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Range Lake MLA wants answers on Ingraham Trail
Highway realignment has some parties concerned over the transparency of government

Danielle Sachs
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 7, 2012

The Ingraham Trail Realignment Project keeps gaining momentum but Range Lake MLA Daryl Dolynny is concerned about what he says is a lack of transparency in the government.

NNSL photo/graphic

GNWT employee Lawrence Beaulieu flags down a car on the Ingraham Trail by Giant Mine as his coworkers carry out this year's chipseal program. - Guy Quenneville/NNSL photo

"The Department of Transportation has entered preliminary negotiations but there are qualified businesses who weren't allowed to even bid on the project," said Dolynny.

"Usually you would see this in remote regions, to do this in Yellowknife's backyard is kind of strange."

But Earl Blacklock, manager of public affairs and communications for the department, said the reasons behind it are simple and all took place under the very public Negotiated Contracts Policy.

Under the Negotiated Contracts Policy, the government can negotiate contracts outside the competitive process if doing so leads to benefits for businesses or residents not expected through competitive contracting. It can also be used to contribute to the creation, growth and capacity of a NWT-based business.

"The decision to put the policy in place decided that the long-term benefits for the NWT outweighed the short-term advantages of a competitive process," said Blacklock. "The main emphasis is to provide local benefits and employment."

The Deton'Cho Corporation, the development arm of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, submitted a proposal which was heavily reviewed to ensure it met the objectives of the policy.

"Once we receive that, we enter into negotiations. If we determine that there's good value, then we can enter into a contract on that basis," said Blacklock.

While no contract has been signed as of yet, Transportation Minister David Ramsay said there's nothing but transparency in the situation.

"When the contract is awarded, which we expect will be very soon, information will be published for the public," he said.

"We've written to the interested parties and outlined where we were going. We're being transparent, this is about keeping money in the North."

"Whenever we negotiate a contract under the policy, there are always a number of companies that put their hand up and say 'We could have done that,'" said Blacklock. "There were companies that expressed interest but we received only one proposal."

But Dolynny said his questions have continued to go unanswered.

"I've asked a number of questions in the house and have yet to receive a formal answer. I'm in the dark," said Dolynny. "All these companies have the same issues that others have, they have employees and bills to pay. They're local and Northern companies too."

Executive director of the NWT Construction Association Phil Moon Son, said the association prefers an open and public tendering process.

"The association believes that in an area such as Yellowknife, there is an ongoing need for contractors. We recognize the need for negotiated contracts but as an association, in general, we feel the open, public, fair and transparent competitive process is usually their best process," he said.

"There will be other work that comes up, and it will be tendered," said Ramsay. "We've worked with the Yellowknives Dene before, on the Dettah Road Project, and the relationship is going to continue here. It's important to build capacity and opportunities."

The construction time frame is still subject to regulatory approval and the availability of necessary materials. Blacklock said it seemed the completion date of September 2013 is still possible, and that the construction would be a two-phase process, similar to the Yellowknife Bypass Road Project.

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