In late May, the Duchesnay Creek Bridge was awarded project of the year by the Ontario Public Works Association. The ceremony was held in Mississauga, where the Association presented 18 Project of the Year awards, and Duchesnay Bridge was the winner in the $10 to $50 million category.
The Duchesnay Creek Bridge opened to traffic last August, and marked a milestone for Nipissing First Nation, as it was the first major project undertaken by the then newly formed Nipissing Miller construction company.
See: Duchesnay Creek Bridge now open
Winning the award “was a bit of a surprise,” Chief Scott McLeod admitted, who along with councillor Jane Commanda, attended the awards ceremony. “It was our first real project in our general partnership with Miller, so it was a good way to kick off our business partnership.”
Technically, the award was granted to the Ministry of Transportation, “but at the end of the day, we’re the ones who did the work and installed the bridge,” the Chief explained, adding the award “was well-deserved on Nipissing First Nation's part.”
Chief McLeod detailed how it wasn’t easy to get the contract for the work, “we fought hard to get the procurement from the Ontario government” to proceed. As the project was “within the boundaries of our First Nation,” the Chief and staff did their best to ensure the work contract was awarded to them, even though the Ministry “had doubts.”
“It was quite satisfying for us to have won the award to show exactly what Nipissing First Nation can do,” Chief McLeod said. “We argued that the work should go to Nipissing First Nation,” and when that was granted, “we showed what we’re capable of.”
Receiving such an honour for a first project is giving Nipissing Miller some extra momentum, and this summer, the company already has two contracts to complete, and Chief McLeod expects more to come. “We’re going to continually build on this and seek other contracts and secure more opportunity,” for the First Nation, he said.
The Chief also noted that forming businesses like Nipissing Miller and the recently opened Nbisiing Power, are “pieces of the puzzle” Nipissing First Nation is putting together “as we move toward being more sovereign in our investments.”
These businesses are “all part of our bigger plan to be more independent,” Chief McLeod emphasized, allowing the First Nation “to shape our own future and destiny.”
See: Nipissing First Nation launches Nbisiing Power
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.