$71.7M in funding going to Rankin Inlet airport upgrade, new life for Grays Bay road

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau announced $71.7 million for four projects in Nunavut at the Iqaluit airport on Thursday.

Road connecting Rankin Inlet with Kivalliq communities to be explored

Canada's Minister of Transport Marc Garneau stands with Nunavut's Minister of Economic Development and Transportation David Akeeagok (right) and the president of Kitikmeot Inuit Association Stanley Anablak (left). (Sara Frizzell/CBC)

The beleaguered Grays Bay Road and Port project, championed by the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, has received $21.5 million for its first phase of development from the federal government.

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau announced $71.7 million for four projects in Nunavut at the Iqaluit airport on Thursday.

"The National Trade Corridors Fund was specifically tailored for trying to improve the flow of not only people, but also goods on our transportation systems and we know the Grays Bay area has a great deal of potential in terms of natural resources," Garneau said. 

The largest chunk of the funding is to expand the Rankin Inlet airport. It will get two additional wings, which will quadruple the capacity of the current airport.

This funding is part of the $400 million earmarked in the National Trade Corridors Fund (NTCF) for transportation upgrades across the Arctic in this year's federal budget.

The Rankin Inlet airport was a project submitted by the government of Nunavut to the NTCF. It will get $45.5 million to expand the regional hub airport. 

Rankin Inlet's airport will quadruple in size after the upgrades to the terminal building are complete. (Walter Strong/CBC)

Nunavut's Minister of Economic Development and Transportation David Akeeagok says he expects the expansion to be complete in the next six years. 

Akeeagok said the government of Nunavut has committed to 25 per cent of the cost of the project in addition to Canada's $45.5 million. 

First road out of Nunavut

If the Grays Bay Road and Port project goes ahead it will be the first road connecting Nunavut to the rest of Canada.

The 230-kilometre road would connect a proposed deep-water port at Grays Bay — on the Northwest Passage between Bathurst Inlet and Kugluktuk — to the winter road that services the N.W.T.'s diamond mines.

The plan for this road has existed in some form for six years. Garneau said he'd had meeting both in Nunavut and Ottawa on the idea. 

"We felt that the submission that was provided to us by [the Kitikmeot Inuit Association] was a very good one and that it was worth making that initial investment to look at...all those ducks you need to line up before you say 'okay let's build it'," Garneau said.

The government of Nunavut along with Kitikmeot Inuit Association (KIA) applied to Transport Canada for the half-billion in funding it would take to build the road — but then last year the territorial government pulled out of the project and the funding was denied.

But KIA resubmitted on its own, according to Charlie Lyall, KIA's president.

Lyall says the road would significantly lower the cost of living in the Kitikmeot as goods could be driven up through the Northwest Territories, put on ships at the Grays Bay port and distributed to communities.

Charlie Lyall with the Kitikmeot Inuit Association says he's been working on moving the Grays Bay Road and Port project ahead for six years. (Jordan Konek/CBC)

The hope is the infrastructure would also entice mining companies to the mineral rich area, if the cost to set up was reduced by having existing infrastructure.

This funding will pay for work that needs to be done before construction can start including geological investigations, preliminary design plans, environmental assessments, permitting and approvals. 

Past estimates for the whole project have put the price tag around a half billion dollars. 

Road to Kivalliq communities

Another of 450-kilometre road will also be studied from this pot of funding. 

The government of Nunavut along with the Kivalliq Inuit Association pitched a study on the possibility of a road connecting Rankin Inlet to Chesterfield Inlet, Whale Cove and Arviat. 

"This will determine whether its a goal or not a goal, we asked for money to look into this, to do a study on it and if it's feasible....then we're going to go for it, but we need to look at it first," Akeeagok said. 

The feasibility study got $4.5 million in funding from Transport Canada which, like the Rankin Inlet airport funding, will also be topped up to the tune of 25 per cent by the government of Nunavut.

The final of the four projects funded Thursday was a submission by Calm Air. 

The airline will get $195,000 to install ramps from airports to the tarmac and to planes to improve access for people with disabilities. 

Seven communities will get ramps: Arviat, Whale Cove, Chesterfield Inlet, Baker Lake, Naujaat, Coral Harbour and Sanikiluaq.


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