Nunavut, Manitoba sign co-operation pact

Paul Okalik and Gary Doer agreed last week to keep on working on a possible road and power link to Manitoba.



RANKIN INLET— The premiers of Nunavut and Manitoba signed an agreement this week that commits them to investigating joint projects in areas of mutual benefit, such as the construction of road and electrical power lines between the two jurisdictions.

“Stemming from the memorandum of understanding, we will also study the potential for the construction of a possible road link to Nunavut from Manitoba,” said Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik, as he and Manitoba Premier Gary Doer signed the deal.

The Manitoba government released s report in November last year on the possibility of a road linking the two jurisdictions.

It came up with five possible routes that could link Manitoban communities such as Churchill, Gillam or Lynn Lake with Nunavut communities such as Arviat, Whale Cove, Rankin Inlet, Chesterfield Inlet and Baker Lake.

Another study on behalf of Manitoba Hydro and NTPC suggested a hydro link from Manitoba to Nunavut might be possible.

“We see nothing but growth and strength from both regions and therefore great advantage to all of us to be working together with this agreement,” Doer said.

One Nunavut MLA who sees the advantage of a road and power link to Manitoba is Arviat’s Kevin O’Brien. He said that building road and hydro links to Manitoba could lead to cheaper power for Kivalliq residents, as well as to economic opportunities.

“Manitoba exports about $300 million to this region every year. Obviously they’d like to have that continue and have it expand,” said O’Brien.

He said that while Nunavut residents pay about $0.70 per kilowatt hour of electricity, Manitobans pay only $0.06. Even if a hydro link resulted in Nunavut residents paying $0.25 per kilowatt hour, it would be worthwhile, O’Brien said.

“The economy of Manitoba certainly does benefit from the Nunavut territory and our existing commerce with the territory,” said Manitoba Premier Gary Doer.

Doer said his government and the Nunavut government have had preliminary discussions with Ottawa on building a road, but have heard nothing concrete on what the federal government will do with the idea.

“Obviously the future of Northern communities rely on power and energy and transportation and telecommunications. There is going to be an infrastructure proposal coming down apparently in the budget next week so we’ll have to see what that means for northern vision,” Doer said.

Okalik cited the building of the Canadian National Railway and the Trans-Canada Highway as precedents for justifying federal spending. He said that Nunavut was the only jurisdiction in Canada without a road link to the rest of the country.

Mineral development in the region could help to offset the cost of developing a hydro link for residents, Doer said.

While the hydro and road links are large projects that will need federal money and will take years to accomplish, Doer said education and training initiatives could be a project the two governments could work on together and achieve in the short term.

“One of the ideas was to have more accreditation for our own people in the north,” said Doer.

He said that getting official accreditation for Northerners with the talent but not the official qualifications to work on heavy machinery or in trades would build a base of expertise among Northerners that could be passed on to others in the region.

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