Wally Schumann: NWT Highway Improvements

Delivered on October 20, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories is following through on its mandate to strengthen connections with public sector partners in order to invest in strategic transportation infrastructure.

Improving and extending our highways system helps connect communities, reduces the cost of living, improves the resiliency of our transportation system to climate change, and increases access to natural resources.   I am proud to say we have carried out improvements to almost every highway in the Northwest Territories over the past two years. These improvements have been possible thanks to continued investment by the GNWT and federal funding under the New Building Canada Plan.

The first bundle of funding under the New Building Canada Plan was announced in 2015. The federal government provided $72 million, while our government provided $24 million.  Rehabilitation work was completed on highways throughout the Northwest Territories using the skilled workforces of a variety of northern contractors.  Examples of investments include widening sections of Highway No. 8, and work on Highway No. 7, such as resurfacing parts of the Liard Highway and chipsealing over 30 kilometres of Highway No. 6.

A second bundle of highway improvement projects was approved in 2016, through which the federal government provided $60.7 million, while the GNWT contributed over $25.2 million for a total investment of $100.9 million.  Reconstruction work under this funding included the Nahanni Butte and Jean Marie River access roads.  This funding also allows the Department of Infrastructure to undertake several key projects, such as the rehabilitation of the Buffalo River Bridge and construction of the new Canyon Creek access road.

Mr. Speaker, major rehabilitation works on the Buffalo River Bridge began in July 2016 and will be completed this fall. Originally constructed in 1964, improvements to the bridge will allow it to accommodate modern highway loads and extend its service life.

The Canyon Creek access road will provide significant benefits to the Sahtu Region throughout all phases of construction. There will be many job training opportunities for construction, technical, and support positions. This training will allow residents to gain valuable skills that will be useful for future projects and opportunities. When the road opens, residents will benefit from improved access to traditional hunting, fishing, and other recreational opportunities. The new road could also facilitate the development of a wellness camp for the region and open up potential resource development south of Norman Wells.

Going forward, the GNWT is seeking federal approval of funding for a third bundle of projects. This funding will extend the work done under the previous bundles to support safe travelling, community access roads, and resource development.

The GNWT is also actively pursuing new opportunities to further expand our transportation system.  I am pleased to announce that the federal government has favorably reviewed our expressions of interest in securing federal funding for both the Mackenzie Valley Highway and the Slave Geological Province Access Corridor. They have now invited us to enter the next phase of their approval process. We will provide them with detailed project proposals during the first week of November.

 Our third major proposed corridor, the Tłı̨chǫ All Season Road, has received conditional funding from P3 Canada and is in the midst of the Environmental Assessment process under the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Review Board.  Finally, as I am sure you all know, we are getting ready to celebrate a highway milestone in Canada: the opening of the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway, linking Canada from coast to coast to coast.

Highways are the lynchpin of our transportation system.  They connect communities and unlock our economic potential by enabling exploration and development.   We are proud of our northern highway system that enables the movement of goods and people in exceptionally rugged terrain and a challenging environment.  We are excited about the new possibilities that will open up if our corridors become a reality for the North.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.