Yukonomist: All the way with A2A!

Finally, a ray of joy! Just when 2020 was feeling like a directionless slog in the dark through half-frozen muskeg, a bold band of positive thinkers brightened our Twitterscape.

It happened on Sept. 25 at 6:15 p.m., old Yukon time. President Trump tweeted that he would issue a presidential permit for the $22-billion Alberta-to-Alaska railway to cross the Yukon-Alaska border. Some 91,300 Twitter enthusiasts stabbed their ‘like’ icons.

Strangely, few of these likes came from politicians in Whitehorse or Ottawa. Thumbs that normally retweet any 140 character synapse spasm even remotely related to northern development decided that 6:15 p.m. was the perfect time for a Twitter cleanse.

It’s hard to know where to start when describing the wonders promised by the Alberta-to-Alaska railway.

First, there is its clever nickname: A2A. It’s snappy and works well with positive chants like “All the way with A2A!”

They probably wanted to go with Alberta-Yukon-Alaska railway, but AYA! is the sound you make as you fall into a bottomless glacier crevasse.

Newspapers in the Lower 48 states and Lower 10 provinces focused mostly on the oil. The railway’s biggest line of business would be shipping 1-1.5 million barrels a day of Fort McMurray crude to Alaskan ports, where it could be put on tankers for China.

Picture the entire production of OPEC-member Algeria going through Watson Lake every day.

What the Outside papers missed was all the other opportunities.

First, it would make the Yukon a geopolitical power. Our premier could simply send the Minister of Something to park one of those old orange YTG pickups across the railway and cut off China from an Algerian amount of oil. We would only let the Politburo off the hook when they promised to clean up the lead-zinc mess left by Chinese government-owned companies at their Wolverine mine.

Second, it would flood the territory with money. A $22-billion project would be like compressing two decades of Yukon government spending into just a few years of hard economic partying.

Even just the YESAB application would create jobs for battalions of consultants from Watson Lake to Ross River to Beaver Creek. Squabbles of lawyers would be needed to negotiate the benefits agreements with First Nations, including several that don’t have self-government agreements.

Third, remember that the 2022 Arctic Winter Games will be in Fort McMurray and the 2024 event will be held in Alaska. Think how convenient the organizers would find having a 500-foot-wide, 2,500-kilometre rail corridor between the two.

The proposal does have a few downsides. The proposed route bypasses Whitehorse completely. Not only does this deprive the Waterfront Trolley of an interconnection opportunity, it will be extremely inconvenient when the 1976 people come in their time machine to finish the Alaska Highway pipeline along its right of way through the city.

After this insult, they’ll have to build the Trump Yukon Hotel in Faro instead of the capital.

Some naysayers have cast doubts on A2A’s ability to generate the $4 billion in annual revenue needed to cover operating and capital costs. A Van Horne Institute economic study estimated that the cost to transport a barrel could range from $12.46 to $21.41 in various scenarios. This is a hefty freight charge when Western Canadian Select is trading around $30, and industry analysts are worried that the world has already reached Peak Oil.

But the naysayers could be wrong. There are potential revenues from mining and other sources. Many thought the White Pass railway would flop when construction started in 1898, but it turned out to be a steady earner for its owners for years.

It’s now up to the proponent to raise the $22 billion needed, which needs to be from private investors and not taxpayers. If they can’t, we should thank them for their vision and optimism, and move on to planning that cold fusion reactor in Whistlebend.

Keith Halliday is a Yukon economist and author of the MacBride Museum’s Aurore of the Yukon series of historical children’s adventure novels. He is a Ma Murray award-winner for best columnist and received the bronze for Outstanding Columnist in the 2019 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes


Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. The proposed Atlin Hydro Expansion project is moving closer to development with a number of milestones reached by the Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership and Yukon Energy over the last several months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Atlin hydro project progresses

Officials reflect on milestones reached

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read