Wally Schumann: Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnership P3 Hub Event

May 14, 2019
Ministers' Statements and Speeches

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Good morning everyone and thank you for inviting me to speak with you today about infrastructure in the Northwest Territories, including some of our P3 projects, as well as the potential for infrastructure investment across the North. 

I want to highlight some of our successes to date, but before I do that I’d like to give you a little context for why infrastructure investment in our territory is so important. 

In the Northwest Territories, responsible resource development is at the core of who we are. It drives our economy, has generated billions in opportunities for northern and Indigenous-owned businesses and provides thousands of jobs to residents.  

The GNWT continues to explore ways to diversify our economy by looking at sectors like agriculture and tourism, but we know that the responsible development of our natural resources has and will continue to be the single biggest sector of our economy.

Canada’s North has always been an area rich with deposits of valuable minerals and prospective reserves of energy. However, despite our governments’ efforts to make the resource development sector in our territories more attractive to investors, we continue to face challenges that are impacting our ability to create strong communities and stable and diversified economies.

In the Northwest Territories, only 12 of our 33 communities have uninterrupted access via an all-weather highway system.

The North lacks the energy and transportation corridors needed for our territories to participate in the clean growth economy. For instance, in the NWT, 25 of our 33 communities must rely on imported diesel for power generation and all of our operating mines rely on diesel for their operations.

With limited infrastructure, long distances and harsh climates, resource development in the North can be more difficult.

Lack of infrastructure in the North has frequently been cited by industry as a significant deterrent to potential investment.

Further intensified by the high costs of materials for construction and short construction seasons, this infrastructure deficit has challenged territorial governments to remain attractive to the resource development sector.

The North requires strategic investments in transformative infrastructure to help unlock our great natural resource potential, transition to a lower carbon economy, and better connect people to employment opportunities, social programs, essential goods and each other.

Roads into the North are not just Northern projects.  They benefit Canada as a whole.  They require goods and services from across Canada; jobs, contracts and business that contribute to the tax coffers of provincial governments from coast to coast.

There is a role for public and Indigenous governments, industry and investors to play in unlocking the potential of the North, with significant potential for return on investment.

To achieve this, the Government of the Northwest Territories has recognized the opportunities public-private partnerships can bring to help the government address its current infrastructure deficit and believe this is contributing to the shift we’re seeing in the participation of Indigenous organizations in large infrastructure projects.

Partnerships with Indigenous organizations are beneficial to both the group itself and the developer. Having Indigenous support helps to foster local support and social licence to avoid hurdles in the regulatory process, and reduce investment risk. 

In 2011, the GNWT approved a Public-Private Partnership Policy to start advancing the use of P3s for large infrastructure projects in the NWT.

To date, some of these projects include the advancement of the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Line as well the design, building and maintenance for our new 280,000 square foot territorial hospital that is set to open in July 2019.

Across the NWT, we also have some exciting infrastructure projects on the go. These include the Tłı̨chǫ All-season Road, Mackenzie Valley Highway, Slave Geological Province Access Corridor, and Taltson Hydro Expansion Project.

The most advanced of these projects is the Tłı̨chǫ All-season Road. It’s a great example of how government, industry and Indigenous stakeholders can work together to invest in transformative infrastructure.

Through a P3 Project Agreement, North Star Infrastructure will design, build, finance, operate and maintain the road. Construction is expected to start in fall 2019.

The Project agreement includes unique local and First Nations involvement, with the Tłı̨chǫ Government taking 20% equity ownership in NSI, and contractual obligations to procure meaningful percentages of project resources and labour from First Nations and/or local Northwest Territories businesses.

Another project is the Slave Geological Province Corridor, which will help open up one of Canada’s most mineral-rich regions to economic opportunities.

It is important that all-weather access be extended into this region to ensure existing industry operations can maximize the value of their investments and to ensure that remaining world-class deposits, such as cobalt, lithium and nickel that support the development of low-carbon technologies and that could help meet national emissions targets, can someday be developed. 

The GNWT is looking forward to working with its Indigenous partners to advance the project.

Like the Tłı̨chǫ All-Season Road, it is likely that the Slave Geological Province Corridor would benefit from the opportunities of a P3 process.

Access to clean hydropower is a critical next step to unlocking our stranded resources and growing our economy sustainably. The Taltson project has the potential to connect the Taltson and Snare hydro systems and expand Taltson’s capacity by 60 megawatts. 

Currently, technical work to define the transmission routing options and estimated capital costs to cross Great Slave Lake are underway.

Partnerships with impacted Indigenous governments are an essential element of the project and will include capacity building, participation in technical reviews, baseline information gathering and commercial discussions with financiers and prospective customers. 

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.

To achieve this and realize our vision for these infrastructure projects and others will require strong partnerships with key stakeholders, including the federal government, Indigenous organizations, and industry.

There are opportunities for equity investment by Indigenous organizations – they just need the private investment to make that possible.

There’s an endless amount of potential and opportunities in the North. We have the plans, we have the support – we just need the means of reaching our potential.

What we need and want now are the partnerships and commitments that will help us get there and continuing to embrace innovative partnerships such as P3s will help achieve this.

As an area that has not been extensively developed, there are many opportunities for investment in the North.

As the GNWT moves closer to realizing the strategic infrastructure required to achieve our objectives, I urge you to also consider how the North’s natural resource sector fits into your own long-term investment and growth goals.

Thank you for your time today.