Northern News Services
Friday, May 11, 2007
YELLOWKNIFE - With or without federal funding, Premier Joe Handley said construction will start this summer on the $130 million Mackenzie bridge.
"If we had done it (in 1978), it would've cost $6 million, then it was $70 million (and) if we wait another year who knows how much it will cost, 150 (million dollars) or 160," said Handley. "We've got to bite the bullet."
Handley's stance is an about face from his position in June of last year when he stated the bridge could not be constructed without $50 million from Ottawa. The territorial government has sunk $4.04 million in the Dehcho Bridge Corp. with nothing but conceptual drawings and failed deals in return.
Kam Lake MLA Dave Ramsay wants more information before he gives the project his blessing.
"Sure, I want a bridge, like anybody else wants a bridge, but I want to know how the heck we're going to pay for it over the next 35 years," Ramsay said Wednesday during question period in the legislative assembly.
"We haven't seen a business case, we haven't seen the numbers, and I'd like to know how we can build a $130 million bridge with our eyes closed."
According to the premier, the $2 million the government spends on ferries and ice-roads each year would be the GNWT's contribution matched with a toll regime that has yet to be determined.
"The toll was set at six dollars, but there's also a factor that was worked in for inflation," Handley explained. "So it would go up gradually over the years because some day, 20 years from now, 30 years from now, six dollars may have the value of two."
The uncertainty worries Ramsay, who said that without federal support, the GNWT would have to subsidize the project more than $2 million a year. Ultimately, industrial users and taxpayers will shoulder tolls and the bridge subsidy.
"We were concerned about the possibility of cost overruns," Mike Vaydik, NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines general manager, told Yellowknifer last June. "The $6 a tonne was based on $59 millionÖ we weren't really in favour of a bridge with a toll."