This is page numbers 357 - 395 of the Hansard for the 13th Assembly, 7th Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was highway.

Topics

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 382

Vince Steen Nunakput

Thank you, Madam Chairperson. Madam Chairperson, it is my pleasure this afternoon to present for the committee's review the Department of Transportation's main estimates for the fiscal year 1999-2000. At the beginning of this session, the Premier announced the government's Agenda for the New North with its five essential elements: governance, fiscal capacity, building our economic potential, sharing control of northern resources and improving social conditions. The agenda sets out where we must concentrate our efforts to guide our new territory towards a secure and promising future. The Department of Transportation's main contribution to accomplishing this agenda will be in building our economic potential.

Now that the division of the Northwest Territories is behind us, it is time to give careful thought to the requirements of our new territory and to make sure that our transportation system: our airports, highways and ferries, meet those requirements. I am happy to tell the committee that the timing seems to be working out very well. Two weeks ago, I went to Ottawa to meet with the federal Ministers of Finance and Transport, along with my provincial and territorial counterparts. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the economic, political and financial practicalities of a federally-sponsored and cost-shared National Highways Program.

For many years, the provincial and territorial governments have pleaded the case for a substantial federal commitment to the restoration and development of our national highway infrastructure. At long last, Ottawa appears to be taking a serious and favourable interest in these proposals. At this stage, nothing is firm. But, over the next several months, the federal, provincial and territorial governments will try to work out the details of a financially sound National Highways Program that enjoys broad support as a national priority.

The timing could not be better. At the same time that we in the new Northwest Territories are having a fresh look at our transportation priorities, the federal government is giving serious attention to supporting a new National Highways Program. If new federal money should become available in the next while, it will come at exactly the time when we have given careful consideration to how we should best apply it.

In the air transportation portfolio, access to cost-shared national programs has been an important source of capital for making improvements to our transportation system. The Department of Transportation has recently received confirmation from Transport Canada that it is eligible for capital projects under the federal Airports Capital Assistance Program.

The department has worked closely with NAV Canada as it has developed its plans to rationalize the air navigation system in northern Canada. For many years now, the Community Aerodrome Radio Service has been a successful, made-in-the-north program for the delivery of observer/communicator services at our northern and remote community airports. By making full use of the CARS program, Nav Canada's rationalization plan will establish 22 new local jobs at our airports. The flight service stations at the Fort Smith, Hay River and Fort Simpson will be converted to enhanced CARS operations. Two new CARS stations will be added to the system this year at the Rae Lakes and Lutselk'e airports. Madam Chairperson, the 13th Assembly has had the difficult and unpleasant task of paring back important public programs to put our national and territorial finances in order. The Department of Transportation's capital program is roughly half what it was last fiscal year.

Madam Chairperson, for the budget the committee is reviewing today, the government's financial position remains tight. The department's proposed budget of $66 million consists of an operations and maintenance component of approximately $43 million and a capital program of some $23 million.

In adapting to our financial realities, the Department of Transportation made a policy decision to maintain the ongoing levels of transportation services the public expects of it by scaling back its capital program for improvements to the transportation system. This budget reflects that policy. Many worthwhile projects that might have improved the efficiency, comfort and convenience of our transportation system have been deferred until better financial times.

Still, Madam Chairperson, as the term of the 13th Assembly comes to an end, I have reason to be optimistic. The public can count on the safe and reliable operation of its airports, highways, ferries and winter roads. As we go through the department's budget, I would ask the committee to keep these larger perspectives in mind. Our goal is a safe and efficient transportation system. I think the Members will agree that with this budget, the Department of Transportation sets off with a good start in the right direction for our new Territory. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 383

The Chair David Krutko

Thank you, Mr. Minister. Does the committee that reviewed the Department of Transportation have any comments? Mr. Ootes.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 383

Jake Ootes Yellowknife Centre

Thank you. I would like to present the Standing Committee on Resource Management and Infrastructure report on the review of the 1999-2002 business plans and the 1999-2000 Main Estimates for the Department of Transportation. The mandate of the department is to provide safe, accessible and reliable movement of people and goods to serve the social, economic and political needs and aspirations of the people of the Northwest Territories.

The Standing Committee on Resource Management and Infrastructure reviewed the 1999-2002 business plans for the Department of Transportation on November 25, 1998. The committee notes the department's emphasis on making a smooth transition to the new Western Territory. Aside from division activities, the department continues to emphasize the limited financial resources for capital programs to improve the transportation system. The committee notes an overall decrease of $399,000 in the draft 1999-2000 Main Estimates presented on March 21, 1999, from the figures presented in the 1999-2002 department business plans.

During the committee's review of the department's business plan, the department discussed the $2 million Highway Strategy, which was implemented during the 1998-99 fiscal year in conjunction with the government's broader strategy for economic development. The Highway Strategy is intended to promote a more stable financial future for the department. The $2 million Highway Strategy studies four projects; the deciding factor for further progress will be which roads are important to foster NWT economic development. Committee Members believe that the Slave Geologic Province transportation corridor would be more economically viable from the standpoint of the highway running from a southern point, Rae-Yellowknife to a northern point, Bathurst Inlet, rather than vice versa. The department commented that western Canada would agree with the committee's suggested route as being economically viable and will lobby on behalf of this effort.

In the view of the majority of the committee Members, it is important that the department lobby at a territorial and national level for support on the completion of Highway 3, as this could offset budget increases to the social envelope and decrease the number of accidents that occur on this highway. It should be noted that a Member of the committee does not completely agree. The Committee recommends that the department give priority to the acceleration of Highway 3.

Highways. A highway system connecting or linking all communities should be made a Western Territory priority. The committee notes this department has seen a significant decrease in its overall budget during the life of this government. Committee Members also expressed their concern with respect to industry providing their own transportation infrastructure. The committee believes that the government should encourage and support industry in building its own infrastructure rather than allowing all costs to be borne by the general public. For example, the government should encourage mining companies to build their own all-weather roads and contribute to the improvement of the main highway system rather than the government bearing all of the costs. A committee Member suggests that the department consider the feasibility of implementing toll charges.

Highway 4. Committee Members note the allocation of $550,000 for Highway 4 for 1999-2000 is substantial and would like to see this amount decreased and put into the main highway system. A committee Member expressed concern that this highway is more of a community access road. The Member would like to see the government encourage private sector investment in this highway as it provides access to the mineral rich areas.

Affirmative action. During the business plan review, the department's 1998-99 mid-year results report stated that the target is to maintain northern employment for highway construction and maintenance contracts at 90 percent or greater. The committee was not clear on the percentage of these northern employees that fall under the affirmative action policy. While reviewing the draft Main Estimates, the committee expressed concern in relation to the number of aboriginal people employed by contractors. There is no tracking system to monitor the number of aboriginal employees in contracted jobs and the committee suggests the department explore using the NWT health care card as one way to monitor the number. The committee recognizes the department's efforts by developing the Career Development Program as one way to increase the percentage of northern employment for highway construction and maintenance contracts. However, Members remain concerned that contractors may employ a number of workers from the south and have requested additional personnel information on these employees.

Emergency services. Committee Members note there are no emergency services provided to the Inuvik airport. Members would like the specifics on the measures that would be taken if an accident were to take place.

Contracts. Committee Members expressed concern about the process of awarding contracts and the steps taken to ensure transparency is in place. A Member suggested a review of the process of awarding contracts.

Safety programs. A committee Member was concerned about the number of accidental drownings as a result of boating accidents over the past few years in the Beaufort Delta and would like to see transportation safety programs offered in regions other than the North Slave region.

That, Mr. Chairman, completes the report of the Standing Committee on Resource Management and Infrastructure on the Department of Transportation. Thank you.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 383

The Chair David Krutko

Thank you, Mr. Ootes. Do you have a committee motion?

Committee Motion 16-13(7): Giving Priority To Accelerating Highway 3 Reconstruction
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

April 27th, 1999

Page 383

Jake Ootes Yellowknife Centre

I have a motion to make in regard to our report. I move that this committee recommends that the department give priority to the acceleration of Highway 3. Thank you.

Committee Motion 16-13(7): Giving Priority To Accelerating Highway 3 Reconstruction
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 383

The Chair David Krutko

Thank you, Mr. Ootes. The motion is in order. To the motion. Mr. Morin.

Committee Motion 16-13(7): Giving Priority To Accelerating Highway 3 Reconstruction
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Don Morin Tu Nedhe

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. There is a north outside the boundaries of Yellowknife. There is a north where people do not have highway systems. They do not have transportation systems. Some communities are serviced once a year by barge. Also, there are other projects in the Northwest Territories, like the road up the valley, a road to link Tuktoyaktuk to Inuvik and major construction work to be done on the Dempster Highway, as well as other roads where the maintenance level has fallen. Just so the public knows, not all Members are on this Resource Management and Infrastructure Committee. Just so the Minister fully understands, the report and this committee motion here, I am not going to support this motion. It is too open-ended. It gives a priority to the acceleration of Highway 3 and forget about the rest of the Territories. I do not think so, Mr. Chairman, so I will be voting against the motion.

Committee Motion 16-13(7): Giving Priority To Accelerating Highway 3 Reconstruction
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 383

The Chair David Krutko

To the motion. Mr. Henry.

Committee Motion 16-13(7): Giving Priority To Accelerating Highway 3 Reconstruction
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 383

Seamus Henry Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I will be supporting this motion and I believe that the National Highways Strategy is a program that the GNWT can take advantage of to provide the acceleration of this particular project. I believe it is an excellent opportunity for the government of the Northwest Territories to get additional resources from that federal program, as it is a program designed to link the capitals together. Another avenue that I would certainly be supporting the particular initiative on is, there is a commitment that the project be carried out and, Mr. Chairman, in the days of fiscal restraint, any additional resources or any way this government can be prudent with the way it spends money should be looked at. Another method that this government can engage in is to do a cost analysis of what it would take to accelerate the project and provide financing for that on an ongoing basis. I think there have been studies which have proved already that there is a potential savings to accelerating the program and financing it as opposed to doing a piece each year. I will be supporting the motion in the interest of being fiscally responsible. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Committee Motion 16-13(7): Giving Priority To Accelerating Highway 3 Reconstruction
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 383

The Chair David Krutko

Thank you, Mr. Henry. To the motion. Mr. Ootes.

Committee Motion 16-13(7): Giving Priority To Accelerating Highway 3 Reconstruction
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 383

Jake Ootes Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I moved the motion and naturally will be voting in favour of it. There are efforts underway to deal with the National Highways Strategy on a federal basis. I believe the Minister has attended meetings to seek possible further funding and if funding is made available on a national basis, this particular highway is one that will qualify. Other highways may not, I understand only certain highways will. If there is a possibility of accessing funds, then there is a potential for us to accelerate development of and to finish this particular highway, which has traditionally been a problem.

There is no question that there are other needs in the territory. I fully respect that. In the long run, I think if we can accelerate this highway, it will be more economical. We have had some briefings on it to indicate that if this is stretched out over an eight year period it would be substantial money, whereas cost savings can be obtained if it is done over, for example, a three year period. The cost will be much less in the long run. Then, of course, the funds become available and no longer will this substantial amount of money that is needed for this be devoted to this highway system. Those are my comments. Thank you.

Committee Motion 16-13(7): Giving Priority To Accelerating Highway 3 Reconstruction
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair David Krutko

Thank you, Mr. Ootes. To the motion. Mr. Erasmus.

Committee Motion 16-13(7): Giving Priority To Accelerating Highway 3 Reconstruction
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 383

Roy Erasmus Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will be voting in favour of this motion as well, Mr. Chairman, as many times I have driven that highway and after you have just driven for 20 hours or whatever, you do not feel like coming through a road that is like a snake and very dangerous, particularly when it is wet, when it is raining. When you are tired, it is a very scary situation. I can just imagine how tourists feel when they have

just been driving for a long time with their expensive motorhomes. Mr. Chairman, this is not a good way to greet those tourists who are here to spend hard-earned dollars in our area. I do not believe that waiting for eight to ten years or, as some people have mentioned, even longer, to finish the road is the way to go.

I think that we can accelerate it, but at the same time I would like to ensure that the benefits in building this road actually goes to the people of the north. We cannot accelerate it to such a degree that we have to use all types of southern construction companies to build this road. We have to ensure that northern companies get these contracts and that they have training programs in place so that local people can be trained to drive trucks and whatnot, so that we can have a bettertrained workforce who can move back and forth from working on highways for municipalities, in open pit mines or wherever. Mr. Chairman, as I said, I will be voting in favour of this motion, but I want to ensure that this is not accelerated to such a degree that the benefits do not accrue properly to the people and the businesses of the Northwest Territories. Thank you.

Committee Motion 16-13(7): Giving Priority To Accelerating Highway 3 Reconstruction
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair David Krutko

Thank you, Mr. Erasmus. To the motion. Question has been called. All those in favour? All those opposed? The motion is carried. At this time I would like to ask the Minister if he wishes to bring in witnesses?

Committee Motion 16-13(7): Giving Priority To Accelerating Highway 3 Reconstruction
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Vince Steen Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I do.