Okalik, Doer to do more studies on road, power link

With an estimated cost of at least a billion dollars, a road and a hydroelectric power link from Manitoba to Nunavut won’t come cheap.

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

IQALUIT — Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik says the Nunavut and Manitoba governments are now ready to do more research on the idea of building a Nunavut-Manitoba road and hydroelectric power link.

“More studies will have to be done,” Okalik said after a series of weekend meetings with Manitoba’s newly-elected NDP premier, Gary
Doer, and other Manitoba government officials.
Officials from Manitoba Hydro and Manitoba’s Department of Government Services gave Okalik a full briefing on the contents of two “pre-feasibility” studies on the idea of extending power lines into the Kivalliq region so that Manitoba Hydro can supply power to the Kivalliq region.

Okalik said that, if realized, the plan could bring enormous benefits to Nunavut, including jobs, business opportunities, cheaper electric power and cheaper transportation.

He said he and Doer will likely sign a memorandum of understanding early next year to provide more co-ordination to nourish the growing relationship between Nunavut and Manitoba.

“We have to reach an agreement on how we will co-operate as governments,” Okalik said.

The pre-feasiblity studies — each of which cost $250,000 to do — were set into motion two years ago by the governments of the Northwest Territories and Manitoba.

They show that colossal amounts of money will be needed to realize the longstanding dream of road and power lines extending from Manitoba into the Kivalliq region.

The studies estimate that an all-weather road from Manitoba to Nunavut would cost at least a billion dollars, a figure that varies slightly depending on which corridor is used for a road and power line.

The studies also estimate that a winter road, on the other hand, would cost from $17-$20 million to build.

Okalik said that an environmental study and a more detailed cost study will have to be done.

Arviat MLA Kevin O’Brien, who has been an enthusiastic promoter of the idea since 1997, said it’s obvious that only Ottawa could afford to pay for such a costly undertaking.

“We know that there is big surplus for them to access,” O’Brien said, referring to the huge annual budget surpluses that Ottawa is now projecting.

O’Brien said that a Nunavut-Manitoba road and power link could also be an important exercise in nation building for the federal government.

“It could be a jewel in their crown,” O’Brien said.

A key factor that could determine the fate of a Nunavut-Manitoba road and power link is the mining industry, O’Brien said.

He said the existence of a cheaper transportation link would encourage mining companies to develop potential sites near Arviat, Rankin Inletband Baker Lake, and that mines would also be major electric power consumers who could help achieve the economies of scale needed to bring affordable electric power from Manitoba to the Kivalliq.

Okalik, along with Canada’s other territorial premiers, have already started pressing Ottawa for money to connect the Far North to the national highway system.

After his weekend trip to Winnipeg, Okalik travelled on to Arviat and Coral Harbour for community visits on his way back to Iqaluit.

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