Robert Campbell Highway improvements should benefit everyone along its path

On November 30th, Yukon NDP Highways and Public Works Critic Lois Moorcroft asked the following questions in the Yukon legislature about the Yukon Party government's neglect for the Robert Campbell Highway between Faro and Ross River.

Lois Moorcroft (MLA, Copperbelt South): Mr. Speaker, while the Yukon Party government defends its politically motivated road upgrades to support a now-closed mine on the Robert Campbell Highway, Faro and Ross River residents are left in the dust. For Ross River residents, the road to Faro is the most travelled part of the highway. It’s a vital link to the community’s neighbours. For Faro and Ross River, this highway is a lifeline and, for years now, the Yukon Party government has failed to do what it takes to support them with adequate road access. Mr. Speaker, this government has spent over $40 million on the Robert Campbell Highway between Watson Lake and the now-closed Wolverine mine. How much has it spent to improve the highway between Faro and Ross River during the same time period?

Minister of Highways and Public Works Scott Kent: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. As all members in this House know, it’s important to do planning when you’re talking about infrastructure upgrades. When it comes to that stretch of the highway that is between Faro and Ross River, it was part of a broader functional planning exercise that we spoke about in the spring with the current budget for Highways and Public Works. I believe that functional plan is nearing completion, so we’ll have a chance to review it and then, from there, we’ll be able to make the necessary plans to improve that section of the road. Of course, I hear on a regular basis from the MLA for Pelly-Nisutlin about the importance of that stretch of highway to his constituents, and I can assure them that he is very active on their behalf in ensuring that not only those roads, but all the roads within his riding, are addressed. Again, we’ll continue to make strategic investments in our transportation network throughout the Yukon and spend Yukon taxpayers’ dollars not only for the opportunities that exist today with construction jobs, GDP increases and those types of activities, but we will make investments for the future as well so that future industrial projects and the safety of the travelling public can be respected.

Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the Official Opposition has been asking for a plan and, more to the point, for upgrades to the road between Faro and Ross River for the last fouryears. If the minister was truly concerned about Yukon’s communities and visitors to the territory, the road between Faro and Ross River would be wider and in better shape and we wouldn’t be having this debate. We have seen the state of infrastructure in these villages. The long saga of Ross River bridge repairs remains a thorn in this government’s side and the cracks in the crawl space of the Ross River School forced the closure of a major community space for months. When will the government finally act and make the necessary road improvements between Faro and Ross River to bring it to the same standard as the Faro to Carmacks portion of the highway?

Minister of Community Services Currie Dixon: I am glad the member opposite has mentioned the Ross River bridge, because of course we have continued to work on that project over the last few months and years. As I have noted previously, we have spent almost $1.5 million on that project to date to stabilize the bridge to meet the needs of the community with regard to preserving that historic bridge. As I have noted previously, we are considering moving forward with an application for whatever comes out of the discussion with regard to federal infrastructure funding. I’m optimistic that we will be able to find a path forward that will see that bridge repaired in its second phase, which will include replacing the deck and improving the safety of the bridge by replacing the necessary cabling on that bridge. I look forward to moving forward with that project and I know that there are a number of other infrastructure-related projects that are going on in that area as well, so think it’s good to see that investment going into our Yukon communities.

Moorcroft: The Ross River bridge is yet another example of this government’s failure to take action when it’s needed. The facts on the ground speak for themselves. A Ross River elder recently went public saying — I quote: “I wrote letters to Highways and Public Works [and Public Works], telling them that it's very dangerous — the most awful gravel road — and sometimes tourists get stranded on there because they get flats. And no one will fix that road. They do brushing from Frances Lake down but they haven't done nothing on our part of the road." Mr. Speaker, Ross River, Faro and Watson Lake residents have been waiting for the government to listen to them and make these necessary road upgrades beyond the point of access to the now closed Wolverine mine. When will this government listen to Yukoners who drive the Campbell Highway, do the right thing and invest in these badly needed road upgrades between Ross River and Faro?

Premier Darrell Pasloski: I would just rise as I quickly note some of the recent investments by this government in the community of Ross River, such as investments in solid waste, building of the arena — replacing the arena — and the investments in ensuring the stability of the school from the unstable permafrost, which I spoke about to my colleagues in Ottawa; also the bridge stabilization, the new fire hall, water treatment and huge investments in terms of the roads within the community of Ross River. Of course we are working on functional plans before we do the improvements, because that’s how we do it efficiently. What is also very worthy to note is that all of these investments that we’ve made in the community of Ross River, the people opposite — both parties — voted against all of those investments in those communities — in that community. We continue to invest in Ross River. We continue to invest in all of our communities because certainly the communities are key to the success of this territory. We will continue to work together with the Minister of Community Services and indeed all the ministers to work to ensure that all of our communities are very healthy and happy places to live. We will continue to focus on economic development to create prosperity and to build the populations in those communities.