Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits Inuvik to make announcement

INUVIK, N.W.T. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be making an announcement today in Inuvik that is expected to focus on an all-weather road linking Canada’s Arctic coast to the south for the first time.

Initial work is nearly finished on the 140-kilometre gravel highway between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk and the entire project is scheduled to be complete by 2017.

The link, which will hook up to the Dempster Highway running through the Yukon, is expected to deliver many economic benefits and save northerners hundreds of dollars a year in shipping costs.

Harper has made northern development a key part of his mandate, although critics point out his promises exceed his achievements.

Completing a gravel-surfaced, all-weather road to the Arctic coast has been on the northern wish list since the 1960s, when local residents began pushing for it. Studies on the project began in 1998 and the territorial government sat down with Ottawa over it a few years later.

The wheels really began rolling in 2009, when CanNor — the federal economic development agency for the North — agreed to fund a project description for the road.

The Harper government promised to pay for half the $300-million project in the 2012 budget, a commitment that has since grown to $200 million. Environmental regulators recommended a year ago that the project move forward, and work began earlier this winter on what will eventually become the highway’s first 19 kilometres.

Once complete, the highway is expected to reduce shipping costs to Tuktoyaktuk for essentials such as groceries by about $1.5 million a year. That’s the equivalent of $1,500 in savings for every man, woman and child in town.

Construction will create the equivalent of 1,000 jobs, with 40 permanent positions.

The lure of a road all the way to the Beaufort Sea is anticipated to boost northern tourism by an annual $2.7 million. And local people will get improved access to health care, education and job opportunities once they no longer have to depend on air links or ice roads.

Energy companies such as Shell Canada, which is active in the Mackenzie Delta, are also expected to benefit. While they will still need ice roads to their individual sites, an all-weather road will reduce their costs and make transportation more dependable.

Building the two-lane roadway will be full of technical challenges, including many stream crossings, at least eight bridges and preserving permafrost to keep the ground under the road from sinking.

Project engineers say they won’t use the previously standard practice of cutting into surface layers and building them back up with fill. Instead, they won’t cut through those insulating layers and will blanket the entire roadway with a subsurface fabric.

Most of the work will take place in winter to inflict as little permafrost damage as possible.

The completed highway will be the second major upgrade to the N.W.T.’s transportation infrastructure. The Deh Cho Bridge, which opened in 2012, removed the need for ferries to cross the Mackenzie River south of Yellowknife.

But it won’t be the end of the territory’s ambitious agenda.

The N.W.T. is still seeking funding for an all-weather road down the Mackenzie Valley — an epic, 800-kilometre dream that would run from Wrigley to Inuvik through some of the most forbidding and remote and terrain in Canada.

The total cost has been estimated at $1.7 billion. But the road is considered key to opening up the territory’s mineral riches, boosting the nascent energy industry in the central N.W.T., and even reviving the stalled and long-awaited Mackenzie natural gas pipeline proposal.

Project descriptions for various sections of that road are currently being prepared by the territorial government and aboriginal groups.




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Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits Inuvik to make announcement

  1. This is true nation building. Imagine the new found access to the rest of Canada these people will suddenly have. It’s truly inspiring.

    • this is what you would call, politicking 101 on the taxpayers dime. You do mean better access for mining and oil companies right ?

      • It’s funny how Liberals like you believe that anything the federal government funds outside of Toronto is “politicking”.

        You know, people that live up north are Canadians also. They also pay their taxes. Why do you believe they deserve fewer services from the federal government?

  2. Yikes, I sure wouldn’t want to have to drive that road in winter.

    • And every town in Northern Ontario unreachable by road is going to be pretty angry about it, and kind of rightly.

      • to bad theres an ontario government thats apposes the ring of fire development. “every town in Northern Ontario unreachable by road is going to be pretty angry about it, and kind of rightly.”

      • Funny how anytime some place outside of Ontario gets something from the federal government you Liberals are complaining that they’re not doing the same thing in Ontario. There is more to this country than Ontario, you know. Northerners are Canadians too, despite the fact that you would never visit any of their communities.

        • No, it’s because Northern Ontario doesn’t have enough “Oil” for Harper to even care about.
          Even so, Northern Ontarians are Canadians too. !

  3. The Dempster Highway is notorious for destroying tires. Perhaps they should solve that problem first.

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