$1.2B Nunavut to Manitoba road would be a "tough sell"
Officials say if road is built, it must be for national, not economic, reasons
A study obtained by CBC News shows the cost of a road from Manitoba to Nunavut would likely far outweigh its economic benefits.
However, Canada was built by rail, road and waterways, and people who are pushing for a land link between Nunavut and the South believe the country still has one major piece of nation-building left.
"Nunavut is joined to the rest of Canada by only the thinnest of threads," said Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak.
Aariak told a Toronto audience last year that Nunavut clings to confederation without a single ground link to the South.
For years, Nunavut and Manitoba have talked about an all-weather road connecting the two regions.
A recently released business case study shows a road from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, to Sundance, Man., would cost $1.2 billion. The study also shows the 1,100-kilometre road would generate less than half that amount in benefits.
"This is a tough sell, it's a tough sell on the economics, and it's a tough sell just because of the magnitude of it," said Shawn Maley, a spokesperson for the Nunavut government.
Maley and the Manitoba government believe the road will take commitment from Ottawa – they say it must be built for national, not economic, reasons.
Road would be similar to Dempster, Transcontinental highways, say officials
"This is a country that has an extensive history of visionary transportation projects," said Steve Ashton, Manitoba’s Minister of Transportation.
Ashton says the Nunavut to Manitoba road compares to the transcontinental railroad and the Dempster Highway.
"I really believe it's not a question of if there will be a land link to Nunavut, it's a question of when," he added.
Nunavut's MP Leona Aglukkaq promised to push ahead on the road during last year's election. She says she's still committed.
"We need to explore ways of improving our transportation infrastructure in the North, but it's not going to happen overnight."
Manitoba already uses winter roads to connect to 22 communities in that province which do not have all-weather road access.
Maley estimates a winter road alone from Nunavut to Manitoba would cost $5 million to $6 million to build, and then about $3 million a year to maintain.
If money was available, the all-weather road between the two regions would take 15 years to complete, according to the study.
Road could open up Kivalliq region for more development
The proposed road would pass close by 22 mineral exploration projects and could open up the Kivalliq region in Nunavut to further development.
Dale Coffin, who is with mining company Agnico-Eagle, says it would cut down on uncertainty.
Agnico-Eagle operates a gold mine outside of Baker Lake, Nunavut, with plans to build another near Rankin Inlet.
"If there's an existing mine that’s in the area, or an old one, then the best place to find a new mine is beside one of those facilities," he said.
But Coffin believes industry might be reluctant to invest in the proposed mega-project without immediate benefits for shareholders.
"It's difficult to make a decision based on what's the outcome for that particular company if there's no apparent benefit right now."
Agnico-Eagle built a 110-kilometre road to its Meadowbank mine in Nunavut, so Coffin says it is technically possible to link Nunavut, by road, to the rest of Canada.