Mackenzie Valley Highway

Dec 9 2011

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to provide Members and Northerners with an update on the Mackenzie Valley Highway to Tuktoyaktuk project.

I am pleased to reiterate a confirmation from the Caucus of the 17th Legislative Assembly identifying the Inuvik-Tukoyaktuk Highway segment as a priority project that will help to strengthen and diversify the Northwest Territories (NWT) economy.

Mr. Speaker, in the June 2011 budget, the people and Government of the Northwest Territories were pleased to hear Canada include $150 million over five years for the construction of the all-weather highway from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk. The federal government described the highway as ‘a project of national significance because it advances the country’s position on security, sovereignty, and economic development’.

A great deal of planning work is required before starting a project of such significance. Department officials are currently preparing a Business Case report,which will assess procurement options. Department officials have initiated discussions with Canada toward a draft funding agreement, and discussions with the Inuvialuit Land Administration to secure land tenure for the highway right-of-way have also begun. This work will lead to important decision points for the 17th Assembly.

The proposed Infrastructure Acquisition Plan for 2012/13 includes preliminary funding that will allow the Department to continue this planning work, thereby indicating to Canada our commitment to build the all-weather highway.

Further GNWT investments will be needed to complete this project, Mr. Speaker. One of the things that would make it easier to plan for and fund not just this project, but our other infrastructure needs as well, would be a completed Devolution agreement. Such an agreement would give this government access to resource revenues that could be used on behalf of all residents of the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to update Members on the progress we are making on the planning for the southern section of this highway. As Members may recall, a funding announcement from CanNor in 2010 led to Department partnerships with land claim groups and organizations to lead, develop, and manage the Project Description Reports (PDR) for sections of the Mackenzie Valley Highway.

These partnerships maximized local involvement, increased local input, and maintained local control of the planning process. These partnerships have also confirmed how government and Aboriginal groups can partner on the planning of public infrastructure projects.

Mr. Speaker, on November 30, 2011 the Department received the third Project Description Report for the Mackenzie Valley Highway. During the handover ceremony in Norman Wells, it was especially encouraging to acknowledge that all the land corporations in the Tulità District passed resolutions supporting this work. It was also encouraging to know that Ms. Cece Hodgson-McCauley is still tirelessly advocating for our highway, and it was a pleasure having the opportunity to meet with her.

The Department of Transportation has also confirmed that the Kahsho Development Foundation and the Pehdzeh Ki First Nation will be submitting the final two PDRs before the end of 2011.

The PDRs will be brought together into one report and will be provided to regulators for initial review early in 2012. The next steps are subject to obtaining additional funding to continue moving into the planning and environmental review process. Building on this momentum, the Department will continue working toward moving the project into the next phase.

Mr. Speaker, Northerners are ready to take another step toward realizing the dream of an all-weather highway from the NWT-Alberta border to the Arctic Coast.

Thank you.