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Caroline Wawzonek: Airport improvement projects in the Northwest Territories

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The spoken word is valid

Mr. Speaker, transportation infrastructure projects play an important role in the Northwest Territories' economic landscape, providing business and employment opportunities while meeting the basic needs of our residents. The Northwest Territories' 27 airports are the lifeblood of the north, connecting communities, transporting people and essential goods, providing access to essential services such as health care, and being critical to residents and responders during emergencies and evacuations. We also know that many people rely heavily on our airports, particularly for exploration and tourism.

Today, I'd like to highlight some of the Ministry of Infrastructure's recent work to improve our Northwest Territories airports and ensure safety across the territory. Airport improvement projects support a number of Northwest Territories priorities: they provide opportunities for a strong economic foundation and access to healthcare, address issues related to climate change, and help keep our residents and communities safe.

To date, the Ministry of Infrastructure has received approximately $50 million through the Airport Capital Assistance Program (ACAP) for 17 different projects at 11 different airports in the Northwest Territories. ACAP funds were provided for a new loader and asphalt surface course at Fort Smith and for electrical upgrades at an airfield in Fort Simpson. Under the capital plan, drainage improvements were completed at Sambaa K'e and Sachs Harbour airports. Phase 2 of the drainage work is planned for Fort McPherson this year. In Yellowknife, Mr. Speaker, ACAP funds enabled equipment upgrades and the creation of a safer and more efficient work environment.

Further north, I am pleased to report that the Inuvik Airport runway extension is progressing well. Material removal is almost 90% complete and the runway widening is nearing 80% completion. 83 Northwest Territories residents are currently working on this project, which provides both local jobs and training opportunities. Building this airport infrastructure is critical to strengthening the Canadian Forces' presence to assert its sovereignty in the Arctic.

The replacement of the terminal building in Inuvik is still a work in progress. The Ministry of Infrastructure is currently updating construction cost estimates and securing the additional financial investment required to complete this project. I am pleased to report that we have received significant local interest in completing this work.

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT is updating the Fort Simpson Airport Development Plan. A public meeting was held in Fort Simpson in March 2024 to present the plan and gather feedback, and residents were invited to share their thoughts on the GNWT's engagement portal. The plan, which will include recommendations, analysis and guidelines for future development, is expected to be completed by the end of June.

Yellowknife is using its revolving fund to make several airport improvements. A geotechnical study of both runways is looking at solutions to best address and remediate issues related to runway movement due to climate change. This work will be considered and prioritized in the Capital Improvement Plan currently under development. Accessibility improvements have been made in the terminal building, including emergency pet shelters and induction loops, a special sound system for hearing aid wearers. A tar machine and emergency vehicle were also purchased this year. Upcoming improvements include airport seating replacement in the food court and Arrivals B area, a new airline passenger processing system, pre-departure screening improvements, and asphalt paving on two taxiways.

Mr. Speaker, Yellowknife Airport's first strategic plan is currently being developed and will be an action-oriented document that describes future development in a practical, economically and environmentally sustainable manner. It will include a capital improvement program and outline processes for identifying, planning and implementing capital projects at the airport. We recently extended an invitation to meet with the airlines for a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the importance of the airport, ongoing developments and future initiatives. This type of engagement is critical as we strive to promote transparency, collaboration and a shared vision for the continued success of Yellowknife Airport, which is the hub for all other NWT regions. To promote accountability and oversight, the strategic plan will be made public and will include key performance indicators to monitor progress, evaluate results and report.

Mr Speaker, the GNWT continues to invest significantly in our airports and I look forward to reporting on successful improvement projects at future meetings.

Thank you very much, Mr President.