NWT ministers are pushing their Yukon counterparts to drive the Dempster Highway in a bid to illustrate the consequences of deteriorating road conditions.
The Dempster, otherwise known as Highway 8 in the NWT, is the road link between southern Canada and the Arctic coast, running for 700 km through a sparsely populated area of Yukon to Inuvik and beyond.
Reviews of its present condition are not great.
“The highway is even horrible in the winter now,” Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler said on Monday, having asserted that residents already accept the Dempster will be a miserable driving experience in spring and summer.
In response, NWT infrastructure minister Diane Archie said the Yukon section of the highway deserved more scrutiny than the NWT side.
“It does need work,” said Archie, who represents Inuvik Boot Lake.
“We hear comments about driving on the NWT side and the road is pretty good. You get past the border and it is difficult.”
Archie said she had pressed counterpart Nils Clarke, Yukon’s minister of highways and public works, to go on an exploratory drive that might help him better appreciate conditions.
“He has agreed to drive the Dempster Highway. He hasn’t driven that road in a while,” she said, before being passed a note by Premier Caroline Cochrane that appeared to upgrade the road trip.
Reading off the note, Archie said: “We’ve got an invitation from the Yukon premier to drive the Dempster Highway with me, so I’m very excited at that.”
She said the Yukon Government “understands there are some issues happening that we need to address,” reeling off a list that included bridges, embankments and drainage.
Semmler, in response, said she just hoped the Yukon politicians committed to drive the highway at least twice: once in winter and once in summer.