Construction of defence building in Yellowknife to begin, years later than expected

Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal, 3rd from left, and Department of National Defence Minister Bill Blair, 4th from left, attended the groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday for a new national defence facility in Yellowknife. Construction is set to begin next month. (Julie Plourde/Radio-Canada)

By Sarah Krymalowski · CBC News

New Department of National Defence facility was originally scheduled to be completed this year

Construction on a new Department of National Defence facility in Yellowknife is set to begin in May, after years of delays.

National Defence Minister Bill Blair attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the new National Defence Multi-purpose Facility in Yellowknife on Wednesday, along with Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal, N.W.T. Premier R.J. Simpson, and N.W.T. MP Michael McLeod.

Blair said that construction on the facility, which was originally scheduled to be completed this year, is now slated to end in late 2026 or early 2027. The facility will be located on a large lot at 80 Falcon Rd. in Yellowknife’s Engle business district.

The facility will be about 9,200 square metres – almost the size of two football fields — and will serve as the new home of Joint Task Force North and the headquarters for the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol.

It will contain office spaces, classrooms, space for tactical exercises, as well equipment storage and a garage for military vehicles.

Blair said the construction of the facility will create approximately 520 jobs in Yellowknife, but he didn’t have information about how many of those jobs are expected to go to local and Indigenous workers.

“I do know that there were opportunities for Indigenous companies to participate in this, and I understand they are engaged in this process, but I don’t have the precise details,” he told reporters.

Building delays

Funding for the facility was originally announced in 2018. Construction on the building was originally supposed to start in 2022 and be completed this year, with a budget of $50 million.

As of December 2023, the budget for the building was $86 million, according to information provided by the Department of National Defence to Radio-Canada.

Construction on the new multi-purpose facility in Yellowknife is now scheduled to be completed in late 2026 or early 2027, according to the defence minister. (Julie Plourde/Radio-Canada)

Blair pointed toward inefficiencies in Department of National Defence procurement as one reason for the construction delays and cost overruns.

“One of the things that I have discovered is the longer it takes to complete our procurements, the more expensive it can be,” Blair said.

He said he is planning to conduct a review of the Department of National Defence procurement policy to avoid delays and cost overruns for future projects, including the five new Northern Defence hubs announced in the 2024 budget.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Feds announce more money for Arctic defence with few details on infrastructure, CBC News

Russia: Putin in Arkhangelsk: Arctic industry and infrastructure on agenda, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: U.S. gov’t paying to upgrade section of Alaska Highway in the Yukon, CBC News

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