Some NWT infrastructure projects are being delayed. Here’s a list.
The NWT government’s decision to change the way it spends money on infrastructure means the timelines are changing for some projects.
The territory says past estimates have promised all kinds of work each year without having enough capacity to build everything. The new approach is “more realistic,” officials say.
There is now a new cap on how much money is spent on projects each year – a cap designed to reflect the amount of work the GNWT thinks interested companies can actually take on.
Some existing projects are being delayed to fit them all into the new cap, which brings annual spending down from an estimated $502 million in 2022-23 to $328 million in 2023-24.
Here’s the list of delayed projects we know about. This information comes from the capital estimates, a document produced by the territory each year that forecasts what will be spent on infrastructure builds in the year ahead. The 2023-24 capital estimates were tabled on Tuesday.
All of these projects have been “returned to planning for updated scope and costing,” the GNWT says.
Mount Gaudet Access Road
This 15-km all-season gravel road would replace an existing winter road outside Wrigley. Regulators recently said they consider the project withdrawn because so little has happened, but the GNWT insists it will go ahead. The Pehdzeh Ki First Nation has listed a range of concerns.
The end date for this project is now listed as 2025-26 in the newly released capital estimates, instead of the initial target of 2023-24.
“Permitting and pre-construction activities are expected to take two years, with construction beginning in 2024-25,” the territory states.
Mackenzie Valley Highway
This big-ticket all-season road from Wrigley to Norman Wells, priced at hundreds of millions of dollars, has reached the environmental assessment and planning stage. Not much has changed here except that stage is now expected to take until 2025-26, delayed from 2023-24.
Slave Geological Province All-Weather Highway
What was previously called an “access corridor” is now termed an “all-weather highway” northeast of Yellowknife toward Nunavut. The GNWT likes this project because it could help companies open more mines in future, although there’s no guarantee of that.
Work toward an environmental assessment for this project now carries an end date of 2027-28 instead of 2023-24.
(Speaking of what things are called, Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly has suggested this project needs a new name given “the colonial and racist underpinnings of the name associated with this area.”)
Great Bear River Bridge
This bridge is part of the grander Mackenzie Valley Highway plan. Late last year, the territorial government expected construction to begin in 2023 and take three years.
“This project scope has been reduced to planning only and is slated to be completed in 2023-24,” the territory now says.
Fort Providence transmission line
This project will hook up Fort Providence, Kakisa and Dory Point to the Taltson hydro system. It has a key role to play in providing hydro power to Fort Providence that will allow creation of electric car charging stations in the community.
The completion of construction work is now slated for 2024-25, two years later than previously planned.
Inuvik and Hay River long-term care facilities
Construction of a long-term care facility in Inuvik has been put off. “This project has been reduced to planning only and is slated for completion in 2024-25,” the territory states.
A new facility in Hay River, originally expected in 2021, is now slated for 2027-28. “Project work is currently under way to demolish the old HH Williams facility and new construction will start once that is completed,” read the territory’s summary.
Caroline Wawzonek, the finance minister, said these delays also form part of a broader review of how the Department of Health and Social Services provides long-term care.
“It’s not as simple as saying we’re delaying the project,” Wawzonek said. “This is recognition that the way we deliver services is ripe for re-examination.”
The minister said the size of facilities and how they are staffed needed to be part of that reassessment, and leaving the facilities on the immediate priority list would have made no difference to the date they ultimately open, given the need for that work.
“If you leave it on the capital list and say, ‘here, it’s here,’ that doesn’t get it any closer to completion,” Wawzonek said.
Chief Jimmy Bruneau School
This school in Behchokǫ̀ has been the subject of various visions in recent years. Initially, the GNWT planned extensive renovations, but the Tłı̨chǫ Government has been clear that it wants an entirely new facility.
As a result, what was originally a renovation project has been sent back to the planning stage under the GNWT’s new approach, where projects don’t get to “linger,” in Wawzonek’s phrasing, without a clear path forward.
“The Tłı̨chǫ school has been on the books since I was elected,” the minister told reporters on Tuesday.
“It was clear to us, early on, that the Tłı̨chǫ Government does not want a renovated school … and yet that project sat there. Let’s not leave this thing on the books, that is suggestive of something we all now realize is not what the community wants … and try to work with the Tłı̨chǫ Government and right-size that future project.”
The challenge, though, will be finding a home for that school project once it is eventually “right-sized.”
The GNWT’s commitment to smaller budgets for new builds each year means the school, once it’s ready to come forward, will face increased competition to get a slot in the construction schedule.
Other projects sent back to the planning stage include a new school for Colville Lake, a new health centre and long-term care facility in Fort Simpson, and a long-term care facility in Fort Smith. No detailed information was available about any of those decisions.