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Mr. Speaker, investments in the transportation system help to improve the safety of the travelling public, lower the cost of living, adapt to the effects of climate change, and support economic opportunities. Successful funding agreements with Canada are critical to see these projects to completion. Last summer we received federal approval for the first bundle of projects submitted under the New Building Canada Plan, creating significant opportunities to improve Northwest Territories highways.   Now, with the summer construction season upon us again, the Department of Transportation will continue to make improvements to highways and airports across the territory. Mr. Speaker, work is currently being done on nearly every NWT highway. I would like to provide a brief summary of these ongoing improvements, starting in the South and moving North. The section of Highway No. 1 between Fort Simpson and the junction with Highway No. 3 will see improvements ranging from road widening to drainage improvements and resurfacing. Highway No. 6 to Fort Resolution will also see road widening and drainage improvements, along with sub-base and base course construction. Rehabilitation to increase the structural integrity of Highway No. 7 will take place near Fort Liard. Structural strengthening, road widening, drainage, and resurfacing work will take place on Highway No. 3 between Behchoko and Yellowknife. Final work on the realigned section of Highway No. 4, including clearing the right of way, installing permanent signage, and bridge improvements will be completed this summer.  Finally, on the Dempster Highway, embankment will be widened in various sections.  In addition to this work, the 2016-2017 Federal Budget included $21.6 million in funding to pave the section of Highway No. 5 that runs through Wood Buffalo National Park. Parks Canada will be taking responsibility for the project and will identify the full scope and design. We have been in contact with Parks Canada to discuss available granular resources for the project and will assist our federal partners as required.  Mr. Speaker, all airports in the NWT are federally regulated.  Improvements to air services and airport infrastructure are mutually beneficial to both our government and the Government of Canada. The federal Airport Capital Assistance Program, or ACAP, was developed in 1995 to help regional airports pay for up to 100 per cent of the costs of projects aimed at improving safety, protecting assets, and reducing operating costs. The Department of Transportation has taken advantage of this program in the past and there are currently several projects benefitting from its funding. A total of $1.3 million has been dedicated to rehabilitating runway lighting at the airport in Tuktoyaktuk beginning in 2016-2017, to enhance operational safety and improve maintenance ability at the airport. In 2016, the Department of Transportation will also finish rehabilitating the runway lighting at the Norman Wells airport. That project received $1.4 million from ACAP, back in 2014. Finally, the Department has received $800,000 to replace the emergency response crash truck at the airport in Yellowknife. Mr. Speaker, a great deal is being done to strengthen and improve our existing transportation system. However, the list of priorities continues to grow and additional resources are required on an ongoing basis. Our government must continue to take every opportunity to highlight the infrastructure needs of our territory and work with the federal government to achieve our mutual priorities. The final report of the Canada Transportation Act Review Panel, which was released in February 2016, included a list of recommendations for federal investment in some of our top transportation infrastructure priorities, including investment in the development of three corridors, the Mackenzie Valley Highway, the Tlicho All-Season Road and access to the Slave Geological Province. This summer, the federal government is engaging with key stakeholders, governments, and the general public in all jurisdictions to talk about the findings of this report. Our government will use the opportunity to support the implementation of these important recommendations. Mr. Speaker, it is important to strengthen our partnership with Canada by ensuring that the priorities and challenges of our territory are being recognized. Our government has made significant commitments to increasing NWT transportation infrastructure, by contributing 25 per cent of the costs for projects funded under the New Building Canada Plan and delivering project management and ongoing operations and maintenance.  Infrastructure improvements provide significant economic and social benefits for NWT residents, including employment and training opportunities, reducing the cost of living in remote communities, supporting local businesses and local economies, and providing more efficient means to bring non-renewable resources to markets.  The Department of Transportation is committed to identifying new prospects to increase investment in the NWT transportation system in collaboration with our federal counterparts.     Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  
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 advance the Mackenzie Valley Highway. Mr. Speaker, the construction of the Mackenzie Valley Highway is also part of our long–term transportation strategy.  The northern most part of the highway, between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, is steadily advancing towards completion.  At the same time, our government is also focused on another critical section of the Mackenzie Valley Highway. In August 2015, the Department of Transportation submitted a detailed business case to the Government of Canada, proposing a $700 million investment in an all-weather highway from Wrigley to Norman Wells under the New Building Canada Plan.  We continue to provide additional information requested by the federal government in support of that business case. Mr. Speaker, this project is a cornerstone of our plan to achieve economic prosperity in the Sahtu Region and the Northwest Territories.  To maximize opportunities for Northerners, effective partnerships with project stakeholders are essential.  I believe we can only achieve these goals by working closely together.  Sahtu leadership have taken the initiative to create a Mackenzie Valley Highway Working Group.  This group includes representation from the Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated, various communities in the Sahtu region, industry, and political leaders.  Additional support from these interested parties will emphasize the critical importance of this project to the lives of Northerners and highlight the benefits to all Canadians. Mr. Speaker, the construction of this project will hold significant opportunities for communities along the Mackenzie River.  Allowing goods and materials to be transported by road year-round will reduce the cost of living and make housing more affordable in the Mackenzie Valley.  Increased mobility between communities will create new social, cultural, and educational opportunities.  New business opportunities will arise as new markets become available and tourism opportunities increase.  Improved access will foster economic diversification, as well as supporting those industries that are already significant contributors to the territorial economy.  The highway would reduce costs for industry to move equipment and staff to the Sahtu, a region that holds a wealth of petroleum and mineral resources.  This would provide incentives to these companies, who have said their exploration and development costs could decrease by 30 to 40 per cent. The highway will replace the existing winter road system where many permanent bridges are already in place.  Converting to an all-weather highway will help to adapt to the effects of climate change, supporting a more resilient transportation infrastructure. Readiness projects, such as the construction of the Canyon Creek Access Road south of Norman Wells, will provide an opportunity for residents to gain training and experience that will benefit them in the future construction of the other segments of the highway. Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the Mackenzie Valley Highway would result in significant prosperity for the people of the Northwest Territories.  The success of this project relies on our ability to work together to achieve our mutual goal of being better connected and positioned to capture opportunities.  With support from Aboriginal governments, northern communities, and industry we can create a bright and prosperous future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  
Mr. Speaker, it’s an honour to report on the third successful winter of construction on the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway project. I will start by referring back to Thursday, April 7th, 2016 – an historic afternoon when rock trucks driven by Beaufort Delta residents met at kilometre 45.3 and linked the north and south construction spreads.  An exciting and proud achievement was reached in Northern history that afternoon when crews placed approximately 48 cubic metres of gravel toward the final four kilometres of embankment on Canada’s first public highway to the Arctic coast.  Mr. Speaker, the contractor focused on hauling approximately 26, 000 cubic metres of material per day to place approximately 97 percent of the granular material required for the highway’s embankment.   When construction wrapped up at the end of April 2016, approximately 116 kilometres of new embankment were fully constructed and the first lift was placed on the remaining three and a half kilometres.  Crews were also able to finish six of the eight required bridges and install pilings for the final two bridges.  The Department of Transportation and the contractor are enthusiastic and prepared to make a final push to complete the project.  Mr. Speaker, I’m pleased to report that the project employed over 500 people at the peak of this winter’s construction season.  Approximately 74 percent of the workforce came from the Beaufort Delta region and other NWT communities, once again fulfilling the goal of substantially contributing to Northern employment opportunities and delivering jobs where they’re needed most. At the same time, the project continues to contribute to developing a skilled Northern workforce by delivering meaningful training opportunities and employability.   These valuable opportunities enable apprentices in a variety of trades to earn work-experience hours toward certification and improving their economic mobility. Mr. Speaker, the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway construction project is also contributing to circumpolar research aimed at improving construction techniques in permafrost conditions.  In April, the Department of Transportation held a Permafrost Summit where world experts in cold region civil engineering and Northern construction had the opportunity to observe the unique construction methods used to build the highway and visit two research and development test sites sponsored by Transport Canada.  Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to once again confirm that the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway construction project remains on schedule and within the approved budget of $299 million dollars. As we approach the end of the construction phase of the project, the Department of Transportation is beginning to plan an appropriate celebration to mark the opening of the highway in the fall of 2017 as anticipated. I look forward to celebrating this achievement in Northern construction history with the opening of the Northern-most segment of the Mackenzie Valley Highway, bringing us closer to achieving our goal of finally linking Canada from coast-to-coast-to-coast. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories has made the commitment in the Mandate to strengthen connections with public and private sector partners to improve critical transportation infrastructure in our territory.  Earlier this year, a workshop was held with key stakeholders to discuss how to restore safe and efficient access in the Hay River Harbour. Mr. Speaker, the Hay River Harbour is the NWT’s marine gateway, providing services to residents and businesses up and down the Mackenzie River and into the high Arctic.  The port’s strategic location, with connections to CN rail’s Meander subdivision and the public highway system, positions it as the portal between the Arctic coast and southern Canada.  From there, marine resupply operations are undertaken for communities and industries, contributing to lowering the costs of living and doing business in the territory. The harbour is also important to the NWT’s commercial fishing industry on Great Slave Lake, which has the potential to help diversify the NWT economy and increase locally produced food.  Canadian Coast Guard operations, RCMP, and other federal agencies also make use of the port, providing important aids to navigation and marine safety. The Department of Transportation’s primary role in the Hay River Harbour restoration project has been to advocate and facilitate discussions between government partners and stakeholder groups for improved marine facilities within the NWT.  Key stakeholders, including several federal government agencies and private sector companies, met in Hay River on April 12th and 13th.  The meeting provided user groups with a forum for discussing challenges and technical matters regarding future restoration efforts and the development of an efficient long-term harbour restoration strategy by the fall of 2016.  The immediate goal of this strategy will be to address the challenges posed by the buildup of sediment restricting access in the harbour.  Further steps would include developing a sustainable maintenance plan as part of the restoration strategy, to ensure the harbour’s full and unimpeded operational capacity in the future.  Overall, this strategy is expected to have significant positive impacts on communities located up and down the Mackenzie River. Mr. Speaker, I am happy to inform you that the working group established during the workshop is already reporting progress.  The working group is being led by the Harbour Authority, ensuring that those closest to the issue are directing efforts.  In early May, a military surveillance aircraft recorded imagery over the harbour and East Channel entrance.  As well, the Canadian Coast Guard has announced that it will start sounding operations in the Hay River Harbour in June.  All data acquired will be used to support the technical requirements of the project, which could see initial dredging work take place sometime in 2017. Identifying funding sources for the dredging plan remains an important project component.  Funding for dredging activities is a federal responsibility and there have been positive indications from Canada that resources may become available to support restoration of the Hay River Harbour. The February 2016 Canada Transportation Act Review report recommended a renewed commitment for federal funds to support dredging in Hay River and marine infrastructure in the NWT.  The report followed a few months after the Review Panel held an engagement session in Yellowknife and was taken on a tour of the port of Hay River to see the issues in the harbour first-hand.  This summer the federal government will further discuss the report’s findings with stakeholders. In addition to this report, the 2016-2017 federal budget identified $149 million in investments to revitalize small craft harbours across the country. Mr. Speaker, the Department of Transportation will stay engaged with the federal government for more details on funding for such projects.  We are committed to working with all stakeholders to develop an efficient and effective long-term solution to ensure the restoration of the Hay River Harbour for the safety and well-being of Northerners.   Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
YELLOWKNIFE (April 27, 2016) – As of May 1, 2016, changes to the Motor Vehicle Act will be coming into effect to address the issue of distracted driving and speeding in the Northwest Territories.  In the past decade, distracted driving has been a major issue in the NWT and across Canada, and the Department of Transportation is continuing to work with enforcement partners to improve safety across the roadway system to reduce collisions, loss of property, and fatalities. To combat distracted driving, new changes mean that fines may now apply to drivers holding, operating, or even touching a restricted device such as a cell phone. Drivers can now receive driver’s licence suspensions lasting 24 hours, 7 days and 30 days for their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th distracted driving offences in a two year period. Currently drivers are fined $322 for distracted driving. Beginning May 1, drivers will receive a $644 fine if they drive distracted in school and construction zones.  Fines for speeding administered under the Motor Vehicles Act are also changing.  Individuals will now be fined in accordance with the exact number of kilometres they are travelling over the speed limit.  Overall, fines for speeding offences are increasing and will continue to be doubled if the offence occurs in school or construction zones. Quotes “These changes to the Motor Vehicles Act will help keep our roadways safe. We are happy to work with our partners in enforcement to meet these new challenges.” - Wally Schumann, Minister of Transportation “As a law enforcement partner, and as first responders to motor vehicle collisions, we are pleased to support the GNWT Department of Transportation’s ongoing commitment to improve road safety for our citizens.” - Superintendent Mike LeSage, Criminal Operations Officer, Northwest Territories Royal Canadian Mounted Police Quick Facts Since 2012, NWT drivers have been prohibited from using restricted hand-held electronic devices, such as cell phones, while operating a vehicle. Approximately 1,200 drivers have been convicted of distracted driving since the distracted driving law came into effect in 2012. Currently, drivers receive a $322 fine and three demerit points for distracted driving.  As of May 1, an additional offence for distracted driving in school and construction zones will come into force with a $644 fine and three demerit points. The NWT is one of the first jurisdictions in Canada to introduce driver’s licence suspensions for distracted driving. Increased fines will assist in deterring speeding and distracted driving offences from occurring. Media Inquiries for the Department Ioana Spiridonica Department of Transportation Government of the Northwest Territories 867-767-9082 ext. 31042 Follow us on Twitter at @GNWT_DOT

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