different needs for Nunavummiut, but as the territory continues to grow the needs grow as well and it places a lot of strain on aging infrastructure that is operating over capacity and beyond its intended life expectancy,” he says. “Clean energy is at the forefront as we see the effects of climate change more than many other places in the world. Also with the depleting ice, the Northwest Passage is becoming more of a reality for shipping and this comes with its own set of concerns as well. Resource development through the mineral mining and fishery sectors is a huge contributor to the GDP of Nunavut. The North is more known to people in southern jurisdictions now and resource-rich lands will also be on the radar for the world as other areas are depleted of their resources and access to the North is getting easier.”
As NCC grows, Synard says that the company strives to ensure that it trains as many people in the North as possible and that a local workforce is imperative for the current and future needs of Nunavut by reducing costs and reducing the number of imported workers into the territory.
NCC and its team is committed to contributing to the people and future of Nunavut through building infrastructure vital for housing, business, and government.