Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories has made a commitment in its Mandate to capture opportunities for investment in transportation infrastructure by working to secure funding to advance the Tłįchǫ all-season road.
Mr. Speaker, according to Tłįchǫ Chief Alfonz Nitsiza of Whatì, the project will provide cultural strength to the Tłįchǫ people, aside from economic benefits. This project is not only a source of future prosperity, but also a source of pride for the region. The road has been discussed by the Tłįchǫ Government since as far back as the 1980s and their support is evident through the critical role they have played in advancing project progress.
Mr. Speaker, the Tłįchǫ Government worked in collaboration with GNWT to complete the project description report, which was submitted on March 31st to the Wek’èezhìi Land and Water Board for review and permitting. This partnership will continue to be critical to the success of the project as both parties await a decision on next steps in the process.
In the meantime, funding for the project is being sought under the P3 Canada program. The Department has built a strong case for investment by citing the many social and economic benefits of building this road.
Transportation affects the cost of every component of household expenditure, meaning that any improvements to the transportation system help reduce the cost of living. A year-round connection to Whatì and increased access for the communities of Gamètì and Wekweètì will provide efficiencies, including lower travel time and shipping costs, which support resupply operations and businesses in the region. During mobilization, construction, and de-mobilization, many good paying jobs will become available to residents. These jobs will provide skills and training that are transferrable to other industries, helping to develop a strong northern workforce.
Mr. Speaker, the project will have benefits beyond just Whatì, for the NWT as a whole. Increased access will result in new opportunities to continue developing the region’s economic potential. An all-season road would reduce exploration and development costs for industry, attracting further investment that supports a strong NWT economy. More importantly, the road will reduce the cost of living for residents of Whatì.
The construction of the road to Whatì will also increase the length of the operating season for the winter road serving the communities of Gamètì and Wekweètì. Replacing the southern end of the existing winter road will help us deal with challenges arising from changing temperatures and precipitation. This will contribute to reliable access throughout the region and help support the Department’s priority for a more resilient transportation system in the face of climate change.
Mr. Speaker, for all these reasons we believe our business case for federal investment in the construction of the Tłįchǫ all-season road is strong. In February 2016, investment in this project was included among the recommendations made in the final report of the Canada Transportation Act Review. The federal government is engaging with key stakeholders, governments, and the public across Canada to discuss the report this summer. During this engagement process, our government will stress the importance of implementing all recommendations for investment in the NWT transportation system, including the Tłįchǫ all-season road.
Mr. Speaker, as we move on to the next steps of this significant project, the GNWT is pleased to have the continued partnership of the people of the Tłįchǫ region to advance our shared visions of creating strong, prosperous, and vibrant communities.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.