June 10, 1993 (34th Parliament, 3rd Session)


John Patrick (Pat) Nowlan

Independent Conservative

Mr. Pat Nowlan (Annapolis Valley-Hants):

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to participate in this debate. I do so with all appreciation and sensitivity to my colleagues from Atlantic Canada.
I have to say in the frankness of Parliament there are many Atlantic Canadians, not just on the Island, not just friends on the Island, but Canadians in other parts of Atlantic Canada who do not favour the fixed link for a
variety of reasons.
I want to declare my bias right at the start. I am philosophically against the fixed link, before getting into all the studies, before getting into the dollars and cents of this so-called contract out, build a bridge and 75 years down the road it has to be repaired. We talk about tolls. There are going to be tolls. That is my fundamental bias before getting into the facts and figures. That is where I am coming from.

June 10, 1993
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I understand some of the debate going on, having good friends from P.E.I and there are members from P.E.I. in the House. No one will really know until if and when it is ever built how it is going to change the character of the Island.
As far as I am concerned-not being a native of the Island it may be a little easier for me to say-but I do resent some of the remarks made by the hon. member from Hillsborough whom I do respect. I do resent some of his remarks that members not from Atlantic Canada who raise questions in the House of Commons perhaps do not have the right to raise those questions. They have that right by the very fact that it is a bill before the House of Commons. It involves members from across the country and it involves the taxpayers of Canada.
One of the biggest shams of this bill is the business and charade that it is not going to cost the taxpayers any money. That is absolutely patently false. If the government had come clean on this public relations aspect of this bill many moons ago perhaps I would not feel quite as compelled to give another viewpoint from Atlantic Canada that it is not all peaches and cream in Atlantic Canada. I am not going to talk any more about the sociological aspects.
I used to practise law in British Columbia. I have a couple of children living there now. People may wonder why my friend from Cariboo-Chilcotin in British Columbia is pushing the fixed link, other than the fact that he is the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Public Works.
That member knows as anyone who lives in British Columbia knows, when you start to talk about the economics of links there is a lot more. This is coming from a person from Atlantic Canada where perhaps I might be criticized a little. However, there is a lot more economic sense in developing some of the plans to link the mainland of B.C. with Vancouver Island which is a high growth area of Canada than the sterile fixed link in an area that does not have as much growth.
I give full credit to the members who spoke from Hillsborough, Egmont and Cumberland-Colchester-a colleague of mine from Nova Scotia who has been doing a great job from his point of view-in making sure the
fixed link comes forward and gets into the House and through the House into creation.
I point out to all those people, especially to my friend from Cariboo-Chilcotin who was not here at the time, that there is another sham around here. It is not just the sham in dollars that every taxpayer has the right to ask about. The member from Hillsborough should not complain that members have raised questions about the fixed link because taxpayers are involved.
There is a great shell game on the cost of the subsidy that is supposed to pay for the bridge. Even the studies the hon. member for Cariboo-Chilcotin mentioned show the big difference between the subsidy actually being paid out and the subsidy being computed to help Strait Crossing build the bridge, supposedly without any taxpayers' dollars.
Mention was made of the ferry workers and where they are going to fit into it. Well, we can talk about other aspects of this matter in terms of the fish stocks and the fish beds that are going to be affected but there is another sham here.
One of the times the matter of the fixed link was on the floor of the House and had a little flurry of activity was back in the sixties. There is a member from Moncton here whose mother was the member from Moncton and has a gold-plated shovel. Perhaps it is appropriate to have a shovel when talking about the fixed link. However she actually helped dig the foundation of the causeway around Moncton. All the studies up until that time had the causeway as the answer to join up P.E.I.
You can go to Moncton today. You can travel down there in the summertime. You can go over on the ferry. You might have to wait a while, but at least you have the character of an island. You will not get this Coney Island fixed link where people are going to build their substations and their offices on the mainland, scoot over to the island, do their little business and then scoot off.
Anne of Green Gables is going to become the ghost of Cavendish beach if this fixed link goes through. Even the Japanese will not be hoodwinked into visiting the character of the Island and staying a few days and making-
June 10, 1993

well, not making love, but in effect getting acquainted with Anne of Green Gables, and certainly getting excited by Lucy Maude Montgomery and her story. What are they going to do now? They are going to take their diesel buses we see outside the House of Commons and they are going to diesel onto the Island, shake hands with Anne of Green Gables and get off the Island before the sun goes down. That is what might happen.
There is a sham in the figures. There is a sham about politics. Perhaps I can understand the government's point of view to get the bill through. That is another thing. Perhaps in an election government candidates will say they are doing this and maybe other candidates too, but I just do not know if that is going to work.
What really bothers me about this whole aspect regardless of some of the rhetoric that I have used in these few minutes is that Canadian taxpayers have been inundated-look at poor Premier Bob Rae, look at any premier you want-with fiscal restraint. The thing about fiscal restraint is we are not supposed to have megaprojects.
In an interesting article in The Financial Post Diane Francis is starting to question equalization. I read it and I hope to get a letter off to Diane Francis because she certainly forgot a little history.
The Rowell-Sirois commission said that Atlantic Canada deserves equalization to help offset the high tariff policy that built up industry in Ontario. There was a fellow named C.D. Howe who killed the shipbuilding industry in Atlantic Canada and took it up the St. Lawrence River to the Saguenay because they were afraid of German U-boats. There are those types of things in history and Diane Francis did not really get into them.
My concern is with the good sincere Canadians, taxpayers all, from coast to coast who with equalization helped Atlantic Canada address some of its problems because it does not have the economic growth. Would they agree to look at a fixed link? I think this might be the last straw. In effect Canadians, all taxpayers who have good projects in their areas, are going to ask why we are building a billion dollar bridge which was not part of the study, as other members have said. Tb be frank, as far as I am concerned, if we are going to have a fixed link,
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build a tunnel. However, I do not know what the cost of that would be.
Mr. Speaker, I see you are giving me the high sign that I have one minute left. Seriously, as a federal member of Parliament, I sympathize with my colleagues from P.E.I. as members of Parliament. I understand the division on the Island.
However, I am very concerned in this time of fiscal restraint that taxpayers are going to wonder about the credibility of a government that goes ahead with this type of project. All over the land they see local projects not as big as a billion dollar bridge, but other projects be they in the cities or the country, be they day care or helicopters, and they wonder: How can a government go ahead after all the talk about a fixed link from Confederation on and at this time build a fixed link?
That will have implications for Atlantic Canada which makes it important for Atlantic Canadians to know about some of the shams in this bill.

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