My friend says: "None". If it were none the Auditor General would insist it be booked as an expense of the Government of Canada. It is the developer's risk.
He also said it as if there were some sin in foreign investment coming in and owning part of it. So what? This is a private sector initiative, one that is good for Atlantic Canada and good for Canada. As well, if this bridge is not ready on time, it will have to be financed by the operators. All kinds of safeguards are in place.
This head in the sand attitude toward an endeavour which is widely popular with both the people and governments concerned helps explain in part why-and my friend and I have talked about this jokingly-the NDP has about 4 per cent or 5 per cent of the popular vote in Prince Edward Island and is unlikely to change that in the near future. It is a non-existent party in all of
June 15, 1993
Atlantic Canada. This is part of the reason for this back to the future attitude it has.
The project's economic benefits both short term and long term make a powerful case for moving ahead with all speed. In the shorter term the cost of constructing the bridge will be about $850 million, representing a stimulus to the Canadian economy in the order of $1.3 billion. The project will create between 3,500 and 4,000 person-years of employment over the five-year construction period. Almost all of it will come from the Atlantic region and will contribute about $450 million to the region's economy.
An estimated 70 per cent of the purchasing of goods and services will be done within Atlantic Canada and more than 80 per cent within Canada as a whole, which in itself makes it a rather exceptional project of this magnitude for this part of Canada.
Building a bridge will provide a much-needed shot in the arm for the Atlantic Canadian economy. However the main benefits will be those occurring year after year once the structure is in place and the transportation arteries are unblocked. Then the people of Prince Edward Island can build and develop the potential of this magnificent island province which is now stunted.
It is no coincidence that the unemployment rate, as my friend from Prince Edward Island will agree, is higher than the unemployment rates in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick simply because an important tool of economic development is not being utilized.
Long-term economic benefits include an increase of about 25 per cent in annual tourist traffic. Many members in the House may not be aware that when this bridge is built there will still be a perfectly adequate ferry service to Prince Edward Island operated by the private sector, Northumberland Ferries Limited, which does a fine job. Next week it is putting a new vessel in service. About $15 million of improvements have been made to the docks of that ferry service despite the impression left that the government has somehow been starving the existing ferry service for modem facilities.
Prince Edward Island's agricultural and fisheries industries will see a major reduction in costs for transporting their products as well as greater certainty of delivery.
The P.E.I. Trucking Industry Commission has estimated annual savings of $10 million a year as a result of the bridge. The utility operators such as the electric power and telephone companies will save from the permanent utility corridor which is part and parcel of this bridge. The list goes on.
Suffice it to say, the completion of the fixed link will have a positive and lasting effect, an economic benefit on the economic opportunities for the people of one of Canada's poorest provinces. These benefits will ripple out to all the Atlantic region and to Canada as a whole.
Much has been made by opponents of the project concerning the possible environmental impact of such a major engineering undertaking. The proposed bridge has been subjected to the most thorough environmental assessment of any such project ever undertaken in the country. It was the member for Cape Breton-East Richmond yesterday who dealt extensively with this point. I believe he tabled a list of the literally dozens of studies that have been made in connection with the link to Prince Edward Island. It has also been the object of the most comprehensive public consultation program, with some 64 public meetings held on both sides of Northumberland Strait.
There are those who will never be convinced. I think the member for Egmont, when he spoke in February, made reference to this fact when he quoted Cathy Edward, one of those who had been charged with giving an objective assessment of the project. She has been quoted, and I believe accurately because my friend would not quote inaccurately, as saying:
We can do something about ice. It is called mitigation. I doubt
that there are mitigating measures for the heart. The heart has its
There is nothing wrong with the heart having its own reasons. There is nothing wrong with being philosophically opposed to a link, any link, to Prince Edward Island. However to clothe this sentimental attachment in some kind of specious argument based on economics is intel-
lectually dishonest and I think we should all keep this in mind.
Public Works Canada has carried out or commissioned over 90 studies relating to environmental assessment and project feasibility. Most recently, in response to a Federal Court order, the proponent, Strait Crossing Incorporated, prepared a specific environmental evaluation of its bridge proposal. Subsequently my department held public meetings and set up a toll-free telephone line to facilitate receiving advice from the public.
The specific environmental evaluation was carefully scrutinized by my department and many others. I reviewed SCI's proposal, the report of the independent ice specialists, the expert advice from other federal departments and agencies, and the comments received from the public. On May 13 I concluded the potential environmental effects that may be caused by the proposal were either insignificant or mitigable with known technology. The more this is studied, the more evident this becomes.
I am currently reviewing any further public comment that may be received. I will be announcing in the near future whether the project should be referred to a public review by a panel. After all this the opponents of the project still claim that we have not complied with the process and have initiated yet another court challenge. This matter is now before the judiciary.
I am all for open and full debate. I also firmly believe that the major public concern must take precedence over the narrower views of single interest groups which have been so vociferously put forward in particular by the NDP.
Bill C-110 is an important element in the over-all project in that it spells out the financial terms and conditions under which the project will operate. The arguments have been made. While I realize the rules of relevance are interpreted widely here, members' speeches have not focused on this simple enabling statute which is part of the process. This bill ensures that neither future federal governments nor the Canadian taxpayer will be subjected to undue or unsuspected costs.
The subsidy of $42 million annually has been carefully worked out by Transport Canada and represents the sum
of direct costs paid to Marine Atlantic, such as the administrative overhead, the replacement of vessels, and the refitting of boats in land based facilities.
Again going back into the future, the sixties as the NDP would like us to do, it is worth noting with respect to Marine Atlantic that there was an effort made to build a bridge or a causeway at that time. Suddenly the subsidies for Marine Atlantic and the service seemed to improve, things got a bit better, but once the project was shelved and a comprehensive economic development plan was put in place Marine Atlantic subsidies began to climb. This is a matter of record and can easily be ascertained if anyone cares to check.
When the bridge is built the federal government will get an $850 million bridge in good operating condition after 35 years. At that time there will be many options available as to what is to be done but it will be owned by the Crown. I suspect many of us in 35 years will have only an academic interest in what the government of the day will decide what is best.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: NORTHUMBERLAND STRAIT CROSSING ACT