There was a gathering in Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation, Oct. 21, to announce up to $15.3 million in federal-provincial funding for the Hwy. 104 Paqtnkek Interchange Project.
On-hand for the announcement, which was held at the Paqtnkek Health Centre, were; MP for Cape Breton-Canso Rodger Cuzner, Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie MLA and provincial minister for Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Lloyd Hines, Antigonish MLA Randy Delorey and Paqtnkek Chief Paul ‘PJ’ Prosper.
Municipality of the County of Antigonish Warden Owen McCarron emceed the event and Mi’kmaq elder Robert Pictou, from Potlotek First Nation, performed a smudging ceremony to begin the proceedings.
“The federal government is contributing over $6.4 million through the Building Canada Fund – Major Infrastructure Component (BCF-MIC), with the Government of Nova Scotia providing up to $8.9 million,” a release to accompany the announcement, stated.
“This collaborative project, in partnership with the Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation, involves the construction of a large diamond interchange, including new north and south connector roads and highway underpass.
“These improvements will significantly reduce travel times for residents of the Paqtnkek community, and increase safety and traveller mobility to and from Hwy. 104. Most importantly, the new interchange will provide improved 100 Series highway access to Reserve lands that were previously disconnected from the highway,” the release further noted.
Prosper talked about the “disconnected” point when speaking to reporters, following the announcement.
“Certainly, lands were cut-off in the 1960s and this, sort of, has a way of righting that historic wrong,” Prosper said.
“And provides an opportunity for the community to really think about what this represents for us; as a community, as individuals, and to allow for progress to emerge in a way that, sort of, meets the distinct needs of our community while also being responsive to emerging markets.”
Prosper, in his speech during the announce and again with reporters, talked about the number of years the project has been considered and discussed, as well as the number of folks who have had to come together to make it happen.
“We’re quite happy with how it has been progressing,” he said.
“The revenues that will come from this will enhance programs and services within the community. It will allow our youth and members to think about possibilities, innovation, business development and things of that nature; so we’re really quite excited.”
Prosper said that excitement can be felt throughout the community.
“I certainly feel it and get it from speaking to my fellow council members who speak to community and membership,” he said.
“They’ve known it has been in the works for some time. There has been a lot of work, discussions, collaboration between multiple agencies, levels of government, and when they see major ground moving, huge machinery, band members taking part in that development – driving trucks and rollers and things of that nature, with an excellent partner like Nova Construction – it does provide that opportunity for community members to dream about what the future will bring; not only for them but for their children and future generations.”
Speaking during the announcement, Hines referred to the project as a “game-changer.” He was asked about the term afterwards.
“I think it is,” he said, confirming his remark.
“If you look at how the Mi’kmaw community in Nova Scotia has been on the incline; exposing its abilities, its importance to the economy of the province, its growth. If you look at Membertou, at Millbrook, now you look here; it’s very important, I think, for the province as a whole and, certainly, for the Mi’kmaw community in Nova Scotia.”
Hines said the project has been “heating up” over the last four years and, with considerable work already done, the expectation is it will be completed next year.
“It’s a great day,” Cuzner said.
“For this community to unlock their potential, I think it’s a great investment. The Chief, council and community has worked a long time on this; it has been the dream of this community for many years, so, to be part of it here, it’s a pretty special day.
“You can feel it in the room; they know this is going to be a benefit in the community for years to come,” Cuzner added.