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Transportation ministers talk in the Maritimes

SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- Provincial Transportation Minister Paul Robichaud is very pleased with the progress made in dis...

SAINT JOHN, N.B. — Provincial Transportation Minister Paul Robichaud is very pleased with the progress made in discussions with his federal counterpart David Collenette yesterday.

Robichaud said his closed-door meeting with Collenette focused on three issues, two of which were important parts of the Tory platform in this year’s election campaign. Both Tory campaign promises require matching federal funds from Collenette’s department to become a reality.

They spoke about border projects in both St. Stephen and Woodstock, the upgrading of Routes 11 and 17 in the north, and the plight of the province’s smaller airports.

“What we’re looking for is 50/50 federal dollars,” said Robichaud. He said that Collenette was aware of the issues at the New Brunswick/Maine border and was optimistic that a federal/provincial partnership on the projects could be announced as early as this September.

Robichaud said Collenette was not quite as aware of the need to upgrade Routes 11 and 17, the two main connector roads to northern New Brunswick. Lord promised $90 million during the campaign to upgrade the roads, but again that only covers half the estimated bill for the work.

Also meeting privately with Mr. Collenette Tuesday was John Buchanan, head of the Saint John Airport and president of the Atlantic Canada Airports Association. He spoke with the minister about the viability of the main airports in Atlantic Canada. Like airports across the country, they have struggled since 9-11 because of decreased passenger traffic and the increased cost of things such as security and insurance.

Buchanan described the discussion as very positive, and said he got a lot more than expected, from the minister.

Buchanan wants the minister to strike a task force examining the plight of airports such as Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton, which are considered small in comparison to the major airports across the country.

“He thought that was a good idea,” said Buchanan. “He verbalized a desire to support small airports, but we don’t know what that support equates to financially.”

In terms of federal action on the three items on the table, Robichaud said, “I feel that it will be the borders first, Route 11 and 17, and then the airports.”

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