The Rae Access Road project must be put out for public tender as the federal government is jointly funding it, Premier Caroline Cochrane said on Thursday in response to concerns about the project near Behchoko.
“The rehabilitation and maintenance of the Rae Access Road is necessary to ensure safe community access, and requesting approval for a negotiated contract for this project now could result in significant project delays,” Cochrane said.
The premier’s response, emailed to NNSL Media, comes after the Tlicho Government and Jackson Lafferty, MLA for Monfwi, both blasted the GNWT this week for its refusal to cancel the public tender for the road work.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Lafferty said he stood with the Tlicho leaders “in condemning the actions of the GNWT in denying the request of the Tłı̨chǫ Chiefs Executive Council to cancel the public tender for the Rae Access Road reconstruction project.
“This project represents millions of dollars of economic opportunity for Tłı̨chǫ communities and jobs for Tłı̨chǫ citizens. At a time when our economy is fragile and many have lost jobs, our people need every dollar of government support to pull ahead of this unprecedented crisis,” Lafferty stated.
His statement goes on to cite the final Tłı̨chǫ Agreement, signed in 2003 and the provisions of Chapter 26 that deal with economic measures.
The third section of that chapter states that the GNWT should give priority to Tłı̨chǫ entities and individuals when projects take place in Tłı̨chǫ communities or on Tłı̨chǫ lands. It also stipulates that consultation with Tłı̨chǫ communities be done to find the most suitable business to undertake the projects.
However, that section also states that the GNWT can proceed to a public tender “if there is no suitable corporation, business or person to achieve the financial, affirmative action, training and economic objectives of the activity.”
NNSL Media has requested further comment from Lafferty on that part of the Tlicho Agreement and is awaiting a response.
The Tłı̨chǫ Government, in a statement released July 13, said it has requested a direct negotiated contract for the Rae Access Road reconstruction project and accused the GNWT of putting the contract out for tender without responding to its request.
“The tender provides for no Tłı̨chǫ employment and no Tłı̨chǫ subcontracting commitments. It is flawed and ignores the pressing needs of our community to support itself,” the statement reads.
“We do not want companies from outside our region that do not respect our people and have a poor track record of hiring Tłı̨chǫ workers in our community when we have companies and citizens that can carry out this work,” said Behchoko Chief Clifford Daniels.
The project will involve the reconstruction of the Rae Access Road from kilometre 0 to km 9.74 with the quarry site at km 5, according to a GNWT contract site.
The bidding event is listed as closed and bids are under review, the site says.
Four companies submitted bids: NWT Construction Ltd. for $5,904,300.50, Tlicho Engineering & Environmental for $3,498,996.20, CJ Contracting Ltd. for $3,469,767.30 and RTL-Robinson Enterprises Ltd. for $3,417,784.10.
In her message on Thursday, Cochrane added that there are other projects planned for the Tłı̨chǫ region that will provide contracting opportunities for Tłı̨chǫ businesses and the government will keep working with the Tłı̨chǫ Government to help maximize opportunities for Tłı̨chǫ people.