Wally Schumann: New Transportation Corridors

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 Mackenzie Valley Highway, make an all-weather road from Highway No. 3 to Whati and improve access into the Slave Geological Province. Today I would like to provide an update on the progress made by the Department on these projects, where work continues to steadily advance.

The Department of Transportation believes we have a significant opportunity to move these projects ahead by securing federal funding either through Phase 2 of Canada’s long-term infrastructure plan or through P3 partnerships. The recent Canada Transportation Act Review Panel Report also recommended investing in these key strategic corridors.

Infrastructure investments help us connect communities to new social and employment opportunities, reduce the cost of living in the territory, improve our resiliency against the impacts of climate change, and increase access to natural resources.

Each of the three proposed NWT transportation corridors projects will help us capture these opportunities to the benefit of our residents.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Transportation continues to make steady progress in advancing the all-season road to the community of Whatì. Our government has been working in close partnership with the Tlicho Government for several years to advance this 97 kilometre road, which will provide year-round access to residents of Whatì. This road will also benefit nearby communities, by significantly increasing the length of operation of the winter roads to Wekweeti and Gameti and helping to address a key impact of climate change in this region.  Our government is also working with the Government of Nunavut on a proposed route that would extend from Yellowknife through the Slave Geological Province to Gray’s Bay in Nunavut, and have set up a joint working group to collaborate in accelerating this project in both jurisdictions.

The road will also help support economic development in the region by increasing access to mineral resources and boosting investor confidence.

The Tlicho All-Season Road is currently undergoing an environmental assessment by the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board. We are also awaiting a final decision from P3 Canada on our funding application for the project. The GNWT is continuing to work with the federal government to provide any additional information they require in their decision-making process.

Another important project for the GNWT, Mr. Speaker, is the next section of the Mackenzie Valley Highway from Wrigley to Norman Wells. The $700 million business case for this project was submitted to the federal government under the National Infrastructure Fund of the New Building Canada Plan in 2015.

The Government of Canada is currently reviewing its criteria for evaluating how to award funding for the various infrastructure projects from across Canada.  This means a temporary pause for our Mackenzie Valley Highway proposal, but it does not mean the project has been shelved. We expect the review to resume once Canada has made its decisions about new federal funding programming. We continue to work with our federal counterparts and the Sahtu Secretariat’s Mackenzie Valley Highway Working Group, and, as new information becomes available, we will keep Members updated, as I committed last week.

Mr. Speaker, we have also made significant progress on developing an access road into the Slave Geological Province, with the ultimate goal of linking to all-weather road and port in Nunavut. A route has been identified that will provide the greatest economic benefit to the region and the NWT.  We are currently assessing the economic feasibility and P3 potential of building an all-weather road along this route and will continue to update Members on our progress.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that the construction of the Inuvik toTuktoyaktuk Highway continues to be on time and on budget. The highway has been under construction since 2013 and earlier this year the North and South sides of the project met for the first time, marking a significant milestone in the project.  This winter, the contractor will be entering its fourth and final season of construction, and the highway is expected to open to traffic in fall 2017.

Mr. Speaker, this is an incredibly exciting time for the communities of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk and for the Northwest Territories. The Department of Transportation has already started working with the two communities and Aboriginal governments, other GNWT departments and Infrastructure Canada to plan opening celebrations.  Events will start in early 2017, with a ceremony to mark the closure of the last winter road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk, followed by the official ribbon cutting ceremony in November 2017, and with a tourism-focused celebration led by the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment in June of 2018.

Mr. Speaker, improving the territorial transportation infrastructure will remain one of the priorities of this government, as part of our commitments to improve the quality of life and lower the cost of living of our residents, support business and employment opportunities, and maximize opportunities to realize our economic potential.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.