KENORA – Bob Nault, Member of Parliament (Kenora riding) released this statement regarding Premier Doug Ford and Greg Rickford’s apparent commitment to the twinning of Highway 17, while trying to shift the blame onto the Federal Government for the 10-year delay.
“First, I would like to sincerely congratulate Ontario Premier, Doug Ford and Greg Rickford on their commitment to finally twin Highway 17. Strangely, I am struck with a strange sense of déjà vu, going back to 2009, when Stephen Harper and Greg Rickford cut the ribbon, and made the very same commitment. Now, it’s 2019, 10 years later, here we are again, with the same old promises, and Highway 17 remains un-twinned and as dangerous as ever.
“It’s very nice that the Ontario provincial government “remains committed,” although it also extremely clear that the word “commitment” has never translated into action. What we need is action, because talk is cheap, but it won’t get the twinning of the highway completed.
“I want to be abundantly clear that when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives announced they would get Highway 17 twinned in 2009, they also had a duty to ensure that consultations with Indigenous rights holders was done in a meaningful way. That simply didn’t happen and that is one of the key reasons that the job is still not done. If Stephen Harper and Greg Rickford had been really serious, we would more likely be celebrating the completion of the twinning of Hwy 17, right from Manitoba to Kenora, rather than still be talking about completing Phase #1, which accounts for 5.6 kilometers.
“That’s the reality, but I am not surprised that Mr. Rickford is trying to shift blame once again. Mr. Rickford is very well aware of the procedures in place for the Federal Government to supply funding for this project. I’ve been extremely clear in my message that in order to fund the twinning of Highway 17 from the Federal side, the Province of Ontario must submit the project to the Government of Canada and list it as a top priority.
“To date, this has not happened and it’s disappointing for the residents of Northern Ontario that this project has been delayed over something as simple as the Ford government not seeing how important this is to Northerners who are forced to travel this dangerous stretch of highway daily. I can only believe that the reason we don’t have shovels in the ground, is that the project is not based in Southern Ontario, and that’s unfortunate.
“I know that the First Nations are willing to be real partners in this project and this is the kind of collaborative approach that will avoid conflicts and get us to completion most quickly. I’ve been informed that MTO’s representatives are now taking a more constructive approach in the design phase.
“Also, this ‘new’ commitment talks about a design phase being underway and that they are now undertaking consultations, which I think is great, but I want to remind both Mr. Ford and Mr. Rickford once again, they made this very same commitment in 2009, and that they have a duty to consult.
“The bottom line, it’s 2019. We have hung our hopes on the empty promises of the Conservatives before and we have waited long enough. At this point, I don’t care who gets the credit for the project. I care about getting the job done, so let’s just get shovels in the ground. Simple as that.
“Northerners want to have this highway twinned; Northerners need to have this highway twinned, and I have every intention to provide more and more detail as to why we are still waiting – 10 years later.”