Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway

Feb 16 2012

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to provide this House and Northerners with an update on the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk portion of the Mackenzie Valley Highway project.

The Government of Canada describes it as ‘a project of national significance’.  We also appreciate that the Caucus of the 17th Assembly has identified it as a strategic infrastructure investment to help strengthen and diversify the Northwest Territories economy.  Strategic investments in our infrastructure will be an important part of this government’s plans for growing our economy and realizing the vision of this Assembly.

The Department of Transportation has accomplished a great deal of work since I last spoke about the project in December of 2011.  The Environmental Impact Review Board has moved its assessment into the technical review phase.

During this stage, the information submitted in the draft Environmental Impact Statement is subject to detailed scrutiny by the review board and interested parties.  The assessment examines the impact of the proposed development, the significance of the impacts, proposed mitigation measures and follow-up and monitoring programs.

Responding with the appropriate level of detail will require the Department to conduct geotechnical investigations, surveys, consultations, and studies into fisheries, vegetation, wildlife, archaeology, and hydrology.  Much of this work is currently underway.

I appreciate the support of the house in advancing the approval of $2.5 million for the Department to conduct this work.  I will come back to Members with more information as it becomes available.

Mr. Speaker, while the environmental review process moves forward, the Department is examining procurement options, assessing the project risks and determining how to achieve the best value for money.  This information is being compiled into a Business Case Study, which will be completed over the next month.  The study includes a focused market sounding exercise to assess the P3 market’s appetite for the project.  Department officials have held discussions with local contractors and operators in the Beaufort Delta about their capacity and interest in this project.

The Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway will be 135 km long.  Of that, just over half will be on land belonging to the Inuvialuit.  Initial positive discussions are underway with the Inuvialuit Land Administration to secure land tenure for the highway surface right-of-way and negotiate rates for granular royalties.  Initial estimates indicate we will need approximately 4.5 million cubic metres of granular material to build the highway.

The Department is preparing to conduct geotechnical investigations of granular sources along the proposed route, a required component of the environmental assessment process.  This will confirm the quality, source, and volume of granular material required to construct the highway.  These results will refine the cost estimates, determine royalty payments, and reduce project risk.  Moving ahead with this work sends a strong message to Canada that the Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to the project.

Mr. Speaker, negotiations are underway between the Department and the Government of Canada toward a funding agreement for the $150 million committed in the June 2011 federal budget.  The agreement will define the makeup of the funding and determine when the federal cash begins to flow.

Northerners are excited about the opportunities on the horizon.  We are on the verge of constructing the northern-most section of the Mackenzie Valley Highway and advancing aspirations Northerners have held for generations:  to build a highway connecting Canada to the Arctic coast.

Mr. Speaker, the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway project fulfills every aspect of the vision this Assembly is committed to achieving:  Strong individuals, families, and communities sharing the benefits and responsibilities of a unified, environmentally sustainable, and prosperous Northwest Territories.   Thank you.