QP – Nunavut – Northern Infrastructure

The Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, C.P., M.P., Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

May 10, 2016

Nunavut—Northern Infrastructure

Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: 
Mr. Minister, I come from the Nunavut territory, which has no highways between communities and no road link to Southern Canada. Infrastructure in Nunavut is sorely needed to boost the mining sector, and our economy relies on mining.

Your department and government has loudly identified municipal transit infrastructure as a priority. We hear a lot of talk about shortening commuter times in the major urban centres, which I do understand, but major infrastructure and transportation in the North are also severely lacking and hamper, I believe, Canadian economic growth and the assertion of sovereignty.

Is your government prepared to invest in the development of core infrastructure needs in the North?

Hon. Amarjeet Sohi, P.C., M.P., Minister of Infrastructure and Communities: Thank you so much for your question, honourable senator. Yes, we are committed to supporting northern communities in their very diverse needs for road infrastructure, for making sure that we are untapping the potential in the North for resource development, as well as for housing needs, because there are different needs and the construction seasons are different in northern communities.

We have made changes, again, listening to our counterparts in territories and northern communities. The changes will allow them to use the existing Building Canada Fund, which they didn’t have access to for the last two construction seasons. Then, again, this few hundred million dollars has become available particularly for the territories to use.

In this budget, we have committed to providing additional resources to northern communities in the area of housing, as well as in some of the other areas, to enhance nutrition in Northern Canada, to support the isolated communities in the North, as well as the $177.7 million for the Affordable Housing Initiative; $8 million for Yukon; $12 million for Northwest Territories; and $76.7 million for Nunavut. So we are committed to doing so and the area that you have identified, sir, is very important, tapping the resource development. We are working with the leaders in those provinces, whether it’s the Ring of Fire issue, whether it’s the resource access in the territories. So we are working very closely with provinces in order to support them, but we will also engage the private sector, which will actually be investing money. So we are looking for private sector partnerships in the resource development.

Senator Patterson: Thank you for that answer, minister.

We also have needs like wastewater infrastructure, and I heard you say that you were aware of an important project in New Brunswick. I’m wondering, if I may dare to ask: Are you aware of the wastewater infrastructure proposal from the capital city of Iqaluit, in Nunavut?

Mr. Sohi: You are testing my memory. What I would say is that, recognizing the unique needs of smaller provinces and the territories, the way we are designing our infrastructure plan for water and wastewater is to ensure that each province and territory gets a base level of funding.

So for the first phase, the $2 billion is the overall allocation for Canada. Then, within that, each province and territory will get $50 million for the first two years. On top of that will be the allocation based on population.

So those provinces who would not have done well under the population allocation-based funding will do better under the allocation that we are proposing under water and wastewater. That $50 million will definitely allow smaller provinces and the territories to do the necessary work that they need to do in water and wastewater. On your particular project, we will get back to you if that project is under review. If it is not, we will ask the province what stage they are at in order to bring that forward to us, and we are moving ahead on signing bilateral agreements with all provinces and the territories.

Nunavut—Northern Infrastructure

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Dennis Glen Patterson on May 10, 2016)

Our government just recently signed and announced a bilateral agreement with the Government of Nunavut on September 6, 2016 including a list of proposed projects under the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund (CWWF).

Government of Nunavut officials worked with the City of Iqaluit on the project and it was included on the list of projects put forward for funding under CWWF. The project is valued at over $26 million, of which Canada is contributing almost $20 million.