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Fresh produce would be shipped more cheaply to the region

Work to begin on long awaited road through the Arctic tundra

A direct, all-weather connection to southern Canada’s highways would allow everything from fresh vegetables and many other products to be shipped more cheaply and easily by trucks.

Work is expected to begin on the first road into the heart of Canada's mineral-rich tundra after two funding announcements this week by federal transportation minister Marc Garneau. 

Two federal announcements this week are expected to kick-start a long-awaited road into the heart of the Canadian Arctic that would lower grocery costs for northern families and unlock billions of dollars in mineral resources.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau pledged more than $50 million to cover preliminary studies and planning for an all-weather road from Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories to a deep-water port on Nunavut’s central Arctic coast reported

“This will change the economy of Canada,” Wally Schumann, the N.W.T.’s minister of industry, tourism and investment, said Thursday.

“It’s very important for our region,” said Stanley Anablak, head of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, which has been lobbying for the port and northern road for years.

Anablak said many of the supplies his Nunavut communities need, including groceries, are flown in, which results in higher bills. Others are shipped from ports thousands of kilometres away on barges that arrive once a year.

“Once we get the road built, we’re hopeful that it will bring the costs down significantly for our communities.”

As climate change erodes the usefulness of ice roads, the new link would open what’s known as the Slave Geological Province, one of the most mineral-rich parts of the country. A N.W.T. study suggests the area holds $45 billion worth of resources.

The money announced this week came in two bundles. Nunavut was awarded $21.7 million for the port and its part of the road and the N.W.T. got $30 million.

“The government of Canada … will look for ways to improve the flow of supplies to northern communities and support economic opportunities and social development in Canada’s three territories,” a spokesman for Garneau wrote in an email.

The total cost of the road and port is estimated at about $1 billion.

The final road would run nearly 700 kilometres of gravel through some of the most remote and untouched country left in North America. It would cut through the migration route of the Bathurst caribou herd, which is currently struggling to survive.

Part of the cash will pay for environmental studies, said Anablak.


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