The Saskatchewan government is calling on Alberta to commit to building its portion of an all-weather road connecting Fort McMurray to La Loche.
The premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan signed an agreement to complete a permanent 110-kilometre road in 2005.
Currently the road is only passable in winter.
“Saskatchewan has been working diligently,” Premier Scott Moe said this week. The province has completed 44 of 53 kilometres of road.
“What we have done here today… is committed to the final nine kilometres,” Moe said Tuesday. So far Saskatchewan has spent about $6 million on the road, he said.
Many people in the north work in Fort McMurray and this would allow for easier ground access, Moe said.
“It allows us to share that labour pool more and provide jobs for everyone in a more ready fashion, and more accessible than what we have today,” he said.
With new mining ventures coming in on the Saskatchewan side, the road would give workers in either community better accessibility to the neighbouring province.
“It’s been too slow, admittedly, on both sides of the border,” Moe said.
Moe sent a letter to Premier Jason Kenney asking him to commit to building Alberta’s segment of the road.
“I haven’t heard back as of yet, but I’m sure we’ll have discussions about it in the days ahead,” Moe said.
Kenney’s press secretary Justin Brattinga said in an email, “We’re currently examining the proposal from Premier Moe and will be providing a response soon.”
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo manages Alberta’s half of the winter road, about 57 kilometres.
Kevin Weidlich, president and CEO of Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo Economic Development and Tourism, said he was “delighted” to hear about Moe’s commitment.
“It’s a long time in the works,” Weidlich said. “One of the great issues that Fort McMurray struggles with, is it’s generally at the end of a very long highway.”
He said this road would connect the town to another northern town, making it more interesting for investors and businesses.
“It draws potential employees and people that would be willing to spend money, shop or work in Fort McMurray.”
It would also allow those in northern Saskatchewan to access the Fort McMurray airport.
Weidlich said he would encourage the Alberta government to make a commitment to investing in infrastructure in the region, including other projects.
“The more the province invests in the region in terms of infrastructure, the greater the payoff in economic impact for the entire province,” Weidlich said.
Coun. Keith McGrath has been an advocate for infrastructure projects in Fort McMurray for years, and in November he put forward a bylaw to create a Regional Transportation Committee.
“The Government of Saskatchewan is on the right track,” McGrath said. “It’s about linking people to jobs and industry, healthcare professionals, education.”