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Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories has made a commitment in its mandate to capture opportunities for investment in transportation infrastructure by working to secure funding to improve access into the Slave Geological Province. Today I would like to provide an update on the Department’s progress on this project.  Improving road access into the Slave Geological Province has been a long-term objective of the Governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories. This long-term vision includes connecting to an all-weather road and deep-water Arctic port in western Nunavut. Partnership with the Governments of Canada and Nunavut, as well as with Aboriginal governments and industry, will better enable us to achieve this vision. Climate change is increasingly affecting the NWT’s transportation system and investment in all-weather roads is one of the ways we can address those impacts. There is increased uncertainty regarding the feasibility and capacity of the existing winter road into the Slave Geological Province. This is due to warmer temperatures, more unpredictable weather, and the increased traffic projected to resupply the region’s mining industry. Already, recent shortened operating seasons for winter roads have resulted in significant additional transportation costs and operational difficulties for mining developments in the Slave Geological Province. The development of the Slave Geological Province Access Corridor provides an opportunity to boost mineral exploration and development in this resource rich region, and support our mining industry, which continues to directly contribute more than 30 percent to the territorial economy. An all-weather road to the Slave Geological Province will stabilize the resupply system to existing mines in the area making it feasible to extend mine life. It will also enable new mineral exploration and development opportunities by increasing reliable access to resources. Mr. Speaker, there are significant base and precious metal prospects in the Slave Geological Province that require all-weather access for exploration and development. By increasing access to the Slave Geological Province, the Government of the Northwest Territories will increase investor confidence and enable our territory to reach its full economic potential. In addition to collaboration with the Governments of Canada, Nunavut and Aboriginal governments, the development of an access corridor into the Slave Geological Province requires significant inter-departmental collaboration within the GNWT. The Department of Transportation has conducted numerous studies on this Corridor over the last two decades. Based on the results of mineral potential and route option studies conducted by the Departments of Transportation and Industry, Tourism and Investment, a corridor has been identified that will provide the greatest economic benefit to the region and the NWT.  The Departments of Transportation, Finance and Industry, Tourism and Investment are jointly conducting a P3 business case assessment of the chosen corridor. This business case is expected to be completed in mid-2017 and will allow the GNWT to make a better estimate of construction costs for this road, as well as determine an appropriate funding model. In the meantime, the Department of Transportation continues to focus on next steps, including undertaking environmental studies and finalizing engineering and design work for the road. The Department of Transportation is also working with caribou subject experts from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to identify any gaps in knowledge and opportunities to support the mandates of both departments.    The Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Nunavut have set up a joint working group to collaborate in advancing the project from both territories. Both of our governments look forward to new opportunities to fund further planning and construction of the access corridor. Improving territorial transportation infrastructure will remain one of the priorities of this government. This supports our commitment to improve the quality of life and lower the cost of living of our residents, support business and employment opportunities, adapt to the impacts of climate change, and maximize opportunities to realize our economic potential.  Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the Department of Transportation is committed to working with our public sector partners to maintain a safe and efficient multi-modal transportation system.   The Northwest Territories’ 27 community airports are critical to the economic and social well-being of our residents. In fact, four of our communities have no road access whatsoever and are completely reliant on a combination of marine and air services.  In addition to enhancing safety operations, improvements to airport infrastructure help to better connect families, provide increased tourism opportunities, enhance reliable delivery of essential goods to remote communities, and support emergency medevac and response capabilities. All airports in the NWT are federally regulated.  Improvements to air services and airport infrastructure are mutually beneficial to both the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada. The federal government plays an important role in funding northern aviation infrastructure.   A number of federal infrastructure funding programs have supported upgrades to NWT airports in the past. The Airport Capital Assistance Program was developed in 1995 to help regional airports across Canada, by paying for up to 100 per cent of the costs of projects related to safety, such as airside surfaces and lighting, emergency response equipment, and mobile heavy equipment for airside operations. Currently, 20 of the Department of Transportation’s 27 airports qualify for ACAP assistance. Since 1995, a total of $24 million has been invested in airports across the Northwest Territories under the ACAP program. This includes the purchase of a new snow blower in Hay River, the rehabilitation of airfield lighting in Norman Wells, Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk, and runway surface rehabilitation in Sachs Harbour, Tulita, Inuvik, Yellowknife and Norman Wells. This year, roughly $805,000 is being provided to purchase an aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicle for the Yellowknife Airport.  The vehicle is expected to arrive in March and will help improve our emergency response capacity at the territory’s gateway air hub. The GNWT is also able to access other federal funding programs to assist with improvements at NWT airports. New airports were built in Trout Lake in 2016 and Colville Lake in 2012 under the previous Building Canada Plan. This increased the safety and capacity of air travel in both communities. A series of air terminal building replacements were undertaken in 2011 in Sachs Harbour, Paulatuk, and Tuktoyaktuk under Canada’s Infrastructure Stimulus Fund. This program also funded the replacement of the combined services building in Yellowknife. These projects provided resilient infrastructure with improved efficiency for community use.  We have also recently undertaken work to prepare for replacing the Inuvik Air Terminal Building. Mr. Speaker, while federal investment in our transportation system cannot be underestimated, we cannot depend solely on Canada for necessary improvements at NWT airports. Federal funding is limited and there is no certainty that the Government of the Northwest Territories will receive approval for critical infrastructure improvement projects under federal programs. These programs do not always allow us to invest in the projects we know are required. The Department of Transportation will continue to lobby the federal government for increased funding, but, at the end of the day, essential capital investments in safety and security need to be made in a timely manner. As Members know, the Department of Transportation has proposed a new approach to funding the Yellowknife Airport, the North’s biggest and busiest airport. In other parts of Canada, airports of this size are usually able to pay for themselves without requiring substantial subsidies from government. Those airports do this by charging tenants and users a fair and competitive price for the services they receive from the airport. This is not currently the case in Yellowknife. In Yellowknife, the government continues to contribute substantially to the airport, requiring the GNWT to allocate money from within its operating budget. Money to fund capital improvements, while partially coming from Canada at times, also comes from the GNWT’s limited capital budget, which also has to fund the construction of schools, health centres and public housing. Our studies show that the Yellowknife Airport substantially undercharges compared to Canadian airports of the same size. Landing fees are currently only 25 percent of those at comparable airports in southern Canada. The GNWT has to make up that difference, requiring us to divert resources from other programs and projects. We think it would be better for the businesses and people that directly benefit from use of the Yellowknife Airport to pay their fair share of those costs, rather than requiring government money better suited for other programs and uses that would benefit all residents. We understand nobody likes to hear that their expenses are going to go up, Mr. Speaker, but the fact is that these fees are a normal cost of doing business at airports across Canada and around the world. It does not make sense for government to subsidize these same services. The proposed fee increase will bring the charges at Yellowknife Airport in line with rates charges at similar sized airports in southern Canada. To address this, the government is proposing a revolving fund for the Yellowknife Airport that will allow the Airport to become financially self-sufficient. The Yellowknife Airport has sufficiently robust volumes that could support a user-pay system. Revenues collected at the Yellowknife Airport would go directly into this fund and be used to finance its operations and infrastructure investments. This model works at most similar-sized airports in Canada, providing freedom to finance infrastructure improvements and take advantage of economic opportunities without using taxpayer dollars. Mr. Speaker, building capacity at NWT airports to support safe and efficient travel and enhance business opportunities is critical to the future development of our economy and ensures self-sustainable communities. We will continue to work with our federal partners to make improvements to our air transportation system while investigating new ways to make strategic investments in our infrastructure. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the Department of Transportation has made a commitment in its mandate to restore safe operating conditions in the Port of Hay River by strengthening connections with public and private sectors partners.   The Hay River Harbour remains an essential piece of infrastructure for the NWT marine transportation system.  The Harbour supports critical services such as those provided by the Canadian Coast Guard and the Department of Defence.  As well, industry and communities up and down the Mackenzie River depend on the steady and reliable resupply of essential goods and materials shipped out of Hay River. Low water caused by the buildup of sediment has long challenged navigability in the Hay River Harbour.  This has had a serious impact on the safety and effectiveness of the essential marine services on which northerners rely. Commercial fishing boats often touch bottom when entering the Harbour, and Coast Guard vessels have trouble accessing their base. That is why last year the GNWT supported the establishment of the Hay River Harbour Restoration Group, led by the harbour authority with representatives from all impacted stakeholders.  The restoration group provides a forum to discuss challenges and various technical matters regarding future restoration efforts.  The group most recently met in Hay River in December and decided that DOT will work with the NWT Fishermen’s Federation to develop an informal request for a quote for dredging services from local contractors.  Over the past year, DOT has worked with public and private stakeholders to advocate for project funding and to acquire the necessary information to have this important harbour dredged. In 2016, a military surveillance aircraft recorded imagery over the Harbour and East Channel entrance.  The Canadian Coast Guard also conducted sounding operations in the Hay River Harbour.  The information collected during their activities is vital to determining the approximate volume of material that needs to be dredged. Identifying funding sources for the dredging plan remains an important component of this project.  We will continue to explore all possible funding options, including through the Oceans Protection Plan announced last year, and other federal programs.   Critical marine resupply operations for many communities start from the Hay River Harbour. The facility is also important to the commercial fishing industry on Great Slave Lake, which has the potential to help diversify the NWT economy. By restoring the Hay River Harbour to its maximum potential, we will continue to reduce the cost of living and provide jobs for northerners, in line with our Legislative Assembly commitments. The Department of Transportation remains committed to working with all stakeholders to develop a reliable, long-term solution to restore the Harbour’s full and unimpeded operational capacity. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 
Mr. Speaker, investments in our transportation system are critical for creating economic and social opportunities for northerners. The Department of Transportation’s commitment to securing federal funding to advance the Mackenzie Valley Highway under the mandate of the 18th Legislative Assembly is intended to capture these kinds of opportunities. We are already seeing the benefits of road construction in the Beaufort Delta, where the northernmost section of the Mackenzie Valley Highway, the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway, is nearly complete. Improved access and significant training and employment have positioned residents of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk to take advantage of future opportunities related to resource development and tourism and will result in a lower cost of living. Mr. Speaker now is the time to start bringing benefits like these to the residents of the Sahtu. We know that the suspension of oil production in Norman Wells is currently contributing to economic uncertainty for many residents. More than ever, we need to invest in projects that generate employment and reduce the cost of living in this region. On January 5, the Governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories gave the region some positive news with the announcement of funding for the Canyon Creek All-season Access Road. The Government of Canada is contributing $15 million, or 75 percent, toward construction costs for this project, while the GNWT is providing the remaining $5 million or 25 percent. The project involves the construction of a 14 kilometre access road south of the Town of Norman Wells, providing access to granular resources and traditional Sahtu lands, which may be used for recreation, tourism, and business development. Construction alone is expected to create 50 jobs, general training opportunities for 12 individuals, and heavy equipment operator training for 16 individuals. The skills and experience gained by Sahtu residents involved in the project will help prepare them to participate fully in the eventual construction of the Mackenzie Valley Highway. Construction will also benefit a host of local and northern suppliers of things like construction equipment, signage, and building materials. Project construction is expected to begin this March and direct employment benefits will be spread over nearly two years, which is when the project is expected to be completed. The Canyon Creek All-season Access Road represents another step towards replacing the existing Mackenzie Valley Winter Road with an all-weather corridor, which remains the ultimate solution to improving transportation access throughout the Mackenzie Valley. Mr. Speaker, construction of the Mackenzie Valley Highway from Wrigley to Norman Wells will reduce the impacts of climate change on the NWT transportation system, which are shortening the window of operation for winter roads. A more resilient transportation system will also result in efficiencies in the delivery of essential goods and materials to communities. The savings realized by the trucking industry will be passed on to consumers for household necessities and lower the cost of supplies required for the construction of houses, schools, and medical care facilities. Improved intercommunity mobility will also allow residents better access to services that may not be immediately available in their own community. Businesses will be connected to other markets, supporting economic growth. The improved access will also reduce costs for industry exploration and development, opening up new areas of mineral potential and increasing the attractiveness of continued petroleum production and development in the Sahtu. The Mackenzie Valley Highway is critical to unlocking much of the still untapped resource potential of the region. Tourism in remote communities throughout the Mackenzie Valley is also expected to increase with the completion of an all-weather highway. The Department of Transportation continues to build political support for construction of the Mackenzie Valley Highway from Wrigley to Norman Wells. This project is in the mandate approved by the Legislative Assembly and we will work with the Sahtu to see it through. The Department has submitted a business case requesting $700 million in federal funding under the National Infrastructure Fund of the New Building Canada Plan. While the federal government’s review of this funding submission is currently suspended pending decisions by Canada regarding its long-term infrastructure funding plan, new opportunities for funding may become available with the upcoming Federal Budget.  In the meantime, the Department of Transportation continues identify ways to advance critical components of the envisioned highway, including the Great Bear River Bridge. Mr. Speaker, the construction of the Mackenzie Valley Highway remains a high priority for northerners. The Department of Transportation continues to pursue opportunities to advance the project. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, early in the New Year, an important milestone was achieved with the announcement of conditional federal funding to construct the Tłı̨chǫ All-season Road. This represents a critical step towards fulfilling the mandate of the 18th Legislative Assembly to capture opportunities for investment in transportation infrastructure in the Northwest Territories. This milestone was achieved through the strength of our partnerships with Canada and the Tłı̨chǫ Government. Together, we recognize the importance of strategic infrastructure investments for improving the standard of living in remote northern communities. With the construction of the Tłı̨chǫ All-season Road many of the opportunities that those of us living in connected communities take for granted will become available to the residents of Whatì. The project will help build economic stability across the region and contribute to sustainable and self-sufficient communities. Mr. Speaker, transportation affects the cost of every component of household expenditure, meaning that any improvements to the transportation system help reduce the cost of living. An all-season connection to Whatì will eliminate the community’s dependence on the existing winter road, which is increasingly challenged by the impacts of climate change. Replacing the southern section of the winter road will also increase the window of access to Gameti and Wekweeti, improving the resiliency and reliability of the transportation system for all Tłı̨chǫ communities. All-season access results in efficiencies, including lower travel time and shipping costs, which will translate into savings for consumers. Reducing the cost of freight helps to improve the standard of life in communities by making it more affordable to deliver a diverse range of essential goods from food and fuel to building materials for houses and construction projects. Lower operating costs for local businesses will allow them to be more competitive in territorial markets. In addition, the road will connect Tłı̨chǫ residents to a larger selection of services such as education and healthcare, which may become more affordable with improved access. The project will also contribute to new employment opportunities for residents in a variety of sectors. Job creation helps support the self-sufficiency of all northerners by providing the resources necessary to access the amenities we need. Construction of the Tłı̨chǫ All-season Road will result in significant employment and allow northerners to benefit from the kind of training and experience that forge life-long skills. Through the development of a strong northern workforce, residents will also be better positioned to take advantage of future economic opportunities when they arise. All-season access will also support key industries operating in the Tłı̨chǫ region. Improved access will likely attract increased numbers of tourists interested in exploring this culturally unique region of our territory. Lands for recreational and cultural purposes will become more readily accessible, creating opportunities for businesses interested in promoting the natural beauty of the region. Year-round access will also result in further interest from industry to develop and explore for natural resources in the area. Enabling such development is critical, not only because the resource industry remains the top contributor to territorial GDP, but also because it is responsible for providing a significant amount of employment, education, and training opportunities in the NWT. By increasing access into the Tłı̨chǫ region, there is the potential to continue resource development and consequently provide jobs and training to residents for generations. Improved transportation infrastructure gives people the tools to live strong, healthy, and successful lives. The Tłı̨chǫ All-season Road will contribute to vibrant communities and help capture opportunities that support economic prosperity in the NWT. The Department of Transportation will continue to work closely with the Tłı̨chǫ Government to advance the project through the environmental assessment and construction phases. Finally, the Department of Transportation continues to work with the Department of Finance on preparing project procurement. The Departments anticipate the release of a Request for Qualifications in the very near future, which will position us for the development of a Request for Proposals pending a decision on the Environmental Assessment for the project. We look forward to hearing from bidders and working together on a successful plan for construction at that time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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