NWT MLA questions Tuk highway spending

MLA Jane Groenewegen questions why government continues to spend on an Inuvik to Tuk all-weather highway before knowing how much it will cost to build or maintain.

Asks if building highway on melting permafrost and muskeg to community struggling with erosion makes sense

Hay River South MLA  Jane Groenewegen says the Government of the Northwest Territories needs to take a sober second look at the proposed highway to Tuktoyaktuk.

The NWT Finance Minister is asking for $2 million dollars more to study the proposed 140 kilometre gravel highway.

Groenewegen said supporters of the project are so passionate about it, "it's practically sacrilege" to question whether it is a good idea.

But she says that question needs to be asked. She says federal money alone isn't enough to justify spending on the mega project.

"That's like going to the store and buying something because it's on sale whether you need it or not," said Groenewegen. "It's still a huge contribution from our government regardless."

The federal government has pledged to contribute $150 million to the project.

But Groenewegen says territorial spending continues though the government has no clear idea of how much the highway will cost to build or maintain. Two and a half years ago, a cost-benefit analysis estimated the road would cost approximately $230 million to build.

Supporters in the Inuvik region say the project would be an economic boost for a region that has been languishing since the Mackenzie Gas Project has been on hold. They also say it will lower the cost of living for the people in Tuktoyaktuk and the surrounding communities.

But many in the Sahtu say the section of the Mackenzie Valley Highway between Wrigley and Tulita - currently only an ice road -- should be the priority. They say that, with the exploration boom happening in their region, it makes more sense to spend money improving that highway.