Government to pledge $400 million for transport projects in Canada's North

The National Trade Corridors Fund will dedicate $2 billion over 11 years to beef up Canadian trade infrastructure, including up to $400 million for transportation initiatives in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Transport minister to announce a call for proposals on Monday to vie for the funds

A Canadian North plane sits on the tarmac at the Yellowknife airport. New federal funding will help support northern infrastructure like airports, roads and bridges. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

The federal government is set to announce funding to help improve the remote roads, airports and bridges of Canada's North.

On Monday, Transport Canada will begin a call for proposals for funding to tackle transportation challenges in the territories

The National Trade Corridors Fund will dedicate $2 billion over 11 years to beef up Canadian trade infrastructure, including up to $400 million for transportation initiatives in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. The fund also provides support for trade diversification strategies. 

Groups are being asked to submit proposals for approval to get a slice of the money — provided the projects they submit meet the criteria and objectives of the fund.

The projects will be assessed by Transport Canada to see how well they fit four objectives:

  • Reducing bottlenecks and capacity issues to support the flow of goods and passengers.
  • Improving the climate resilience of the transportation system, which may include new technologies. 
  • Addressing the unique transportation needs to take into account things like safety and economic and social development. 
  • Building on pre-existing investments made by public and private sector partners.

The chosen projects will support things like airports, all-season roads, bridges and ports — with the aiming of enhancing safety and development in the territories. 

The government is also looking for projects designed to help increase access to northern markets normally cut off due to tough terrain and weather conditions, Transport Canada said in a news release. 

"Enhancing the northern transportation system will support and promote economic growth, trade diversification and social development, offer job opportunities, and ensure greater connectivity for Northerners," said Transport Minister Marc Garneau.  

Territorial and municipal governments, Indigenous groups, non-profit organizations, private-sector firms, and federal Crown corporations and agencies are eligible to present proposals, which are due at the end of March. Expressions of interest should be submitted no later than Jan. 15, 2019.

Garneau's announcement comes several months after Nunavut's government told Ottawa it's time for Canada to focus on infrastructure in the North.

"Our opportunities are hindered by infrastructure, the lack of fibre, the lack of roads," David Akeeagok, the Nunavut minister of economic development and transportation, told an energy conference in August.

The idea of establishing a Northern Corridor was first put forward by researchers at the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy in a 2016 paper.

Their proposal consists of a $100-billion, 7,000-kilometre national right-of-way in Canada's north and near north for possible road, rail, pipeline, electricity and communication infrastructure.