Questions are being raised about plans to build a $1-billion, 700-km highway from Yellowknife to a proposed port on Nunavut’s Arctic coast, paid for by Canadians but which critics say would largely serve Chinese government interests.
Last week, Transport Minister Marc Garneau pledged more than $50 million to the Northwest Territories and Nunavut to study the feasibility of a highway to replace ice roads that are no longer reliable amid climate change.
While local leaders applaud the funding, critics say the largest benefit would go to a mining company, MMG, which is controlled by the Chinese government and holds several mineral deposits in the region where the highway would be built.
“It is worth flagging to people that the main beneficiary will be the Chinese government, more so than the government of Nunavut or the government of Canada,” says Michael Byers, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia who holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law. “This is for the mining projects and nothing else.”
Byers does not see a problem with a Chinese-controlled company operating mines in Canada, but he wonders if the company will be allowed to bring in Chinese workers to build the road and if Canadian taxpayers should foot the bill.