Construction of the winter road network in northern Ontario is ahead of schedule, thanks to the recent cold snap — but some concerns about ice-road safety remain.
Each winter, the province invests millions to build temporary roads to about 30 communities that are normally accessible only by air.
The funding comes from the federal government and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.
“As much as many people don't like that cold weather, it does help in terms of construction of the winter roads,” MNDM Minister Michael Gravelle said.
“And they are certainly very important to the First Nations."
Despite the benefits, winter roads can be dangerous.
After an ice road groomer operator died in 2011, a coroner's inquest made recommendations to improve worker safety — including adding escape hatches to grooming machines.
Gravelle said the government is looking into them — but that's not good enough for Harvey Yesno, the Grand Chief of Nishnawbe-Aski Nation.
"There's been a lot of recommendation and inquest, for different reasons. And I think the track record by governments is that they don't often implement any of the recommendations and, if they do, they may implement one of five,” he said.
Northern Development minister Michael Gravelle said the government is considering the findings.
"This is something that we need to continue to take very, very seriously,” he said.
“Our Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, and the Ministry of Labour are working together, as well, in terms of those discussions."
In addition to greater safety standards, Yesno said the winter road network should connect remote First Nations to each other — not just to the south.
Jury recommendations from inquest into death of Edwin James Davis:
Guidelines for winter road construction: