The Department of Economic Development and Transportation (EDT) has submitted a proposal to fund a survey outlining the case for potential routes linking the four communities through the federal government’s National Trade Corridors Fund.
The EDT declined to be interviewed about the proposal, but confirmed its request is currently being reviewed by the feds and that a response is expected within the next month.
According to an email from the department, the funding is being requested in order to conduct “a survey to make it easier to determine the best routing, review environmental data and complete a limited field program to determine the potential costs and benefits that could come from a road.”
In addition to linking the four communities, the department also stated there is also the potential to connect mining projects directly to ports for shipping purposes.
The territorial government’s pitch follows a proposal for funding which was submitted to the feds by the Kivalliq Inuit Association two years ago.
Those plans were ultimately rejected. Gabriel Karlik, executive director for the Kivalliq Inuit Association, told Kivalliq News the organization contributed all the technical and geographical information from its unsuccessful bid to help bolster the GN’s current proposal.
“We got rejected, so EDT approached us again,” he said. “We’ve put this together to see if we could have one big ask.”
Karlik said in some cases the proposed roads in KIA’s submission follow established routes, for example the ATV trail that already connects Chesterfield Inlet and Rankin Inlet. In that instance the goal would be to expand the existing trail into an all-weather road. He said the connection between Rankin and Whale Cove would likely involve improving and extending the existing road to Diane River southward.
Whale Cove Mayor Stanley Adjuk told Kivalliq News the community is already working on a road toward Rankin Inlet.
He said over the past few years the hamlet has been building a road extending northwest toward the community’s traditional hunting grounds.
This year the territorial government approved funding for Whale Cove to extend that all-weather road northeast toward Rankin.
“This year we’ll probably put in 10 miles at least,” he said.
Adjuk said there hasn’t been any work done to connect Whale Cove to Arviat, in part because there are so many large rivers that a potential
road would have to cross.
“That one is going to require a lot of bridges,” he said.
Karlik said the Kivalliq road system is envisioned as the first piece of the puzzle for the highway to Manitoba, which has been a dream ever since the territory became independent from the Northwest Territories in 1999.
“I think we would finally start to see the vision of what Nunavut was expected to be,” Karlik said when asked what the road system would mean for the Kivalliq.
“It would be a huge boost in morale and a huge boost to the communities.”
The socio-economic case for the highway has been laid out in a handful of reports over the past 20 years. A 2010 report entitled The Case for The Nunavut/Manitoba Highway estimated that it would cost $1.2 billion to connect Rankin Inlet, Whale Cove and Arviat to northern Manitoba via Churchill and Sundance, the most Northern point on the province’s all-weather road network.
Karlik said even if the proposed Kivalliq road network were not connected to Manitoba, it would still reduce the costs of shipping goods to the region.
“It also gives us the opportunity to have one-stop shipping. We’re trying to see if this will lower the cost of everything. Instead of flying everywhere we now have the opportunity to connect everybody,” he said.
In addition to the long-term benefits of a road system linking the Kivalliq, Adjuk pointed out that the large scale of the construction projects would provide employment and education opportunities in the short term.
“If you’re going to build roads, there’s a lot of training needed. There would be training for heavy equipment, and I’m sure they’re going to need camps for cooks, so there’s everything in there than can help the region,” he said.
Karlik said connecting communities by road would also help bolster its plans for the Kivalliq hydro-fibre link that would connect southern Nunavut to Manitoba’s electrical grid.
Karlik said KIA is currently focusing all its efforts on building the case for the hydro line. The association is in the process of undertaking a feasibility study which is expected to be completed in March.
“Once that goes through, we’re going to put all our focus into the inter-community (network) and connecting to the rest of Canada.”