News February 25, 2009

NWT Assembly Unanimous in Support for Mackenzie Valley Highway

YELLOWKNIFE (February 25, 2009) - In a unanimous vote, Members of the 16th Legislative Assembly today called on the Government of Canada to advance funding and planning for a Mackenzie Valley Highway and to begin negotiations immediately on a partnership that will allow this major infrastructure project to move ahead. 

While the federal Government is responsible for the cost of constructing and maintaining new highways in the NWT, the GNWT has proposed a 10-year infrastructure partnership with Canada to cost share the development of new economic infrastructure including the proposed highway. 

“A Mackenzie Valley Highway will work to lower the cost of living in northern communities and contribute to their sustainability,” said Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya in moving the motion. Mr. Yakeleya added, “We also acknowledge that this project is not without environmental and social challenges, so we will be working to ensure that these are fully addressed.” 

In a clear demonstration of the Assembly’s unity on this critical issue, Mr. Yakeleya’s motion was seconded by the Territory’s Minister of Transportation, Hon. Michael McLeod. “This project will connect Mackenzie Valley and Beaufort Delta communities and provide improved access to services for these remote areas,” he said. 

The motion came following a day of debate dedicated to highlighting the importance of the Mackenzie Valley Highway to the economic, social and political development of the NWT. All Members spoke to the urgency and need to finally connect Canada from coast to coast to coast. 

“This Road to Resources will provide opportunities to diversify the NWT economy,” NWT Premier Floyd Roland said. “Expanded renewable and non-renewable resource development and tourism opportunities will result in employment and business opportunities for NWT residents and all Canadians.” 

Without an all-weather highway, communities and major developments in Canada's Northwest Territories are reliant on the availability of winter ice roads for their annual supply of goods and fuel. 

Chair of the Assembly’s Priorities and Planning Committee, Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen says, “The construction of an all-weather Mackenzie Highway will address increasing uncertainty in the reliability and operation of these seasonal highways in the wake of climate change while further enhancing the assertion of Canada’s Sovereignty over the Arctic.” 

Today’s strong recommendation from the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories reflects a similar motion passed at the Dene Leadership Meeting in Yellowknife last week. 

A copy of the GNWT’s motion will be sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada’s Transport and Infrastructure Minister John Baird and Western Arctic Member of Parliament Dennis Bevington for their consideration. 

For more information contact: 

Jane Groenewegen, MLA Hay River South 
Chairperson, Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning 
Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories 
Phone: 867-669-2292 
Fax: 867-873-0276 

Hon. Michael McLeod, MLA Deh Cho 
Minister of Transportation 
Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories 
Phone: 867-669-2377 
Fax: 867-873-0388