This will be the span of green gables. If the bridge is not built the government will have to continue spending $42 million a year in the foreseeable future. I would not say in perpetuity because that is a long time, but the government will have to pay for a long time. It does not take a rocket scientist to see which option is a better deal for the Canadian taxpayer.
The agreement stipulates that over the first 35 years the developer may not increase tolls by more than three-quarters of the Consumer Price Index. This means that over time the relative cost to users of the bridge will steadily diminish.
By enshrining these and other terms and conditions into legislation we will provide clear guidelines to the developer of his responsibilities and restraints. We will ensure that future governments have the tools to keep federal expenditures to a minimum.
June 15, 1993
As I have said this project represents one of the finest examples of positive, constructive federal-provincial co-operation. It has been a pleasure for the Conservative administration to work with the private sector and with the Liberal governments of Atlantic Canada. There is tremendous co-operation and a feeling that we are doing something positive for a region of Canada that really needs this kind of stimulus. More important it needs an upgrade and improvement of its transportation system.
Everyone, and I believe that includes my good friends in the NDP, have said from time to time that transportation is an integral part of economic development. Without good economic development there is no hope for the future, particularly those regions that do not have some of the natural advantages that exist in certain more favoured parts of our country.
I want to thank and congratulate the former premier of Prince Edward Island, Mr. Joe Ghiz. I wish to express my gratitude to P.E.I. Premier Catherine Callbeck and New Brunswick Premier Frank McKenna for their support of this initiative and their willingness to work with us in sorting out the details of such a huge and complex undertaking.
I remind members of the House that Bill C-110 is only one element of this project. There are other elements, constitutional and financial, that are still under consideration. However without this piece of legislation the project lacks a certain security and the developers would not be permitted to raise funds and get on with the job when the other matters are sorted out.
As the House knows, we have achieved a comprehensive tripartite federal-provincial agreement covering a whole range of key areas including environmental soundings, fishermen's compensation, tolls, the fair treatment of ferry workers who are affected and so on. I am confident this agreement will enable us to proceed in the same spirit of harmony and co-operation we have seen to date.
Last week the Government of Prince Edward Island introduced a motion in the province's legislature which in effect stated that a toll bridge was an acceptable way
for the federal government to meet its constitutional commitment to keep Prince Edward Island in continuous communication with the rest of Canada. Perhaps it would be more accurate, for the benefit of my friend from Egmont, to say to keep the rest of Canada in continuous communication with Prince Edward Island. Either way it is important.
I propose that we introduce a similar resolution in the House later this year and thus clear away any remaining constitutional impediments to terminating the Borden-Tormentine ferry service, keeping in mind there will still be a perfectly adequate ferry service between Wood Islands and Caribou.
It is worth putting on record some of the words of Premier Callbeck of Prince Edward Island when she spoke on this matter last week in her provincial legislature. She said the following when she was talking about the government's goal of economic self-reliance and self-determination, something that is very important to the people of Atlantic Canada and particularly to the Government of Prince Edward Island at this time when it is faced with high budgetary deficits and needs every bit of help possible to develop its economy. She said:
Transportation is an integral part of this equation. No longer will we be subjected to an intermittent transportation service; no longer will we be subjected to transportation uncertainties; no longer will we be subjected to divisive and protracted debate; and no longer will we be subjected to unfettered toll increases. In tandem with Canada and SCI we are embarking upon self-determination and self-reliance in our transportation link to the mainland in a responsible and businesslike manner.
The time for protracted debate is over; the time for action and decision is now. Let the project proceed.
That is what Premier Callbeck of Prince Edward Island had to say. It is important that we pass this legislation now and bring that bridge one step closer to reality. This is a good project and a sound project. It is a project that is a partnership. I highly recommend it to my colleagues in the House of Commons.
Subtopic: NORTHUMBERLAND STRAIT CROSSING ACT