Tom Beaulieu: Dredging the Port of Hay River

October 5, 2015
Ministers' Statements and Speeches

Mr. Speaker, I wish to provide additional information to supplement my responses given during Oral Question Period on September 29, 2015 regarding dredging the Port of Hay River.  The Department of Transportation has received a response from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to our most recent letter requesting dredging and federal marine facility maintenance. 

The Government of the Northwest Territories is keenly aware of the critical need to restore the East Channel of the Hay River and its approaches from Great Slave Lake back to safe marine navigating conditions. 

The Department of Transportation has repeatedly identified Canada’s responsibility for maintaining safe navigation conditions throughout the Mackenzie River Corridor in numerous contacts with the federal government. 

In the mid-1990s, the federal government accepted the recommendation of the federal Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities that the private sector and entities benefiting financially from dredging should assume responsibility for this work.  As a result, the national dredging program was discontinued, except in international waterways where Canada has a shared responsibility with the United States.

As a result of this decision, Canada stopped the dredging program on the Mackenzie marine system in 1993 and transferred the dredging equipment to the Town of Hay River, who eventually sold the equipment to a variety of private interests.  The federal government has not performed any dredging since this program was cancelled.

In 1995, Transport Canada issued the National Marine Policy divesting itself of major ports.  Ownership and responsibility for the remote northern marine facilities critical to the supply and delivery of essential goods to communities, the military, and industry was transferred to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. 

The federal government constructed and still owns the community resupply facilities in the NWT.  In the early 1990s, Canada and the GNWT entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to conduct the annual maintenance of these federal facilities on their behalf.  The MOU arrangement continued until 2013/14, when Canada advised the GNWT it would be cancelled

Mr. Speaker, while the Northwest Territories no longer maintains the marine system on behalf of the federal government, we still have a role to play.

We recognize the importance of a viable harbour in Hay River to the economic well-being of the community, the region and the territory.  In the upcoming months, we will convene a meeting of all parties with an interest in the harbour and begin working with them toward solutions. This includes accessing other sources of funding that might be available from the federal government, while continuing to respect the ongoing roles and responsibilities of all levels of government, the private sector and other stakeholders. Dredging is not just a Hay River issue, but a territorial one. Other communities have dredging needs as well.

In conclusion Mr. Speaker, the Department of Transportation will continue to work with our partners to maintain a safe and effective marine system for the Northwest Territories.

Thank you.