Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford continues to say the twinning of Highway 17 between Kenora and the Manitoba border has ‘never been in a better position’, and expects shovels in the ground this summer.
This comes as Rickford says Ontario has sent a formalized document to the Four Winds Partnership to consider. If accepted, the Minister says construction could be ‘imminent’, but may take until this summer.
“I’m feeling very confident,” said Minister Rickford. “Consultations have effectively closed, and we’ll proceed to understand the details of an agreement. I know it’s a priority for all of the Chiefs. I’ve never felt more confident about this. I feel like we’re all ready to go and on the same page. We’re at the last stage. There’s nothing but a strong desire for this to move forward.”
The Four Winds partnership combines Treaty #3 leaders from Washagamis Bay, Dalles, Wauzhushk Onigum and Shoal Lake #40 to study the impacts of twinning Highway 17 to their traditional lands.
Chiefs and councillors from the four communities signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the provincial government to move forward with the twinning work in February, 2020, after forming the partnership in 2018. The signing took place during a celebration at the Wauzhushk Ongium Round House.
Rickford, who also serves as the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Indigenous Affairs and Energy, had said he expected work to begin on the project after signing the MOU in February 2020, but noted COVID-19 has been a major contributing factor to the delays.
Still, Rickford is expecting to announce further road work in the area soon.
“For a long time, the road into Shoal Lake #39 has been at the top of my list of roads to improve, and other access roads leading into other Indigenous communities in the area. We’re all in a place where we want to move this bigger project forward, then get down to business to do some other important road work in the Kenora and surrounding area. It feels good.”
Once approved, the twinning of the Trans-Canada from Kenora to the Manitoba border is expected to be done in three sections:
- Section #1: Between the Manitoba - Ontario Border and Hwy. 673
- Section #2: Between Hwy. 673 and Rush Bay Road
- Section #3: Between Rush Bay Road and Hwy. 17A
When the project was announced more than a decade ago, the federal and provincial governments each set aside $50 million for the project. The funds were announced by former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Greg Rickford – while he was a federal MP for the Kenora riding.
The initial $100 million announced in 2009 was spent on twinning a highway east of Thunder Bay in 2017 due to a lack of action on the local twinning project. The Ontario Conservatives put funding back in for the project in their 2019 Spring Budget.