Kivalliq residents to have their say on possible road through region

Mayors cite emergency, weather concerns; see potential benefits as well

The Government of Nunavut is planning to send representatives to the Kivalliq region this week to get feedback on a possible road to connect Arviat, Chesterfield Inlet, Baker Lake, Whale Cove and Rankin Inlet. (Photo courtesy of Government of Nunavut)

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Government of Nunavut representatives will visit five Kivalliq communities starting over the next two weeks as part of a study looking at possibly linking them all by road.

The project would connect Chesterfield Inlet, Rankin Inlet, Whale Cove and Arviat to a 725-kilometre road. A separate 320-kilometre route inland to Baker Lake is also in the plans.

The idea is not new. Various proposals have been discussed for well over a decade.

With community engagement sessions planned over the coming two weeks, two Kivalliq mayors say they are interested but also have questions.

“It’s absolutely hard to think how it would be here… We have [some] of the worst storms of almost anywhere,” said Rankin Inlet Mayor Harry Towtongie in an interview.

“If somebody gets stuck out there, it could be a real problem getting a hold of them and finding them.”

Arviat Mayor Joe Savikataaq Jr. also raised concerns about weather and safety, especially when blizzards can last several days.

He said winter road maintenance could also be expensive.

Savikataaq said his community would more likely benefit from a road south to Manitoba, which could reduce reliance on the sealift.

“I think it would be more beneficial if we get connected to the south instead,” he said.

Both mayors said they could also see benefits to building the road, which could reduce reliance on air travel to get from one place to another.

Construction could create jobs in the region, Towtongie added.

Both mayors said they’re encouraging community members to attend the local engagement sessions so they can learn and share their thoughts.

“I have a lot of questions,” Towtongie said.

“The information that we’re going to get is hopefully going to help figure some of this stuff right off the bat, but I’m sure they have a lot of work ahead of them.”

Last year, Minister of Economic Development and Transportation David Akeeagok told the legislative assembly a study of the project was underway.

“One of the key deliverables of the study is to determine the cost for the construction of the road, which will be published in the final report,” said Weichien Chan, spokesperson for the Department of Economic Development and Transportation, in an email to Nunatsiaq News.

“We expect to complete the study by fall of 2024.”

Chan said the GN budgeted $2 million for this part of the project, with Transport Canada’s National Trade Corridors Fund covering 75 per cent of the cost.

Here is a schedule of the community engagement sessions:

  • Arviat: Jan. 30 at 6 p.m., community hall;
  • Baker Lake: Jan. 31 at 6:30 p.m, community hall;
  • Chesterfield Inlet: Feb. 2 at 6 p.m., community hall;
  • Whale Cove: Feb. 5 at 6 p.m., community hall;
  • Rankin Inlet: Feb 6 at 6 p.m., community hall.

People unable to attend the meetings can provide their thoughts in an online survey. Nunami Stantec Ltd. is leading the study and design of the project.

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(50) Comments:

  1. Posted by Northern Exposure Mike on

    What a waste of time and money. Whoever is promoting this effort has either no knowledge of road building or maintenance in this region or obviously is unaware of real transportation needs in the region. There is no way way the cost of building and maintaining such roads could be justified. Did anyone even try to do a cost benefit analysis? Easy money for Nunami Stantec

    • Posted by Baffinmiu on

      …. mmmm did you not read the article? This is a study to determine the cost/benefits of a road and no where does it say it will be done.

    • Posted by Alan Klie on

      Sorry to disagree with you, Northern Exposure Mike, but a road is VERY necessary for the transportation needs of the region. Think about how many times communities are weathered out and how the inconvenience would be alleviated by that? Couldn’t lives be saved if a medical flight is weathered out but there is an alternative to flying? The initial investment is huge but the cost of maintaining the road is significantly less than the initial investment once completed. Furthermore, there could be unforeseen benefits such as new mineral deposit discoveries that would make the road a valuable asset. Simply improving the airports and the ports is not enough, in my opinion, and a road, with an eventual connection to the larger Canadian network is LONG overdue.

      • Posted by John WP Murphy on

        Alan, am not sure how this potential road will result in better access to a community than air access when a community is weathered in.
        A whiteout or blizzard does not differentiate between road and runway.. Both are equally affected.

    • Posted by Dr. Emmet Brown on

      “Where we’re going…we don’t need roads….”

      • Posted by Southern Commentator on

        I actually burst into laughter reading this, thank you!

    • Posted by Agreed on

      They did a cost benefit analysis of connecting Manitoba to the kivalliq. It was deemed way to expensive 10 years ago, and surely the costs are worse now. Transportation by sea is relatively inexpensive. Get yours heads out of your butts.

  2. Posted by Confused on

    This was planned more than a decade ago and now the two mayors are concerned, isn’t it just the same as traveling by Snowmobile ? there are 4 seasons and they don’t all have the worst storms and why would anybody in Nunavut be happy about Arviat be the only one with a road going south, isn’t this about connecting Nunavut to the rest of Canada?
    Just keep the roads closed for the winter if you’re worried about the road maintenance, and it’s not hard to think anyone would leave the road side if someone got stuck out there with and easier to find when they are right by the road.

    • Posted by frank on

      Confused, seems like you are not that educated. first thing, the 2 mayor’s you mentioned, that are now concerned…were they mayors that time? keep in mind, a road isn’t made for only snowmobiles (like you said) road maintenance isn’t only for winter, you have to think beyond, not just stuck inside a tiny box, during a bad blizzard, do you think we can still see the road? you have to think more before just saying everything is simple and easy. at this time and stage, it’s just talks, no actions taken yet, and you are already going up the roof with nothing but negativity. i hope in the future you wont try for any kind of councillor.

      • Posted by Confused on

        Frankly, no they were not mayors at the time, both kicked this off with negativity towards the people using the bad weather and maintenance. Kivalliqmiut should have a chance to say what they think.
        Getting stuck out there would be just the same as a person on a snowmobile but easier to locate and easier to locate.

  3. Posted by Tooma on

    Waste of time. No jobs. No employment for educated individuals. No use. Use the money to hire more Inuit.

    • Posted by JohnInukshuk on

      So let me geuss your one of those people who want jobs so iunit can be independent or some bs like that but BUT, you don’t like the idea of having a job that’ll make money for the towns involved in this, better ways of making intertwon sports league and to get stuff like food, entertainment etc etc etc is in some way “bad for the towns econmey!”?

  4. Posted by sure on

    Harry, how many people people from Nunavut would be hired to build the road really… every heavy equipment operator that wants to work is either working for the hamlet or a mine already…. unless we make those that are on income support pick up a shovel and wheel barrel and start making the road that way.
    And Joe Jr do you think it will be less dangerous if it only goes south from Arviat? that will make it more dangerous.

    But will be interesting to talk about it again for another decade.

    • Posted by Simon on

      There’s no doubt that many benefits including employment for many people would be realized if the project took place. I believe that part of the reason why some people are on income assistance due to lack of jobs

      • Posted by John WP Murphy on

        You are right Simon, but jobs are available IF housing was being built, long before a road.
        ALL of Nunavut needs housing before roads

  5. Posted by David on

    We need a road to connect the Kivalliq. We need to start somewhere, this would help connect people, and reduce reliance on air travel. I understand the risk of travelling in the winter, but the majority of Kivalliqmiut travel by snowmobile in the winter and boat in the summer. So travelling isn’t anything new, it would simply be easier. We already have all season roads connecting Rankin and Baker to the mines, so we have experience with these types of roads and we do have trained skilled Inuit who can build the roads. We would need assistances with the bridges, but again, we do have skilled workers up here.
    I for one say yes to a road!

  6. Posted by Long Time Coming on

    “We don’t want a 725km road to connect 4 of our Nunavut communities, we want a 350km road all to ourselves to connect to Churchill”. Or is it that you want a 550km road to go all the way to Sundance where the Manitoba roads end? Which is still over 1,000km from Winnipeg by the way.
    Mayor Towtongie, if you don’t think your residents are smart enough not to try to drive in the middle of a blizzard, then close the road during blizzards. From Rankin you’re talking about 100km in either direction, on a road, to Chester or Whale Cove, I think it would be pretty easy to find them.
    Savikataaq is worried that the road maintenance would bring to many jobs to his community. You think the GN is going to make Arviat and Whale Cove pay for maintenance of the road between them? That 100% falls under GN jurisdiction and would bring money into the communities. At least Towtongie knows this project would create jobs.
    It’s fair to have questions, but all mayors should be excited about the prospect of this road.

  7. Posted by Northerner on

    If the colonists are paying for it , i m all for it !!

    • Posted by sure on

      HAHA fun comment.
      Doesn’t even matter if you are Inuk or not. You are either going to pay for it through taxes… or not pay for it because the Govt will pay for it…. so kinda the same thing.
      there is no way they are going to put a toll(cost to drive on it) on it… that would be the only way you would possibly have any way of paying for it directly.

  8. Posted by choo choo on

    There are train tracks to Churchill already. Extend the line north. its been done all over siberia and northern russia . 10 x more efficient than trucking.

    • Posted by JOHNNY on

      Too simple , everybody likes to do it the hard way, anyway , they would have to , do a 10 year enviroment inpact study.

    • Posted by Northerner on

      Train tracks to churchill from where? Arviat to churchill? Rankkn to churchill? Or Southern manitoba to churchill? Alot of you guys speak half or incomplete sentences. Making it hard to speak to you or understand. Alot of Inuit even half breeds have trouble with grammar. It’s so irritating that you guys can’t even talk properly or complete sentences.

  9. Posted by monty sling on

    If the road had to be build, Get Anigo Eagle the mine build it, they are the experts, nice roads at Rankin and Baker. But I expect nothing from it, has been talk about for over 40 yrs, Governments… ssshhh.

    • Posted by Just saying on

      And perhaps ask Agnico Eagle what are the maintenance costs and challenges just to get an idea.

  10. Posted by Think About It on

    I don’t live in the Kivalliq region, but at approximately 1 million dollars per KM for a Nunavut road, this money would be better spent on Housing or Education. 8 million would build at least a couple of houses in each community.
    Even if there was an appetite to construct this 725-million-dollar project who in their right mind would maintain the road, and don’t forget about the caribou. With all the opposition to the gold mine roads this should be a walk in the park to get approved.

    • Posted by Alan Klie on

      Except that a road would vastly diminish the cost of materials meaning that a road could actually make building houses cheaper. The short building season won’t change and it will still be relatively more expensive because of the distances involved but it would make many items cheaper, leading to a better quality of life. This is more true if the Kivalliq highway were to connect to the rest of Canada (there’s a study and preferred route for that too from the KivIA) but I think a Kivalliq-only highway might still have important benefits, foreseeable and unforeseeable.

  11. Posted by tuktuborel on

    Nunavut needs roads. And not just in Kivaliq area. They are long over due and required if Nunavut is ever going to be self sufficient. And we need to be connected to the southern transportation system also. There will be some trade offs but if built with care and consideration it will be a good thing.
    Other countries such as Norway and Russia and US can build roads in the Arctic we can also. Start with winter roads and progress to all weather roads. Lets get it done.

  12. Posted by Curious George on

    This seems to be the same old scenario, every time there is an opportunity to connect communities, you get a group of the ol’ boys’ club who make it about their personal agenda, a road to the south for one community versus connecting communities where youth can actually connect and create lasting intergenerational impacts, but oh its too hard to maintain… Hopefully people show up in favour of this project!

    • Posted by Rankin’er on

      Stuck in the past with an old mayor who lacks vision. We almost broke free last election, but not quite… darn

    • Posted by personal on

      personal agenda for the mayor you say going south? I believe he may already have access to the south with a airplane so how is that a personal agenda.

  13. Posted by Old timer on

    Just get on with the road now will deal with the problem later when we start using it!

  14. Posted by frank on

    at “think about it” are you even aware of what you are saying? first, you say, costs 1 million per km then you say 8 million, so the road would be only 8 kms? you’re just joking, right? i mean, think about it before you said you’re name is “think about it” lol going with your calculation of $1 million a km, rankin inlet to arviat is approx. 216 kms so that would be $1’728’000’000. you’re just typing senseless words.

    • Posted by Think About It on

      The cost to construct an all-weather road in Nunavut is north of 1M dollars a km. Meaning the total proposed project is a min of 725M. The cost of the study is 8M, which should be used for housing etc. A 2012 business case study shows a road from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, to Sundance, Man., would cost $1.2 billion. and also shows the 1,100-kilometre road would generate less than half that amount in benefits over the lifetime of the road.
      I am saying that enough with the studies. Let us take care of our needs, and worry about our wants later.

  15. Posted by Qavvigarjuk on

    Study after study and talking about it since the eighties, I believe it when I see it, been nothing but talk since then. Going to be interesting as the proposed route goes right through the Qamanirjuaq calving and post calving grounds….

  16. Posted by Qavvigarjuk on

    If planes cannot land due to blizzards most likely the roads will be closed too… It will also take a lot of time to clear them up again. Too far away to drive for a medical emergency.

  17. Posted by Larry on

    Yawwnnn, yea this road has been talked about since the eighties . It will never happen.the money will be diverted to northern Manitoba, all the dene chiefs, are screaming for all weather roads,because global warming , and the winter roads only last 6-8 weeks not long enough to go shopping in wpg.and all the dene chiefs in the nwt are saying the same, good luck Nunavut, Trudeaus green plan will make more National parks up road so show up and oppose it, because the caribou will be effected, and our southern neighbors will harvest them all with their new roads, we don’t want

  18. Posted by Northerner on

    It just takes work and you guys are already saying let agnico eagle do it or the colonist pay for it. Whatta bunch of dumbarses. Lazy,incompetent people.

  19. Posted by Kivallirmiut on

    This is concerning. I would vote no. This would just make it harder for Kivallirmiut to hunt on traditional grounds. This would impact the herds and migration year round.
    I’m sure NIRB will be notified of this.

  20. Posted by Kivalliqmiut on

    It’s not a road for the people, it’s for mining companies to link access to the mill in Rankin. Ultimately, that’s what will determine feasibility. It has never been about reducing air travel, it’s about maximizing tax dollar off of Nunavut lands.

  21. Posted by northerner on

    Not surprising to read that one of the Mayors saying good for business, being a heavy equipment contractor, all about personal gain for his business and not one word about how other communities will most likely come into Rankin Inlet (B&W) most likely leading to drinking and driving and even fatalities and also effects on migrating caribou herds, as there are already alot of impacts on the herds, and bioligists saying the herd is on a steady decline, hopefully NIRB and all HTO’s will be invited im sure they have concerns and comments,

  22. Posted by hermann kliest on

    No more studies, feasible and the likes, go ahead start the project. Or don’t do it at all.

  23. Posted by Inuk on

    why not just try out of Arviat first…could work and maybe then it will be the hub of the Kivalliq region. Never mind the other communities for now-too expensive!

  24. Posted by eskimo joe on

    Endless community consultations will eventually kill this idea. Studies will be had what kind of birds, animals, waterfowls and fish are around here. Grand ideas killed by GN, by environmentalists and others too. executed by a thousand studies. I heard even a Flat Earth Society might be given a contract to study if the road will effect the land flatness. We are over protectionist, look at Canada, road everywhere and it stills good.

  25. Posted by qalunaangummatailaa on

    Make work project for qallunaat. Kikulimaat iqanaiyartuut qallunaatuinnan. GN needs to learn how to inform-initiate public involvement and run public sessions. What a farce.

  26. Posted by Northern traveller on

    I know they say this is in the works and not necessarily going to happen. But I was in Baker Lake last year and was taken out on the land by a local. There is already a road started on its way to Rankin. It’s only maybe 10-20km outside of baker so far. But from what the local was telling me they made a lot of road in a short time. The locals also seemed pretty stoked about it.
    I always wondered how road maintenance would work on such a long stretch with terrible weather conditions but if it can help the local communities then I say it’s a great thing. And if it connects them to the south as well then all the better.
    Obviously there will be challenges but we wouldn’t have anything we have today if we didn’t push past those challenges and find solutions.
    This can be a great thing. And as someone else said, they could find things along the way that would make the roads even more beneficial.
    But what do I know. 🤷‍♀️ lol

  27. Posted by John WP Murphy on

    5o Kivalliq doesn’t have a housing problem anymore?
    Then by all means build a road
    Housing must come first otherwise.

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