A vast pathway connecting roads, rail, pipelines, power and communications across northern Canada could bring huge benefits in trade and quality of life, says a new study. We spoke to one of its authors.
TORONTO – A corridor running for 7,000km (4,375 miles) through northern Canada could link communities, trade and natural resources with markets in the south and overseas, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.
The report calls for the creation of a right-of-way – a route agreed in advance by stakeholders, including governments, private landowners and indigenous groups. Taking this approach, instead of evaluating and approving infrastructure projects on a piecemeal basis, would be more efficient and less costly, the authors argue.
Under the proposal, pipelines, railways, roads and electrical transmission lines would stretch from sea-to-sea-to-sea, connecting the Pacific and Atlantic with the Beaufort Sea, Hudson Bay and the St. Lawrence Seaway. The path, which could be up to 2km (1.2 miles) wide, would connect existing deepwater port facilities with proposed mines in the so-called Ring of Fire in northern Ontario, natural gas facilities in the Mackenzie River delta in the Northwest Territories and northern communities.
The report also proposes a three-year, peer-reviewed, academically led study to evaluate the proposed corridor’s engineering challenges and financing and governance issues, as well as the environmental and socioeconomic impacts.
Arctic Deeply spoke with Kent Fellows, a research associate at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy and one of the report’s authors.
Arctic Deeply: Would the corridor mainly serve industry?
Kent Fellows: The first thing is to get the corridor in place so that you have the potential for private investment. But there is also the potential to dramatically increase the quality of life in northern and near-northern communities. A parliamentary study from 2008 (using 2006 data) found that it is 28 percent more expensive to live outside the areas serviced by the current transportation grid. You have an issue with quality of life, but it also creates a problem for industry.
Why would you move up there when you’ve got to pay more for the labor? If we can improve infrastructure in these regions, through road and rail, then you can reduce those costs, allow for much better economic and, more importantly, much better social development in northern and near-northern communities.
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