Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

INVESTING IN THE YUKON – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes the infrastructure funding announcement Saturday morning at the Miles Canyon lookout.

$360-M-plus plan called ‘a visionary investment’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced more than $360 million in federal and territorial spending will be invested to improve road access to mineral-rich areas in the Yukon.

By Emily Blake on September 5, 2017

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced more than $360 million in federal and territorial spending will be invested to improve road access to mineral-rich areas in the Yukon.

Trudeau made the announcement on Saturday morning, during the second day of his Whitehorse trip, with Premier Sandy Silver and Yukon MP Larry Bagnell.

The Yukon Resource Gateway Project will improve road access in the Dawson Range in central Yukon and the Nahanni Range Road in the southeastern part of the territory.

The project will see more than 650 kilometres of road upgraded and the building or replacement of several bridges, culverts and stream crossings.

“It’s an investment in the future of Yukon’s natural resources sector, more than that it’s an investment in its people,” Trudeau said at the Miles Canyon lookout on the Schwatka Lake Road.  

Ottawa will contribute up to $247.3 million of the funding, with the Yukon accounting for $112.8 million.

Local industry will also contribute approximately $108 million to the project.

Silver and Trudeau also stressed that the project will not move forward without the partnership of First Nations whose traditional territories will be affected.

“The relationship with Indigenous Peoples is the most important relationship that this government has,” Trudeau said.

“And it needs to be based on partnership, on respect, on shared stewardship of our land and the people on it, of moving forward in a way that closes the socioeconomic gaps and creates real opportunities for Indigenous Peoples, for everyone who shares this land.”

Silver added, “It’s a conversation about jobs, it’s a conversation about prosperity, it’s a conversation about making sure that our communities in the Yukon are more resilient tomorrow for our next generation than they are today.”

Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation Chief Russell Blackjack said negotiations are ongoing.

The Yukon government has announced it will deal with the First Nation’s agreements before work on the Freegold Road begins.

“I believe there’s a lot of issues that we haven’t come to an agreement with yet, especially with regards to the environment,” Blackjack said.

Chief George Morgan of the Liard First Nation also said the environment is a key concern in negotiations. He expects an impact benefit agreement will be negotiated for the portion of the project that runs through Kaska territory.

Morgan noted that the Kaska are mining-friendly and the project will be benefit the area by creating jobs.

“I really find this to be something to celebrate for the Yukon,” he said.

Under the project, four separate systems will be upgraded in the Dawson Range.

And on the Nahanni Range Road, upgrades will be from the junction with the Campbell Highway to the border between the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

Along the roadways highlighted in the project are several mines that have yet to be approved by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board.

These include the Goldcorp Coffee Gold mine project and the Casino Mining Corporation’s open-pit mine project.

But Samson Hartland, the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, said it’s a forward-thinking agreement.

“This is a visionary investment; this is not about three or four specific mining projects; this is about unlocking Yukon’s mineral potential,” he said.

“There are plenty of other low-level grassroots exploration projects that have significant potential to become operating mines one day decades down the road.”

The Yukon Party is also applauding the federal government’s commitment.

The opposition party had lobbied Ottawa to support the project, asking for a $248-million commitment, with $112 million from the Yukon and $108 million from industry.

“While in government, we made this project a major priority in all discussions with the federal government, as it should directly stimulate mining activity while providing economic benefits and jobs to Yukoners,” Scott Kent, the party’s mining critic, said in a statement.

At Saturday’s press conference, Trudeau also addressed the federal government’s moratorium on Arctic oil and gas drilling, which has received criticism from the N.W.T. and Nunavut premiers.  

Trudeau and then-U.S. president Barack Obama announced the five-year ban last December.

“At this point, the technology simply is not there to ensure that deep-water, high Arctic drilling can be done in a way that protects vulnerable fragile communities and ecosystems from potentially catastrophic consequences,” Trudeau said.

“It was something that I knew mattered deeply to an awful lot of people across the North, and we seized that opportunity.”

He noted that the ban isn’t ideal, but said consultation and partnership is needed for a science-based review of the moratorium every five years.

“Northerners all agree: we need to grow the economy in smart sustainable ways while protecting what is valuable,” he added. 

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Comments (14)

Up 8 Down 4

jack on Sep 9, 2017 at 12:03 am

Don't forget that over half of this investment will be burned up on salaries alone, so its really less than $180M of material infrastructure.

Up 20 Down 27

Real Visionary on Sep 7, 2017 at 4:30 pm

It's so funny hearing this being called a visionary investment. There's nothing visionary about pandering to mining companies that have been working their plans for 10, 15 some even 20 years now. It never ceases to amaze me how these political wonks can spew off about all the ways they're going to spend our tax dollars for us and act like they're doing us a great favour.
You want to actually do something real and visionary for the Yukon? Why not put that 360 million towards youth education, reducing the poverty level, building actually affordable homes, tackling the drinking problem, how about affordable day cares, any of the many other social issues we have etc?? Yet here we have a government once again content to throw money at corporations that don't need it. Who does Trudeau really work for? Well I guess we know the answer. If this is visionary then I must be blind because I don't see it!

Up 18 Down 14

Cliff W. on Sep 6, 2017 at 10:05 pm

This is rich. Kent wants to give credit to the Yukon Party for Trudeau's announcement. He has come full circle in his career journey in that he thinks if you change one word concerning a matter you can then take credit and pretend you had the original thinking. This is one of a Conservatives strongest traits.

Up 12 Down 8

Woodcutter on Sep 6, 2017 at 7:47 pm

Roads? We're still waiting for legalization of Marijuana.

Up 22 Down 11

Too many small town thinkers here on Sep 6, 2017 at 5:52 pm

This is about economic development. It's an investment primarily from our federal government to stimulate growth and it has the backing of the mining industry and primary first nations. Some of you need to get out more.

Up 24 Down 9

Nile on Sep 6, 2017 at 4:56 pm

Well first off it's $247 million NOT $360. How long will the money be spread out over? Without that info I'm left to assume that it's similar to other Liberal pledges of 10 years. So really it's just enough to pay for the FN consultants and lawyers who will eat all that away in no time.

Up 22 Down 7

YukonMax on Sep 6, 2017 at 11:39 am

Roads to be fixed and/or built by the private sector. Because during the summer months, we have a bunch of stat holidays, vacation, unused sick days, winter equipment to be serviced and repaired and whomever is left to work at the camp is sent to a mining road to grade and fix. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we, the little people who pay for all of this, have to avoid potholes graced by little red flags hidden behind overgrown sweet clover.

Up 23 Down 5

Disillusioned on Sep 6, 2017 at 8:17 am

Having been told for so many years there is 'no money' to fix up the North Klondike or even the Alaska Highway post-Shakwak, roads the general public travels day-in day-out to go about our business, I think many of us look forward to seeing the details on what roads this money is going to and how 'public' they will be.

Read the news and all their vacuous spin of a year of non-achievement and it is increasingly evident that other than a greater effort to 'be seen' at all the right events, just about nothing has changed under the new government, including for our First Nations and 'the communities'.


Up 8 Down 5

jack on Sep 5, 2017 at 9:31 pm

$360 million was just enough to refurbish one airport in Nunavut........at least we're not begging Washington, DC for funds to fix these roads this time.......

Up 15 Down 3

Miles Ocean on Sep 5, 2017 at 8:45 pm

Let's check the math. Under what legislation and provision will local industry contribute $108 million to the project.

Up 19 Down 32

drum on Sep 5, 2017 at 7:35 pm

Money to rape and pillage our pristine wilderness. Someone like our Prime Minister thinks the north is not populated by anyone that matters therefore who cares about the protection of our land. No way should that money be going to develop roads for mining companies to get into our wonderful wilderness. We need a new bridge at mile 2 on the Klondike Hwy. (Mayo Road) and a new bridge into Riverdale. That is what is needed - not access for rape and pillage. Those new bridges would actually benefit the people of the Yukon

Up 40 Down 6

Max Mack on Sep 5, 2017 at 6:44 pm

If this same announcement had been made by Harper and Pasloski, I suspect the opposition from environmentalists and First Nations would have been fast and furious.

Up 40 Down 7

Northern Lady on Sep 5, 2017 at 3:47 pm

How much is going to be spent on improving the North Klondike? It is in extremely rough shape in many places and narrow throughput. There are few pullouts between Stewart Crossing and Dawson and it can be a scary road to travel at times. If it's the main access to the Dawson claims, it's only going to get worse.

Up 42 Down 15

Liberal Party of Canada Priorities on Sep 5, 2017 at 3:06 pm

Larry Bagnell announced a promise from Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party right before the last election. That promise was to re-open our tax office.

Now there is $360 million for the mining industry, and the much less grandiose announcement during Trudeau's visit is that the tax office is going to re-open! Yukoners are supposed to get help with their taxes from volunteers.

One million of those hundreds of millions of dollars given to the mining industry could have paid a professional government worker for 20 years.

Thanks Larry. Thanks Justin. Good to know who counts.

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