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From left, N.W.T. MP Michael McLeod and Sahtu MLA Daniel McNeely speak to delegates at the Sahtu assembly this week in Tulita, N.W.T. (Alex Brockman/CBC) Time is running out for Sahtu communities to lobby the current federal government to completely fund the Mackenzie Valley Highway before the next election, MLA Daniel McNeely told delegates at the Sahtu assembly.

McNeely, who represents the region in the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly, spent most of his speech to the delegates on the importance of moving forward with the $700-million project before the next federal election, expected in the fall of 2019.

"There are only … 127 sitting days left in the House of Commons between now and the next federal election, and we have to use them wisely," McNeely said Wednesday in Tulita, N.W.T.

He called on board members of the Sahtu Secretariat Inc. to meet with him and territorial government officials in Yellowknife this month to push for movement into the next phase of building the highway.

The secretariat is an administrative body composed of representatives of the region’s seven Dene and Métis land claim corporations.

"We have the opportunity now and we really don’t know if that opportunity is going to present itself in the future," McNeely said.

"We have to take into account the next generation, preparing now for tomorrow."

The latest proposal for the highway would connect N.W.T. communities of Wrigley, Tulita and Norman wells by an all-weather road and a series of bridges, including a span across Great Bear River, McNeely said. The Mackenzie Valley Highway would run north from Wrigley to the Dempster Highway if completed. The Sahtu assembly passed a resolution to include Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake on the road’s design. (CBC) Sahtu assembly supports new highway

On Thursday, the Sahtu assembly passed a resolution to continue support for building the Mackenzie Valley Highway, but also including Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake on the road’s design as well. It’s an amendment to a similar motion passed in 2015.

Earlier this summer, the federal government announced it is spending $102.5 million on parts of the project, which include a bridge over Great Bear River near Tulita, a 15-kilometre all-weather road from Wrigley north to Mount Gaudet, and further studies for the Mackenzie Valley Highway.

That represented a significant development in a project that has been marked by fits and starts over the last few years. The project, initially pitched to the former Conservative government, was put on hold in 2016 when the Liberals ordered a review . Thomas Manuel thinks the highway would make a major difference in the lives of people living in the Sahtu, especially on the cost of living. (Alex Brockman/CBC) The highway project would have a real effect on how people live in the Mackenzie Valley, McNeely said. There would be the immediate effect of construction jobs and, over time, it would reduce the high cost of living in the Sahtu communities.

In Tulita for example, a 930-gram can of coffee sells for $38.29 at the Northern Store as of Thursday. A two-litre carton of milk costs $7.45, but that’s once the Nutrition North food subsidy is included. Without that subsidy, it would cost $13.60. Grapes cost $10.49 per kilogram post-subsidy and $13.49 pre-subsidy.

The Mackenzie Valley Highway is just one of several high-profile infrastructure projects awaiting word on federal funding in the Northwest Territories.

The territorial government also seeks to build an all-weather road to the territory’s diamond mines and an expansion of the Taltson Hydroelectric dam . ‘Together you rise, alone you fall’

The end of the month marks a deadline for the territory to apply for money […]

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