Though some might see the new Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway as a $300 million dirt road to nowhere, it’s hard to argue with the long-term value of nation building.
Today, other than the decent tourism potential and the fact Tuktoyaktuk is certainly not “nowhere,” some may view it as a road to nowhere.
The oil boom in the region, the original justification for the road, is gone, and the current federal government seems to want to make sure it never comes back.
But its usefulness is not limited to today, something Tuk-born Joe Nasogaluak noted when talking about the opportunities future generations will now have.
Oil’s not a viable industry in the Beaufort Delta right now, but maybe it is in 30 years, or maybe there’s something else that causes a new boom in 50.
Maybe some discovery or change in current affairs turns the world’s attention to the Beaufort Delta and Tuktoyaktuk, in which case the infrastructure to access the area already being set up will prove invaluable.
Or perhaps a warming climate opens up Northern shipping and travel routes, turning Tuktoyaktuk into a bustling port city and the territory into the top Canadian jurisdiction serving the Arctic coast.
For now, it does small but still important things, such as allowing Mangilaluk School youth to attend a badminton tournament in Inuvik last weekend, when in previous years, the ice road would not have been ready.
It provides a connection for family and friends in the region, something that is very important to the close-knit people of the North.
Whether it’s worth the money today or not, it lays the foundation for opportunities in the future. Infrastructure is the backbone of the country.
The Northwest Territories as a whole will always be limited without a road spanning north to south. The Yukon will continue to eat the NWT’s lunch as long as that territory is the gatekeeper to the Beaufort Delta.
Of course, money doesn’t come out of thin air and federal investment in the North mostly comes from taxes paid by southerners, or at least debt that will mostly end up on the backs of southerners.
They hold sway in federal affairs in the country and might not always support their hard-earned money going to a part of the country with such a relatively small proportion of the population.
Maybe they’d be more interested if they knew more about the North, which is as distant for most southern Canadians in mindshare as China.
One more piece of the NWT’s infrastructure puzzle is now complete. The next great connection should be the highway from Wrigley to Norman Wells, which with one more piece would connect to the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway and form the long-desired Mackenzie Valley Highway.