Atlantic ministers object to proposed transportation act changes

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HALIFAX, N.S. — Atlantic ministers of transportation are objecting to some of the changes the federal government is proposing to the Canada Transportation Act.

The issue was discussed last week during the annual meeting of the Atlantic Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety. In attendance at the meeting were Nova Scotia Transportation and Public Works Minister Ron Russell, New Brunswick Transportation Minister Paul Robichaud, and New Brunswick Public Safety Minister Wayne Steeves. Maine Transportation Commissioner David Cole also attended as well as officials from all four Atlantic provinces and the State of Maine.

The proposed changes would remove a key-principle from the act — that transportation is key to regional economic development. The Atlantic ministers say the change would significantly alter the entire context of the act and the manner in which future decisions are made. The federal government uses the policy section of the act to develop and implement transportation policy.

“Transportation is a primary force for economic development in all regions of Canada,” Russell said. “Investments in transportation make the economy more competitive and productive in the long run, and constitute one of the best ways that government can invest money in support of Canada’s economic well being.”

“Resource industries often form the cornerstone of smaller communities, with tourism and manufacturing also being major generators of income and employment for rural residents,” said Robichaud. “Transportation infrastructure and services provide the essential lifeline ensuring access to the markets upon which all of these activities so strongly rely.”

The ministers recently wrote to the federal government expressing their concerns about this issue.

The ministers believe this obvious link between transportation and economic development must be recognized in the national transportation policy. In their letter, the ministers ask federal Transport Minister David Collenette to keep or strengthen the references in the act to the important contributions that transportation makes to regional and national economic development.

The ministers and the commissioner also discussed the importance of security and efficiencies at Maine-New Brunswick border crossings. The group agreed to continue to work together and with industry to promote and advocate for the necessary federal funding to enhance border crossings at both St. Stephen-Calais and Woodstock-Houlton.

Other topics of discussion during the meeting were Atlantic participation in the new federal Road Weather Information System funding program, trucking harmonization, regional co-operation, and various highway safety issues.

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