I am pleased to be here this morning to take part in this official announcement and would like to thank Minister Bennett, MP McLeod, Premier McLeod, Chief Moses from Wrigley, representatives of the Sahtu and all our invited guests for joining us.One of these invited guests is Todd McCauley. Todd is the son of the late Cece Hodgson-McCauley who the Premier spoke about earlier. As he mentioned, Cece was a very vocal supporter of the Mackenzie Valley Highway and since she can’t be with us today to participate in this event, it is only fitting that her son Todd be here on her behalf and able to witness what her efforts and contribution to this project have achieved thus far.

Thank you for being here, Todd.

Another individual I would like to recognize is our Member for Parliament, the Honourable Michael McLeod. MP McLeod continues to be a supporter of our infrastructure initiatives and recognizes that these types of projects are investments in the future of the north and play an important role in our communities. Specifically for this project, MP McLeod not only supported the GNWT, but was instrumental in assisting our government to secure this funding. For that and your continued support, we are grateful and pleased that you were able to join us this morning.

This funding announcement is of great significance to the Northwest Territories and supports key components of the larger Mackenzie Valley Highway project, that once complete, will connect several remote communities to the public highway system and create economic opportunities such as increased tourism, and access for resource development.

The shared investment of Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories towards this important project is evidence of the combined commitment of our two governments to make lasting improvements that support our mutual goals.

Making strategic investments in infrastructure, such as the Mackenzie Valley Highway is a mandate priority for the Government of the Northwest Territories.

Highway infrastructure plays a very important part in in the longevity and well-being of our communities. Not just because of the connections it will make, but also because of the skills, training and economic benefits opportunities that construction projects bring to the communities and the people.

Of the total $140 million funding announced today, the federal government is contributing $102.5 million, while the Government of the Northwest Territories will provide the remaining $37.5 million. A portion of this funding is intended to support the construction of the Great Bear River Bridge, a project that has been long awaited by Sahtu residents to improve connections between communities.

The Great Bear River represents the final crossing along the Mackenzie Valley Winter Road system without a permanent structure and has been an obstacle to opening the road in previous years. Now, with the construction of the Bridge, residents will be able to expect enhanced safety and efficiency of community resupply operations as the resiliency of the winter road is increased and operating days are extended up to four weeks.

Further to the south of our territory, in the Dehcho Region, this funding will enable the construction of a 15 kilometre access road from Wrigley to Mount Gaudet. In addition to enhancing access to lands providing new traditional, recreational, and business opportunities, construction of the road will build local capacity to ensure residents can participate fully in the future construction of the Mackenzie Valley Highway.

Finally, funding for additional environmental and planning studies will support the completion of critical components of the Mackenzie Valley Highway project, including finalizing routing and design, leading to obtaining permits for road construction.

Together, these investments in our highway will bring us closer to achieving our vision of an all-weather road connecting NWT residents throughout the Mackenzie Valley all the way to the Arctic Coast.

We only need to look at the Canyon Creek All-season Road project taking place outside of Norman Wells to see how investments of this kind are creating jobs and having a transformative impact on the lives of Northerners. The federal government is providing $15 million under the New Building Canada Plan, with the Government of the Northwest Territories covering the remaining 25% of construction costs. Through this project, momentum has been building in the Sahtu region and across the North to push the Mackenzie Valley Highway ahead.

Over the next few months, the Government of the Northwest Territories will turn its attention to engaging residents and identifying opportunities for Indigenous and local participation in the activities being announced today.

The future construction of the all-weather highway supported by these projects will rely on further partnership with our federal colleagues and local Indigenous governments, including the Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated.

The Sahtu Secretariat has helped to lobby for the advancement of the project through the Mackenzie Valley Highway Working Group. We thank the Secretariat and look forward to continued collaboration.

Meaningful investment in transportation infrastructure will unleash the potential of the North to contribute to Canada’s wealth, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Federal government to help bring this mutually beneficial project to reality.