In a whirlwind tour through the NWT, the federal government made two major announcements for infrastructure funding that included the opening of the Canyon Creek all-season access road and the Inuvik Wind Generation project.
Francois-Philippe Champagne, the federal minister of Infrastructure and Communities was a special guest to the North in tow with Michael McLeod, MP for the Northwest Territories for both announcements . On Tuesday morning, Champagne and local delegates held an official ribbon cutting at the 14 km all-access road, followed by an inaugural drive along the route. Speeches were held at the Norman Wells Community Hall, which included
Champagne, McLeod, Wally Schumann, Sherry Hodgson, vice-chair of the Sahtu Secretariat and president of the Norman Wells Land Corporation, Norman Wells Mayor Frank Pope, Larry Tourangeau, senior negotiator with the Norman Wells Land Corporation and Daniel Mark McNeely, MLA for the Sahtu.
A joint news release from the federal government and the GNWT issued Tuesday emphasized the benefits of the $20 million road project, which include providing year-round transportation between Norman Wells and Canyon Creek, improvement of the shipment of goods, and better access to hunting and fishing areas.
Perhaps most importantly, officials promised that the small strip of roadway is to be the first step toward a Mackenzie Valley Highway that will connect Wrigley to the NWT’s Arctic coast.
“As you know, most of us view this road as part of a bigger project and of things to come,” McLeod said during his speech and acknowledgement to partners helping to get the project off the ground.
Schumann said the GNWT’s $5 million will have numerous benefits like improved movement of goods and people and the development of construction skills and training for workers. He added it is the first step toward a grander highway system to benefit remote areas of the Sahtu.
“Canyon Creek All Season Road is one part of the Mackenzie Highway project, but an essential one,” he said. “As we continue to meet milestones for this project to connect several remote communities to the public highway system, the Government of Canada and the GNWT are demonstrating our mutual support for infrastructure projects and ensuring economic growth and prosperity for all residents.”
McLeod and other dignitaries commended long-time News/North columnist Cece Hodgson-McCauley, who died earlier this year and who spent decades advocating for a highway through the Sahtu. Locals noted that on the day of the announcement, McCauley’s brother Ed was to be buried after passing way earlier in the week.
Champagne said the federal government’s investment of $15 million was done with the intent of improving the quality of life for Northerners and allowing local residents do the work.
“Eighty-four percent of the construction work that was done on this road was done by people from the local Sahtu and other Northerners coming from the NWT,” he said. “It is one thing to build infrastructure, but it is another thing to engage the community.”
Inuvik Wind Generation project
Later in the day, the minister was also part of the announcement for the $40 million Inuvik Wind Generation project at the Midnight Sun Complex.
The project, which is part of the GNWT’s 2018–2021 Energy Action Plan and 2030 Energy Strategy. With the erection of wind turbines at the High Point site near the Inuvik airport, the GNWT hopes to take advantage of high wind speeds and reduce the use of diesel fuel and greenhouse gas emissions.
Alfred Moses, GNWT minister of Education and local MLA for Inuvik-Boot Lake, was optimistic about the funding for his region of the North. He said he sees the investment as a helpful boost from partnered governments like the Inuvialuit, Gwich’in Tribal Council, GNWT and federal government that will hopefully help improve a slow economy for local businesses and Indigenous peoples.
The wind project adds to other money spent on infrastructure in the region in recent years that has included a fibre optic network and the Inuvik-to-Tuktoyaktuk Highway, Moses said.
“Inuvik has always been a boom and bust economy as a government and resource town” he said. “When things are going good, things are great. But when things are bad, it isn’t always good and it is important to have partnerships like this (wind project).”
New mayor Natasha Kulikowski, who was newly elected in October, gave a brief address to welcome guests and joked about being a new mayor and enjoying a $40 million investment from the GNWT and federal governments.
More to come …