Diane Archie: Federally Funded Infrastructure Projects

Déclarations et discours de ministres

Yellowknife — 14 février 2023

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Mr. Speaker, through strategic infrastructure investments, this government is committed to supporting the expansion and diversification of our economy, improving the quality of life for residents, and lowering cost of living in the territory.

We have secured about $1.5 billion dollars in funding under various cost-sharing arrangements with the Government of Canada. This funding will advance transformative strategic initiatives like the Mackenzie Valley Highway, Slave Geological Province Corridor, and Taltson Hydro Expansion projects, and will also support over a hundred other public infrastructure projects intended to help close the infrastructure gap between the North and southern Canada.

Mr. Speaker, through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, up to $590 million dollars in federal funding will be provided for Indigenous, community, and territorial government projects across the NWT. More than $340 million dollars of this funding has already been allocated, and the rest has been earmarked for future projects.  Our agreement for this program goes until 2033.

Over $180 million dollars is cost-shared under Transport Canada’s National Trade Corridors Fund for the Mackenzie Valley Highway and Slave Geological Province Corridor. There is also more than $240 million dollars under Infrastructure Canada’s Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund and the Small Communities Fund, for which our agreements currently end in 2028.

Mr. Speaker, these are just the highlights of the federal programs and critical projects the department is advancing for the benefit of NWT residents, with the continued support from the Government of Canada.

I am often asked why projects are not advancing faster, why construction does not start immediately after funding is announced, and why it appears that we are not spending the money we have for these projects.

Mr. Speaker, there are many steps between filling out a funding application and getting a shovel in the ground. These steps take time and are often completed behind the scenes, but they are essential to any successful project.

First, we conduct critical engagement and consultation, and collect environmental, socio-economic, and technical research. This includes gathering input from those who may be impacted by these projects.

Then we begin the regulatory and permitting phase. This process, which is dictated by law, often includes an Environmental Assessment followed by acquiring licences, permits and authorizations. This can take several years to complete.

Mr. Speaker, the regulatory and permitting phases inform project construction planning and final design. It is only after these pre-construction activities have been completed that a contractor can be procured and a project can advance to construction.

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT Negotiated Contracts Policy, which supports added benefits for local and Indigenous businesses, rarely aligns with federal procurement policy. Decisions to negotiate sole-source contracts with local or Indigenous businesses often add additional layers of federal approvals, and further delays to a project schedule.

Overall, Mr. Speaker, for a project like a new road or a new transmission line, it could take several years to complete the necessary engagement, consultation and environmental and engineering work to apply for a permit, several years to acquire the necessary permits, then several years to undertake construction. However, these are all necessary project steps that must be undertaken.

Typically, the bulk of a project’s funding is provided for the construction phase. The front-end work takes substantial time to complete and uses less of the overall project budget. For projects that are fully funded, it can appear as though projects are progressing slowly and funds are not being spent, but this is not the reality.

Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to putting in the necessary behind-the-scenes work to advance our projects for the benefit of our residents and communities. We will continue to work with our federal partners to bring economic opportunities to our people and reduce the cost of living to businesses and residents.

Quyananni, Mr. Speaker.