GUEST COMMENT: Danny McNeely – Mackenzie Valley Highway will help build territory

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The GNWT’s 18th Legislative Assembly has recently concluded. It is with considerable pride that I wish the incoming assembly representatives wisdom, patience, and perspective as they govern on behalf of the citizens of the Northwest Territories.

I take great pleasure in highlighting the accomplishments of the GNWT realized in the last session and, in particular, those of the Sahtu constituency of which I proudly served the past four years. Recognizing a collective and collaborating effort, the long desired Mackenzie Valley Highway (MVH) is on the road to reality. The aggressive, determined and relentless vision is indeed inspirational.

Sahtu MLA Daniel McNeely pushed for decisive action on dwindling caribou numbers during a Dec. 7 committee meeting on Bathurst and Boreal caribou range plans in Yellowknife. Avery Zingel/NNSL photo
Ex Sahtu MLA Daniel McNeely writes that it is important that GNWT leadership ensure the Mackenzie Valley Highway is completed.
NNSL photo

This long awaited all-season road is the culmination of a sustained effort and perseverance of many individuals. The campaign to secure appropriate funding was an arduous and at times, a tedious task.

The GNWT 18th Assembly unequivocally adopted a mandate for MVH and I had the pleasure and privilege of co-ordinating an extensive campaign and lobby to secure this requisite and appropriate funding. Our group included among others our MP Michael McLeod, the mayor of Tulita and the Norman Wells Chamber of Commerce.

Generic to all projects, whether large or small, securing requisite resources is the vital element to project fruition. Our presentations consistently focused on the viability of the business case to support the coincident capital participation sought. This business case highlighted socio-economic considerations, cultural implications and preservation as well as taxpayer returns. Positive influences on the GNWT Gross Domestic Product and tourism enhancement were continuously emphasized.

Our business case clearly delineated the positive investment protocols in adherence with the numerous program guidelines and eligibility criteria required by funding agencies such as, the federal government’s Build Canada Trades and Corridor Fund. Numerous scenarios were identified and emphasized.

The success of our sustained lobby is quickly measured by the June 28, 2018 announcement of $140 million. This raised aggregate funding to $180 million which is 26 per cent of total estimated capital costs and forms the requisite equity necessary from the GNWT. The residual $520 million is being provided by the federal government through the noted fund. The proposed 330-kilometre all-season road from Wrigley to Norman Wells, inclusive of a new Great Bear River Bridge, is now well on the way to reality.

Recognizing this milestone and the significance of this large financial commitment, it is now incumbent to secure the funding mechanisms to effect the progress funding to facilitate the design and build of the MVH. Leadership must keep a sustained initiative to secure an appropriate multi-year bilateral funding agreement. The Sahtu is poised to reap the host of short and long-term benefits generated by this major infrastructure addition. Similarly, the Northwest Territories as a whole will benefit from the MVH. Leadership must stay focused and commit to the task ahead specific to the timely construction necessary to preserve funding commitments and program requirements.

Vital partnerships specific to regulatory approvals of the GNWT, requisite environmental assessment and cultural implications must be established now. It is of utmost importance that our sustained lobby is expanded and our best team of economic, environmental and cultural specialists is appointed with sufficient mandate to complete this project.

Leadership has the responsibility to complete this important infrastructure development. They also have a profound responsibility to keep all constituents and interested parties both up to date and well informed. It is also incumbent of Sahtu constituents to actively follow the progress of the MVH development and challenge leadership on an ongoing basis. This project is of historical significance with respect to impacts on the Sahtu specifically and the territories in general. We must all work together to bring Cece McCauley’s dream to the Sahtu.

Mahsi.

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