Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway

Nov 5 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to update Members on the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway project.

This important project is included in our 17th Assembly Caucus priorities, the federal engagement strategy, and in every strategic planning document prepared by the Department since it was formed in 1989.  It has remained a priority through past governments, with a supporting motion passed in the last Assembly. This is the first step in the development of the all-weather Mackenzie Valley Highway from Wrigley to Tuktoyaktuk.  We plan to take that first step during the life of the 17th Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, the construction project will build on the strength of Northerners by increasing employment opportunities where they are needed most and leading to economic diversification in the short, medium, and long-term.

Residents will receive the benefit of less expensive access to regional services, such as health care, education and recreational facilities.

Mr. Speaker, the highway will be the first all-weather road to the Arctic Ocean producing substantial benefits at the national, regional and local levels.  It will promote tourism and hospitality industries, making Tuktoyaktuk the first Canadian community on the Arctic Coast accessible by an all-weather road.

Since my last update, the Environmental Impact Review Board held public hearings in Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk. Municipal and regional leaders, business people, residents, and Elders used the public hearings as an opportunity to clearly express regional and public approval. Local contractors used their heavy equipment in a display of support for the project and to demonstrate its importance to the regional economy.  There is strong anticipation for the project among Beaufort-Delta residents.

Mr. Speaker, the environmental review has been an all-encompassing process resulting in 316 items submitted to the Environmental Impact Review Board’s public registry to date. The documents represent two years of work and include 86 substantial, technical reports covering everything from hydrology, to fish and wildlife habitat, terrain analysis, permafrost assessments, geotechnical investigations, light detection and ranging surveys, aerial photography, and mapping.

Mr. Speaker, since the outset of this project, we have cultivated inclusive partnerships with communities and residents and have fully considered their input in project planning. We have received valuable comments on the importance of Husky Lakes, alignment options, and the management of access to the land.

Discussions with the federal government about the federal funding commitment are underway.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper has acknowledged that this project is of national significance and will improve Canada’s sovereignty and security position. Discussions are also underway with the federal government and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation to secure land tenure.

Mr. Speaker, we are near the conclusion of the environmental review.  We have just submitted the last document onto the Public Registry, the Developer’s Final Response to Submissions.  The Inuvialuit Environmental Impact Review Board will now deliberate and consider all the material presented as they develop their final report and recommendations to the federal government.

Northerners are anxious to receive the review panel’s decision when it releases its report early in January 2013.  While the environmental review board drafts their final report, the Department will be working diligently to prepare the remaining materials necessary to have a comprehensive debate and discussion on the project in this House. We will have details on the federal funding commitment, updated cost estimates and design, as well as details on land tenure and royalty costs.  In addition, we continue to gather field and technical information, consultation with co-management groups is ongoing, and key draft management plans are being prepared to support the anticipated regulatory phase.  If the environmental review board schedule remains on track, debate on formal project approvals could occur during the February/March sitting of the Legislative Assembly.

Thank you.