Hon. Ralph Ferguson (Lambton-Middlesex):
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be given the opportunity to take part in this debate today to establish the fixed link between Prince Edward Island and mainland Canada, a permanent link. The Fathers of Confederation in 1867 came to the agreement that made this nation the country it is and established the foundations of Confederation that have served us so well since that time.
Efforts to connect Prince Edward Island to mainland Canada go back to 1885. Prior to Prince Edward Island joining Canada, the question of the fixed link was first raised in the 1830s. From the 1830s onward summer steam vessels and winter ice boats provided a sporadic kind of link between Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. When Prince Edward Island finally became a province of Canada in the spring of 1873, one of the terms of confederation dealt with that link. In it Canada assumed a constitutional obligation to provide a continuous connection to the mainland. The terms of union clause reads:
That the Dominion Government shall assume and defray all charges for the following services, vis., efficient steam service for the conveyance of mails and passengers to be established and maintained between the island and the mainland in the Dominion in winter and summer, thus placing the island in continuous communication with the intercolonial railroad and the railroad system of the Dominion.
June 14. 1993
In 1885 the idea of a tunnel under the Northumberland Strait was proposed. This was supposed to ensure year round communication. The tunnel concept was studied and analysed off and on for the next 30 years but never really got beyond that stage.
In 1966 construction was actually begun on a bridgecauseway combination. Access roads were built. Before work on the actual bridge-causeway got started the project was scrapped. That is when the province of Prince Edward Island signed a development agreement with the federal government in lieu of continuing with the causeway bridge concept.
The latest round of discussions began with a Public Works study in 1982. On January 18, 1988 Islanders voted. The results were 60 per cent in favour of the link and 40 per cent opposed.
On June 10, the premier of Prince Edward Island, a former member of this House whom I respect and admire not only because I know her and the work she did here in the Parliament of Canada and her principles and dedication to hard work, took on the premier's mantle in Prince Edward Island as the first elected lady premier in this country. She introduced a measure before the Prince Edward Island legislature to comply with a March court ruling and these measures clear the last obstacle for this project.
The Northumberland Strait crossing project, or as it is commonly called the fixed link, is without a doubt the single most important project to be undertaken involving Prince Edward Island since it joined the Canadian Confederation.
It is estimated that over 90 studies have been conducted on various aspects of the project. Most of these were in the last five or six years. Since 1987 there have been 55 studies by Public Works Canada on the Northumberland Strait crossing project itself. There have been 19 studies done by Public Works Canada for the Northumberland Strait bridge project and the concept assessment supplement, including documents. There have been 4 studies through FEARO and related reports. There were 3 miscellaneous reports, 7 through Environment Canada and related documents and 4 from Strait Crossing Incorporated and related reports. This does not include the days when the causeway was being considered or the days when the tunnel was considered back at the turn of the century and even earlier.
Prior to the vote former Premier Ghiz wrote to the public works minister, Stewart Mclnnis, November 6,
1987-that was the actual date of the letter- and indicated on behalf of the Government of Prince Edward Island that the support for the link was contingent upon the satisfactory address of 10 principles. The 10 principles had to do with: highways; the Woods Island ferry; the submerged lands; tolls and how they would be arrived at; the displaced workers at Borden-Cape Tor-mentine; economic development for the town of Borden; the Atlantic content in the materials that would be used and the labour required; an environmental impact study; the fisheries that were very important to Prince Edward Island and the utilities. That was the utility corridor to be used at no cost to the province.
These 10 points have been addressed to the satisfaction of both Premier McKenna and former Premier Ghiz. On the list of concerns the environment has moved to the fore. In fact the environment has always been one of the main concerns of building a fixed link of any sort across the Northumberland Strait. To show environmental compliance the following clauses were included in the federal-provincial agreement. I think these clauses are extremely important and I will quote them in their entirety. Clause 6(1) reads:
Public participation in the federal Environmental Assessment and Review Process, commonly known as EARP, was undertaken to the satisfaction of Canada, P.E.I., and New Brunswick.
Canada through its Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Environment Canada and Transport Canada, in conjunction with the provinces of RE.I. and New Brunswick, had deemed that a fixed crossing can be constructed in an environmentally friendly and acceptable manner.
Clause 6(2) reads:
The construction and operation of the fixed crossing shall comply with the environmental laws, regulation and relevant environmental codes of practice of the provinces of New Brunswick and P.E.I. and the government of Canada, as well as other specific requirements identified by means of the evaluation conducted under the federal Environmental Assessment and Review Process.
Clause 6(3) reads:
As a condition of the coming into effect of this agreement and prior to financial closing, the developer must obtain the necessary approvals under provincial and applicable federal environmental assessment legislation and complete an environmental management plan acceptable to Canada, New Brunswick, P.E.I. and the province of Nova Scotia.
June 14, 1993
In conclusion I do not think we can underestimate the positive economic impact that a fixed link would have on Prince Edward Island. Everything indicates that if we are to improve or even maintain our standard of living we must also become more self-sufficient. We must have a greater degree of economic independence and we must become more competitive. An improved transportation system is crucial to Prince Edward Island becoming more competitive whether it is for manufacturing, the processing sector, the agricultural sector, the fishing industry or tourism.
Economic activity will grow not only during construction but in the years afterward. The link will generate industrial expansion and create jobs. The link will generate growth and tourism. It will create jobs for that region of Canada.
I have always been very proud as a Canadian to sit in the House with colleagues from every province of Canada. This time is no exception. I am very proud of the people in Prince Edward Island and their contribution to the development of this nation.
It makes a lot of sense that we should work to pass this bill and let them establish a permanent, long-lasting, meaningful link to bring together the seat of Confederation with the rest of this country to pull it together at this time of uncertainty ahead of us.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: NORTHUMBERLAND STRAIT CROSSING ACT