ANTIGONISH: The province’s transportation minister said a local interchange project is due to open in the fall.

Last week, Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie MLA and Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal minister Lloyd Hines said he understands the Paq’tnkek Interchange project is on time and on budget.

“The reserve was severed in the in the 60s when the Trans-Canada went through and it separated them from about 500 acres of their reserve lands,” said Hines. “This exchange will first of all restore access to those lands but it will also provide an opportunity for economic development for the community.”

Hine said you can see throughout the county and province that economic development migrates to these overpasses.

“You can see that in Antigonish if you look,” said Hines. “This will provide the opportunity for the Paq’tnkek too, if it’s viable for them, to participate in some economic development.”

On July 13 of 2017, of the 411 eligible voters in the Paq’tnkek Mi’kmaw Nation, 277 took part in a vote on whether or not to surrender 32 acres of land and transfer another 34 acres of band owned land for the purposes of a proposed $15.3 million highway interchange development project. Of the 277 people who took part, 265 voted in favour, 11 against and one spoiled ballot.

“That was certainly more than enough to reach the double majority threshold,” Paq’tnkek Chief Paul Prosper said at the time. “What happens now is the community approved the agreement with the federal and provincial agreements so it will go through the process on the federal and provincial sides signing off on it…”

As part of the agreement, the band will receive $2.3 million in compensation. Hines said the interchange will be more than just a travel route.

“It will provide opportunity but it will also restore in this time of… reconciliation, it will right a wrong that happened 50 years ago,” said Hines.

Prior to last year’s vote, Prosper said an agreement exists between Paq’tnkek, and the federal and provincial governments on the terms and conditions related to the highway project, the lands provided, the compensation for the lands, and other items such as the removal of houses and certain losses to other lands.

Paq’tnkek is located on two parcels of land with around 200 hectares of land on the south of the community being expropriated by the government in the 60s for the construction of the Trans Canada Highway.