The GNWT’s Department of Transportation is looking for input on the next phase of infrastructure and legislation for the movement of goods and people in the NWT.
“This isn’t a quantitative exercise,” said Pietro de Bastiani, assistant director for policy, planning, and communications, with the Department of Transportation.
“We’re looking for the context of how long people have lived here, whether they’re involved in the industry, and what they think the needs are moving forward.”
When the department was created 25 years ago, it developed a plan that brought it up until now. While neither the former nor the new plan will have any financial implications – as those are decided year to year, depending on budget priorities across the government – de Bastiani said the new strategy would serve to guide the choices made with that year’s funding.
“Twenty-five years ago, no one talked about climate change,” he said. “No one talked about permafrost degradation or even diamond mines. There is a whole new set of challenges we need to face as a territory in the next 25 years.”
Along with an online survey, the department will be approaching municipal and aboriginal governments to hear their opinions on what the priorities for the new strategy should be. With hopes of a draft strategy to be completed by the end of summer or beginning of fall, de Bastiani said a second round of consultations would commence in the fall and winter, during which time the department would visit each region to present the draft and gather feedback.
“We really want to distil it down to regional needs,” he said. “We’re hoping the strategy will have a strong regional focus, as well as being able to address different modes of transportation.”
While the GNWT does not regulate any travel but road, it shares at least partial responsibility for federal government lobbying efforts for air, water, and rail travel.
Greg Whitlock, regional superintendent for the South Slave region, said that any specific regional concerns would come to light later on, with the public being asked to contribute to larger questions pertaining to the whole territory for the initial phases.
“There are a number of things that are on the go, like the Inuvik/Tuk highway and the Wrigley/Normal Wells all-season road connection,” he said, adding that while those have obvious benefits to local people, they will also help the territory as a whole in the end. “This strategy hasn’t come out yet. At this point, the goal is to collect information
to form a plan.”