Tom Beaulieu: Highway Corridor Planning

Mr. Speaker, transportation infrastructure and services are important to our residents, communities, businesses and our future.  I am pleased to provide an update on three key highway corridor initiatives in progress in the NWT.

In June, the Department tabled Connecting Us, a 25-year Transportation Strategy focusing on all modes of transportation in the NWT and highlighting our transportation challenges and opportunities.

Three strategic priorities were identified including Capturing Opportunities, which refers to expanding the NWT transportation system.  The Department is making significant progress under this new strategic priority with plans to increase and improve access in various parts of the territory by opening up three new all-weather corridors.  

A Mackenzie Valley Highway running from Wrigley to the Arctic coast is a long-standing priority of the GNWT.  The northernmost section of this project, the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway, continues to advance and will enter its third season of construction this winter.  

The Department has recently submitted a detailed business case to the Government of Canada for the next section of the Mackenzie Valley Highway, from Wrigley to Norman Wells.  With funding approval from the federal government, the Department’s next goal would be to begin constructing this section.  Significant planning is already underway to prepare for this next step and the route will closely follow the existing winter road alignment where 38 permanent bridges are already in place.

Improved access into the Sahtu presents a significant opportunity to increase mobility and reduce the cost of living for Sahtu residents.  By providing reliable access, industry exploration and development costs will be reduced, allowing us to tap into the rich petroleum reserves located in the region.  

Both GNWT & the Tłįchǫ governmenthave established the Tłįchǫ Road Working Group which has been working together on studies related to the development of an all-weather road to Whatì since 1999.  The road would provide several benefits including eliminating problems experienced in the southern sections of existing winter road and extending access into the region. Increased access to the NICO mine project will increase investor confidence to continue developing the region’s economic potential.  Work continues on the project to secure funding and advance environmental approvals for the project.

Mr. Speaker, the potential of improving access into the mineral-rich region of the Slave Geological Province and connecting to a deep water port in western Nunavut holds significant possibilities for a strengthened, sustainable partnership with industry and our government partners.  The region holds world-class deposits of base metals, precious metals, and diamonds and is a significant contributor to the NWT economy.  Increased all-weather access would improve industry’s ability to operate successfully in the North.

Mr. Speaker, we have heard about the forecast in resource development activity over the next five to 15 years and its possible effect on the NWT economy.  With a flat revenue outlook, the GNWT will be challenged to sustain programs and services or make capital investments in future years. Continuing to make strategic investments in infrastructure to support responsible development is one way our government can promote economic growth and prosperity for all residents.

These road corridors demonstrate NWT preparedness to capture opportunities to develop a sustainable economy and continue to improve access and reduce the cost of living to our residents.

The Department is prepared to maintain the momentum on these corridor projects as we prepare for decisions that will be made by the transition to the 18th Legislative Assembly.  

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.