Hay River South MLA Wally Schumann, the territorial minister of Transportation, made his debut on the national political stage in Ottawa on Jan. 28.
Schumann attended his first meeting of federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for transportation and highway safety.
“It was good,” he said of the meeting. “I wouldn’t say I was nervous going there but it’s definitely a little bit different when you’re all of a sudden in a room with all the ministers across Canada and the territories and the federal minister. It makes it kind of like, on a personal level, a little reality check for the first time.”
However, Schumann said about half of the ministers of Transportation at the meeting are also new to their positions.
That includes Marc Garneau, the federal minister of Transport, who has only been in the job since the Liberal victory in last fall’s election.
Schumann said he got to meet Garneau over a private lunch, and found him to have a good understanding of Northern issues.
“Between myself and the two other Northern ministers, and I’d even say the Manitoba minister, he’d be well up to speed on the issues facing the Northern territories and even some of these northern provinces,” said Schumann.
One of those issues is the effect of climate change on such things as road construction and winter roads.
Schumann said he spoke about the “far-reaching effects” climate change is having on the NWT, the other territories and the northern regions of provinces like Manitoba.
“We’re all in the same kind of boat,” he said, adding there is a need for investment to support adaptation to climate change. “We have a little group of people there that are saying the same thing. It’s not just us standing alone saying that climate change is coming. We’ve made it quite clear that climate change is already here.”
Schumann, who is also the NWT’s minister of Environment and Natural Resources, said he believes everyone heard the message quite loud and clear, particularly the federal minister.
One of the main aspects of the Ottawa meeting was the launching of a new road safety strategy for the next 10 years.
The strategy, developed by the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, outlines a timeline to address important road safety issues, including enhancing enforcement, improving road infrastructure, supporting research, leveraging vehicle safety technologies and raising public awareness of factors contributing to collisions.
In addition, Garneau, co-chair of the Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety, shared his transportation priorities, including support for trade infrastructure and rail safety.
“We discussed the critical importance transportation infrastructure plays in stimulating the economy and the importance of working together to make improvements to the transportation system,” the federal minister said in a news release. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to make progress on these important issues.”