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.