Nova Scotia tendering under review

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HALIFAX, N.S. – An overall review of Nova Scotia’s government programs is raising questions about whether roadwork should be divvied up under a so-called 80-20 rule or thrown open to tenders.

The decades-old rule ensures that local independent truckers must own 80 per cent of the trucks used for such construction. But Auditor General Roy Salmon recently criticized the approach, saying it amounts to a subsidy for owner/operators. By his figures, the approach forced taxpayers to swallow another $4 million in addition to market costs for such work in 1998.

“The 80-20 rule would be just another one of the programs that is on our books,” says Department of Highways spokesman Chris Welner, referring to how this is not the only program being targeted.

Voluntary Planning – a public-private committee looking at such issues – has issued a preliminary report and conducted public hearings into the issue.

For its part, the Trucking Association of Nova Scotia (TANS) is already picking apart the auditor general’s report that was critical of the contracting system, says association office manager Dave Roberts. And the group was scheduled to meet Jan. 25 with representatives of Voluntary Planning.

“We have to go in to defend ourselves,” Roberts says. “We can convince the attorney general it’s not above market (costs) by any means.”

The 80-20 rule “took the politics out of trucking,” he adds, noting that it ensures that a fleet supporting a particular government doesn’t earn the lion’s share of contracts during a given term

“We have 900 members and … the betterment of the many outweigh the betterment of the one.” n

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