The twinning of Highway 17 from Kenora to the Manitoba border has been in the works for over a decade.

A step towards the start of the twinning has begun as construction has started to re-align Highway 673 into the Shoal Lake Independent First Nation community.

According to Greg Rickford Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, the re-aligning of Highway 673 is a step in the right direction.

“We saw this an opportunity to start to stage infrastructure and assets out there to begin a very comprehensive highway improvement upgrade, which was not only into their community but would ultimately mark the beginning of our capacity to start the twinning,” said Rickford

Rickford noted that the start date of the twinning does lie in the hands of the availability of construction companies.

“Were finishing the technical requirements on a public consultation for the twinning and were hopeful that the request for proposal for the decision of the construction company can put us in a construction time for later this fall or through the winter,” says Rickford

“This is tracking very well and for the first time in a decade we’ve never been in a better position, we are what I would describe as virtually construction-ready,” added Rickford

Earlier this year a sacred ceremony was conducted by The Four Winds partnership that combines Treaty #3 leaders from Washagamis Bay, Wauzhushk Onigum, Shoal Lake #40, and the Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation, or the Dalles community, to understand the impacts of twinning Highway 17 to their traditional lands.

The twinning project is a part of the Ontario Highways Program and the commitment by the provincial government of $2.6 billion to repair and expand provincial highways and bridges. Northern Ontario will receive $641 million of the $2.6 billion while $1.2 billion will go to southern Ontario.

When the original project was announced over 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 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 later put funding back in for the project in their 2019 Spring Budget.