Hon. William Rompkey (Labrador):
Mr. Speaker, I really want to take up where my colleague left off and say that indeed one of the primary reasons for building the fixed link to Prince Edward Island is to join together the mainland of Canada with Prince Edward Island which was the birthplace of Confederation.
We who live in the east, and not necessarily those of us who live in Labrador but those of us who live or have lived on the island of Newfoundland from time to time, know something about islands, distance, isolation and the need for togetherness.
I fully applaud the efforts of those people on P.E.I. and here too on both sides of this House who initiated this project. There is a need to do this project.
I am satisfied as many others are that environmental precautions have been taken and that the proper environmental hearings have been held. The environment is
naturally a concern. We must study that. We must examine it. We must make sure it is protected. However there are other things that must be protected too and those are the lives, homes, livelihood and future of the people who live on Prince Edward Island.
What they need is an opportunity to compete in Canada and indeed in the global marketplace. If they are to compete in terms of the resources that they have, which include fish, potatoes and tourism, they need infrastructure. My leader and my party have been speaking very strongly about the need to put in place infrastructure in terms of the various parts of this country that need it.
That means roads, bridges, wharfs, water and sewer services. In this case it means a surface link to the mainland so that P.E.I. can both attract goods and services that come to it and send back to the mainland of Canada goods and services that it has to offer.
That is of fundamental importance so that the people on Prince Edward Island can compete. It is important in other parts of Atlantic Canada too. What I like about this move and what we have before us today is that it can be a model for building infrastructure in other parts of the Atlantic and indeed in other parts of the country.
The model is not new. Where I have lived from time to time on the island of Newfoundland we have traded boats for roads before. There was a time when we did not have on the island of Newfoundland a road across the island. There was a time when we did not have roads down the various peninsulas. All of the island was served from the sea by boats.
The Government of Canada in 1949 took on that responsibility and has been subsidizing that sea service. Where I live in Labrador we still have that sea service as well. We still get our goods and materials by sea from the island of Newfoundland. We have the beginning of a road in Labrador but we do not have a road across Labrador.
We do have the beginnings of a road from Labrador City to Goose Bay. This year we have shown that the use of that road has reduced our costs in Goose Bay by 30 per cent. By bringing in our goods and materials over that road, mostly from the province of Quebec but hopefully from other parts of Canada too, we have reduced our
June 14, 1993
cost of living in Goose Bay and in the central part of Labrador by 30 per cent.
What I like about this particular measure that is before us in the House today is that it provides a model whereby we can think about other forms of infrastructure too. In my own area I would like to see us examine this model and apply it to the Labrador situation. We need that road if we are going to compete.
The way to get that road at a time of restraint and fiscal difficulty is to use whatever means we have at our disposal. One of the means that we have at our disposal is Marine Atlantic. I know that there are people who work with that service and who have given yeoman service over the years. They are people who have given the kind of service that if we did not have it then we would be very badly off indeed. We have been served well by Marine Atlantic.
Today costs are escalating such as the cost of fuel and capital construction. We realize that the cost of building a ship today is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. When government is faced with that kind of cost for continuing a marine service, then it is effective, expedient, useful and the best option to put that kind of money into a surface link. That will happen in P.E.I. I believe that when this link is built in P.E.I. it will experience the same savings that we have started to experience in Labrador.
I hope that in Labrador we can continue the construction of the Trans-Labrador Highway right down to the Strait of Belle Isle so that we have a road right across Labrador. The way to build that road, and it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, is to make use of the Marine Atlantic subsidies.
The pattern and the model that is being used in P.E.I. is to go to the private sector and ask an engineering consortium to raise the capital in the marketplace and build the link. We would pay it over a period of 25 years with the money that we would normally have put into Marine Atlantic.
I want to take that model and apply it elsewhere and say to other engineering firms that if they were to go to the marketplace and raise the money and build a road across Labrador we would be able to eliminate maybe not all, but a great part of our marine service. This is a marine service that is getting increasingly expensive. We would be able to eliminate that and we would take those subsidies that we have been paying into those services. We would take the capital cost that we would have to pay
out for new ships and pay it to the private contractors over a period of 25 years. In that way we can have our surface link too.
This is an important measure. An important measure for Prince Edward Island. I want to support it for that reason. I believe it needs this kind of infrastructure in order to make it competitive in modern society. I like it too because it provides a model that we can use elsewhere to build other forms of infrastructure in the Atlantic. Other roads and surface links in the Atlantic will be important to us and will allow us to compete in the 1990s and on into the 20th century.
Subtopic: NORTHUMBERLAND STRAIT CROSSING ACT