Wally Schumann: Mackenzie Valley Highway from Wrigley to Norman Wells

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.

Mr. Speaker, the construction of the Mackenzie Valley Highway is also part of our long–term transportation strategy.  The northern most part of the highway, between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, is steadily advancing towards completion.  At the same time, our government is also focused on another critical section of the Mackenzie Valley Highway.

In August 2015, the Department of Transportation submitted a detailed business case to the Government of Canada, proposing a $700 million investment in an all-weather highway from Wrigley to Norman Wells under the New Building Canada Plan.  We continue to provide additional information requested by the federal government in support of that business case.

Mr. Speaker, this project is a cornerstone of our plan to achieve economic prosperity in the Sahtu Region and the Northwest Territories.  To maximize opportunities for Northerners, effective partnerships with project stakeholders are essential.  I believe we can only achieve these goals by working closely together. 

Sahtu leadership have taken the initiative to create a Mackenzie Valley Highway Working Group.  This group includes representation from the Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated, various communities in the Sahtu region, industry, and political leaders.  Additional support from these interested parties will emphasize the critical importance of this project to the lives of Northerners and highlight the benefits to all Canadians.

Mr. Speaker, the construction of this project will hold significant opportunities for communities along the Mackenzie River.  Allowing goods and materials to be transported by road year-round will reduce the cost of living and make housing more affordable in the Mackenzie Valley.  Increased mobility between communities will create new social, cultural, and educational opportunities.  New business opportunities will arise as new markets become available and tourism opportunities increase. 

Improved access will foster economic diversification, as well as supporting those industries that are already significant contributors to the territorial economy.  The highway would reduce costs for industry to move equipment and staff to the Sahtu, a region that holds a wealth of petroleum and mineral resources.  This would provide incentives to these companies, who have said their exploration and development costs could decrease by 30 to 40 per cent.

The highway will replace the existing winter road system where many permanent bridges are already in place.  Converting to an all-weather highway will help to adapt to the effects of climate change, supporting a more resilient transportation infrastructure.

Readiness projects, such as the construction of the Canyon Creek Access Road south of Norman Wells, will provide an opportunity for residents to gain training and experience that will benefit them in the future construction of the other segments of the highway.

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the Mackenzie Valley Highway would result in significant prosperity for the people of the Northwest Territories.  The success of this project relies on our ability to work together to achieve our mutual goal of being better connected and positioned to capture opportunities.  With support from Aboriginal governments, northern communities, and industry we can create a bright and prosperous future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.