Caroline Wawzonek: NWT Airport Improvement Projects

Ministers' Statements and Speeches

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Mr. Speaker, transportation infrastructure projects play an important role in the economic landscape of the Northwest Territories, providing business and employment opportunities while serving the essential needs of our residents. The NWT’s 27 airports are the lifeline of the North, connecting communities, moving people and essential goods, providing access to critical services like healthcare, and are crucial during emergencies and evacuations for both residents and responders. We also know that many rely heavily on our airports, particularly in the areas of exploration and tourism.

Today I would like to highlight some of the Department of Infrastructure’s recent work to improve our NWT airports and ensure safety across the territory. Airport improvement projects support a number of GNWT priorities: they provide opportunities for a strong economic foundation and access to healthcare, work to address climate change related concerns, and contribute to the safety of our residents and communities.

To date, the Department of Infrastructure has received approximately $50 million dollars in Airport Capital Assistance Program, or ACAP, funding for 17 different projects at 11 different NWT airports. ACAP funding was received for a new loader and asphalt surfaces overlay in Fort Smith, and for an airfield electrical replacement in Fort Simpson. Through the capital plan, drainage improvements were completed at Sambaa K’e and Sachs Harbour Airports, with phase 2 drainage work scheduled for this year in Fort McPherson. In Yellowknife, Mr. Speaker, ACAP funding made it possible to modernize equipment, creating a safer and more efficient work environment.

Further North, I am pleased to share that the Inuvik Airport runway extension is well underway, with material extraction almost 90% complete, and runway widening nearing the 80% completion mark. Eighty-three NWT residents are currently working on this project, which is providing both local employment and training opportunities. Building this airport infrastructure is key to improving the presence of the Canadian Armed Forces to assert sovereignty in the Arctic.

The replacement of the terminal building in Inuvik is still in the works. The Department of Infrastructure is currently updating the construction cost estimates and securing the additional financial investment needed to advance this project. I am pleased to report that we have received significant local interest in undertaking this work.

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT is updating the development plan for the Fort Simpson Airport. In March 2024, a public meeting took place in Fort Simpson to present the plan and obtain feedback, and residents were invited to share their thoughts on the GNWT’s engagement portal. The plan, which will provide recommendations, analyses and policies for future development, is expected to be finalized by the end of June.

Yellowknife is using its revolving fund to make several airport improvements. A geotechnical study on both runways is looking at solutions to best address and repair issues related to runway movement due to climate change. This work will be considered and prioritized into the Capital Improvement Plan currently under development. Accessibility upgrades have been made inside the terminal building, including pet relief stations and hearing induction loops, a special type of sound system for use by people who use hearing aids. A tar machine and a rapid intervention vehicle were also purchased this year. Upcoming upgrades include replacing airport seating in the food court and arrivals B areas, a new passenger processing system for airlines, preboard screening upgrades and asphalt overlays on two taxiways.

Mr. Speaker, the Yellowknife Airport’s first strategic plan is currently being drafted and will be an action-oriented document that identifies future development in a practical, economical, and environmentally sustainable manner. It will include a capital improvement program and outline processes for identifying, planning and implementing capital projects at the airport. We recently extended an invitation to meet with the airlines for a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the airport's significance, ongoing developments and future initiatives. This kind of participation is crucial as we strive to foster transparency, collaboration, and a shared vision for the continued success of Yellowknife Airport, which is the hub to all other NWT regions. To promote accountability and oversight, the strategic plan will be made public and will include key performance indicators on monitoring progress, evaluating results, and reporting.

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT continues to make significant investments in our airports and I look forward to providing successful improvement project updates in future sittings.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.