Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, earlier this year, communities in the Mackenzie Delta were surprised to hear reports that the Yukon Territorial Government was considering closing the Dempster Highway during the winter months as a cost-saving measure. The Delta communities were quick to respond, pointing out the importance of this highway link for the delivery of their fresh groceries and supplies. They also identified the volume of business that Delta residents and businesses create in the Yukon every year.
I am happy to report to the Members that the Yukon Government does not plan to close the Dempster Highway.
Here in Yellowknife, the Members for the Delta area, community and business representatives and I met on Wednesday, January 29th, 1997, with the Honourable David Keenan, Yukon's Minister of Community and Transportation Services. With the exception of the short periods each fall and spring, when the Mackenzie and Peel River crossings are out of service, we confirmed that maintenance on the Yukon portion of the highway will continue and traffic will continue to flow.
Yukon's government is facing the same financial problems we are. Like ourselves, budget cuts in the Yukon are a reality. Early in their budget exercise, the Dempster Highway was targeted and options evaluated. I am pleased to say that they contacted us and gave us an opportunity to contribute to their evaluation. This week's meeting shows that they gave our concerns and advice genuine consideration and the impact of the budget cuts on Delta residents has been minimized.
The cuts to the Dempster Highway's budget are best described as operational efficiencies rather than service cuts. The closing of one of the three highway maintenance camps may result in little longer response times to changing road conditions but should not affect the safe operation of the highway. The closing of the highway and redeploying of staff to other activities, during the fall and spring periods when the Mackenzie and Peel River crossings are also closed, will have only a minimal impact on the highway's use. Even this impact can be reduced by scheduling opening and closing dates, so that travel and shipping plans can be made in advance. Other changes, such as increasing dust control and eliminating snow catchments, will actually improve the service on the highway, while achieving long-term savings in operating costs.
While he was here, I expressed my appreciation to Minister Keenan for the cooperative approach his government has taken in this matter. Today, Mr. Speaker, I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of honourable Mr. Krutko, Mr. Roland and Mr. Steen, as well as the community and business representatives, who took the time to offer their advice and expertise, both to my office and directly to the Yukon government. By working together, Mr. Speaker, there will be no interruption in the Dempster Highway's vital link to the communities of the Mackenzie Delta.
Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.