Manitoba's regional minister Vic Toews believes a winter road from Churchilll to Rankin Inlet could pave the way for development and prosperity in Canada's north.

The Conservative MP said the temporary road could be first cleared and prepared for a "reasonable" amount of about $25 million. It would take half that amount every year to maintain, he said.

But the returns would be great, by breathing new economic life into Churchilland opening up Nunavut to mining companies, Toews said.

"We could bring, for example, raw materials by rail to Churchill, build ready-to-move homes in Churchill, creating all-year employment and then moving that by winter road up to Rankin Inlet," he said.

"It's not enough for the federal government simply to be pouring money into Churchill, which we have done. But how do we make Churchill stand on its own, not only as a port, but I see as a northern centre."

The idea, which Toews said has lots of support  from mining companies, railways, and the province, would also solidify Canada's sovereignty in the north.

"It's certainly something that would strengthen our north, open up the north — very consistent with the prime minister's vision for the north," he said.

Provincial minister supports route

Dave Chomiak, Manitoba’s minister of innovation, energy and mines, said talks are ongoing about how to expand Churchill’s role as a northern port.

He said the road would open up the north to development, and changes in Asian, Russian and northern markets have made the route a good option.

"We fly people up there now for weeks or months at a time. The ability to transport via road would change that whole concept," said Chomiak.

"Frankly it would be a huge economic benefit to Manitoba, to Nunavut and to the country as a whole."

He said costs for building and operating the route could be shared between Ottawa, Manitoba and Nunavut.

View Larger Map