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Election delays road to Tuk funding

Samantha Stokell
Northern News Services
Published Monday, March 28, 2011


The federal budget promised a bright future for Tuktoyaktuk with the funding of an all-weather road, but the election quickly dashed those dreams.

When the budget announced $150 million over five years - starting in 2012 - for the construction of the all-weather road between Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik, residents of the community cheered.

"My reaction? I'm still shaking a bit, knowing that it's going to happen after all these years of pushing and pulling," said Mervin Gruben, mayor of the 929-population hamlet. Tourism will really pick up and it will be a boon for both communities."

That joy was short-lived as the opposition parties in the federal government held a non-confidence vote on March 25, putting the budget back on the drawing board and the approximately $220 million road project back on the shelf for now.

Gruben hoped with the environmental review completed this summer construction could start this fall, with the promised federal funds.

Jackie Jacobson, MLA for Nunakput which includes Tuktoyaktuk, while excited about the road, had doubts on whether the budget would even pass following its announcement on March 22.

"We don't need an election right now," Jacobson said. "We need to stimulate the economy. We need to work together for a positive impact in the community."

Construction of the road would provide employment for the struggling Beaufort Delta region, which has seen a decrease in the number of oil and gas projects in recent years.

With the two to five-year construction of the gravel road and the federal approval of the Mackenzie Pipeline project on March 11, Jacobson thinks it's a turning point for the region.

"We really need to work and it's just good to see our luck changing," Jacobson said. "The last couple of weeks have been really exciting. The North is being seen."

While Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington approved of the funding for the road, he suspected the Conservative government does not have plans to fund the project as it is not listed in the detailed spending estimates.

"Northerners remember how they promised Iqaluit a port but never delivered," Bevington said in a statement in the House of Commons on March 23. "We remember the armed ice-breakers now shelved and we remember a food-mail program which caused prices to climb. Hollow promises all."

Bevington said the NDP did not support the budget because it did not provide enough for Canadians, citing the corporate tax cuts which have decreased from 24 per cent to 15 per cent since the Conservatives gained power.

Aside from the all-weather road, the budget did not include many benefits for the North. Specific funding included $9 million over two years to expand adult basic education programming to increase employment and opportunities for Northerners and $8 million over two years to promote the deployment of clean energy technologies in aboriginal and Northern communities.

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