If elected, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau says his government would fund a desperately-needed access road for Shoal Lake 40 First Nation.
"Around Shoal Lake, simple answer: yes. A Liberal Party will step up and do its share," Trudeau said in Calgary over the weekend.
"For too long, the government has mislead and abandoned the people of Shoal Lake 40," Kenora-area Liberal contender Bob Nault said. "Our commitment today is clear. A Liberal government would build the Freedom Road."
The approximately 250 residents of the First Nation have endured a boiled water advisory for the last 18 years. Residents can't drink water from their taps, instead relying on bottled water deliveries. An under-construction access road dubbed "Freedom Road" would connect the man-made island to the mainland, making it cheaper and easier to build a water treatment plant for the community.
The road would cost $30 million to complete, and Shoal Lake 40 has asked three levels of government to chip in a third of the cost each. The City of Winnipeg and the Manitoba government have both said they would fund a third of the road.
In June, Conservative Kenora MP Greg Rickford reiterated a past promise of $1 million toward the road's design. He would not tell reporters whether his government would commit $10 million to the access road.
Following Rickford's announcement, which disappointed some Shoal Lake 40 residents, a Winnipeg man started a crowdfunding campaign to raise the $10 million. Nearly $55,000 had been raised at the time of publication.
Nault said a federal commitment to Freedom Road would be a win for the whole riding.
"Shoal Lake 40 has made it clear to the Government of Canada that without the Freedom Road, the twinning of Highway 17 from Kenora to the Manitoba border would not happen," Nault said. "Today's announcement from Mr. Trudeau makes it clear that under a Liberal government, Highway 17 is much closer to being twinned."
Speaking to VICE last week, Shoal Lake 40 Chief Erwin Redsky said, "Canada created this problem and Canada needs to come up with a solution."