Sigh

New Brunswick’s senior minister in the federal cabinet says he and other Conservative members will use their newly-won clout to go after money from the Atlantic Gateway initiative for provincial projects. Veterans Affairs Minister Greg Thompson joined Saint John MP Rodney Weston at an editorial board meeting at the Telegraph-Journal on Monday where they promised to use New Brunswick’s increased power in Ottawa to try and unlock funds in the $2.1 billion Gateway program.

Thompson said he could see some of the money being used to help fix the debt-ridden Harbour Bridge in Saint John, which is in need of an estimated $35 million in repairs. Thompson and Weston said they see the bridge in Saint John as a critical link in the trade route from Halifax to St. Stephen and the lucrative U.S. market.

This is exactly what New Brusnswick will do with its gateway funding. Fill potholes and repair bridges that are ‘critical links’ in the trade route.

You want to know what is crazy? Pacific Gateway funding led directly to increased trade. Directly to thousands of more trucks on the road and thousands of more jobs. Consider the expansion of the Prince Rupert port and the inland port in Princ George.

Wrapping up pothole filling as trade development should be seen for what it is. I wouldn’t put a nickel of the Gateway money into that stuff. Don’t get me wrong. We need to fill potholes and fix bridges. But that should be out of some maintenance budget somewhere. Read the language of the gateway program. It’s about trade corridors, one Premier called it an “extraordinary opportunity”. What’s extraordinary about fixing a bridge?

I think Atlantic GAteway funding in New Brunswick should be tied directly to increased trucks, cargo planes, ships to the ports or increased rail cars. For too long we have wrapped up this stuff in broader economic develpment motherhood statements. “A $200 million bypass around the Acadian Peninsula is critical to long term economic development”. Says who? “The twinning of the TransCanada through New Brunswick will lead to long term economic development” Says who? There are less trucks on the road now than before it was built. Fixing the Saint John Bridge will strengthen the critical trade corridor between Halifax and New England. Says who?

Direct jobs. Incremental transportation activity. Lower long term transportation costs from Atl. Canada due to the increased volume of activity. That should be the direct goals of the Atlantic Gateway.

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0 Responses to Sigh

  1. richard says:

    Re the Pacific Gateway: There was a pent-up demand in Western Canada for more shipping capacity. Vancouver was swamped and could not support more capacity. The increased trade thru the Pacific Gateway might be more a result of adding capacity to meet an existing demand.

    Can the same be said of the Atlantic Gateway? Is there a pent-up demand that is not being met by existing capacity? Is this a reflection of a “If we build it, the trade will come” mentality?

    Its clear that the fed ministers do not see the Gateway as a path to growth; they see it as a way to create construction jobs in the short term. They know there is enough capacity and that the Gateway is just a goody basket for them to reward friends.

    I’d rather see the Gateway funds redirected into something more likely to have a positive long term impact on production of high-paying jobs. Leave the Gateway stuff until there is really a need for increased capacity. Then the funds would be more likely to be spent on what is needed, rather than what is likely to get politicians re-elected.

  2. David Campbell says:

    That’s a well reasoned position but it excludes the possibility that in fact Gateway dollars could directly increase demand. I am not saying they could but global shippers are like any other business. If the Atl. Gateway became the best option for shipping cargo into New England and the eastern seaboard, then they would choose it.

  3. richard says:

    ” If the Atl. Gateway became the best option for shipping cargo into New England and the eastern seaboard, ..”

    Is there a solid business case for such a scenario? It seems unlikely to me; however, I have no idea how much of the cargo moving now thru Halifax or St John is headed into the U.S., nor what cost savings would actually accrue to shippers if an improved corridor was developed.

  4. mikel says:

    That’s a pretty big gamble on something that is just as likely to blow up when oil prices hit $2 a litre. So again we see the problem with BOTH those lines of thinking-how about economic development that actually is designed for the people in the region? Realistically, what jobs are to be expected from more trucks on the highway?

    There should be serious debate in the press on the whole idea of the ‘gateway’. For its complete foolishness, I’ll remind you of Brian Crowley’s statement that even IF more trucking jobs came about from it, those should be filled by temporary mexican workers-NOT maritimers.

    But where is the talk of federal investment in higher education? In think tanks and universities? In animation and technology, in partnerships to get youth trained in knowledge and cultural sector jobs?

    Forget the ‘gateway’ model, that’s lunacy even on the face of it. Just ask, what is the BEST scenario from such a model….more trucker jobs, more highway maintenance jobs, more gas station construction. Is that REALLY what you want to sell to your kids? I was just suddenly struck by the shear lunacy of the provincial motto of ‘be…IN this place’, while the economic model is ‘get THROUGH this place’. And people still are surprised that voter turnout is down!