Inuvik-Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler is calling on the GNWT to re-examine its plans for widening the Dempster Highway after noting during a June 12 members statement that under the current process it could take over 30 years for the widened highway to reach Inuvik.
Semmler pointed out the 50 kilometres of highway south of Inuvik is used by both residents of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk to access hunting, fishing and other on the land activities, in addition to essential services like medical buses and RCMP. While the government had done significant work reducing road hazards along the stretch, she questioned if the current system of expanding an average of four kilometres per year and moving northward from the Yukon border was really the most efficient way to serve taxpayers.
“They started back more than 25 years ago,” she told the Inuvik Drum. “It doesn’t make sense to me why they would not do or start where the locals have to travel sometime daily.”
Semmler said she would like to see work southward from Inuvik for a change, or if that was not feasible split the work between the two sides so they could meet in the middle. She said the focus of the construction could be changed without altering the budget allocations.
“It’s already part of the plan,” she said. “They just always have been going from that end.”
During question period, Semmler asked Infrastructure Minister Katrina Nokleby if she would commit to re-examining the project to allow for widening of the Dempster from the Inuvik side in 2020.
Nokleby said she would direct her department to examine what changes could be made to better accommodate the region but would not commit to changing the current scope of the project to work on the highway from Inuvik southwards.
She said the department had a 20-year-strategic plan that involves work on over 2,500 kilometres of the road and 1,700 kilometres of ice roads each year and the department has a budget of $4.5 million each year until 2025 through the Building Canada Fund.
Nokleby added this year; the planned work on the Dempster involves 3.3 kilometres of embankment widening, brushing, culvert and guardrail installation for kilometres 146.6 to 149.6 along Highway 8.
Semmler closed her question period by asking the minister if she would commit to seeking more funding to accelerate the work on rehabilitating the Dempster, which Nokleby said she would.
“I think anyone who knows me knows that I speak my mind, and I do so at my federal table,” she said. “Yes, I commit to the Member that I will continue to advocate strongly for the Dempster fix-up and rehabilitation with the federal government.”