Newfoundland shut out of Atlantic Gateway fund

Daniel
Daniel MacEachern
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Gerry Byrne — File Photo

In October 2007, Trevor Taylor — then Newfoundland and Labrador’s minister of innovation, trade and rural development — signed an agreement with the three other Atlantic provinces and the federal government to develop the roads, railways and ports necessary to make the region a hub of international trade.

Peter MacKay, the Nova Scotia Member of Parliament and minister responsible for what was called the Atlantic Gateway, called the concept a “smarter approach.”

“Atlantic Canada has some very able people here now that are going to put their shoulder to the wheel and get the gateway rolling,” he said at the time.

“All four Atlantic provinces are working together, pulling together and moving in the same direction with the federal government.”

Three and a half years later, the gateway is rolling, with projects underway or approved, 17 in all, worth a total of $229.2 million. In New Brunswick: seven projects, $126.2 million. In Nova Scotia: six projects, $92.5 million. In Prince Edward Island: four projects, $10.5 million. In Newfoundland and Labrador: zero projects, zero dollars.

The list of projects funded through the Gateways and Board Crossings Fund, obtained Tuesday from Transport Canada through a request made by members of the standing committee on transportation, infrastructure and communities, lists the individual projects and their costs.

That includes $87.5 million to twin 55 kilometres of Route 1 in New Brunswick, $36.5 million to upgrade and expand cargo handling services at the Port of Halifax, and $4.5 million for Route 1 realignment and intersection installation on Prince Edward Island.

Gerry Byrne, the Liberal MP for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte and a member of the standing committee, called Newfoundland and Labrador’s exclusion disturbing. He said he obtained the list when he and two other Liberal members of the committee requested an update on the strategy for the fund — which he said is about $800 million out of $2.1 billion in a broader fund that includes Ontario and Quebec.

The response, from Yaprak Baltacioǧlu, deputy minister of Transport Canada, includes information on committee and research work to identify infrastructure, policy, regulatory and operational issues.

“The Government of Canada is actively working with the Atlantic Provinces to finalize the draft and it is anticipated that we will soon have approval of all parties on a comprehensive and viable strategy,” reads the reply. Byrne said it’s not good enough to not yet have a strategy in place when funds are already being committed.

“The reply that we got back, and this is very important, I think, is that there is no strategy developed yet. They’re still working on the strategy,” he said. “But flowing from this information that we got, is one-quarter of the money is now spent, and they don’t even have a strategy.”

The list of projects include airport work in Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and New Brunswick, announced late last month while the St. John’s Airport Authority’s 2009 request for help funding a new $25-million instrumentation landing system, which would help more planes land in foggy weather, has been unfulfilled.

Fraser Edison, chairman of the airport authority’s board of directors, said the economic benefits of getting the work done at the St. John’s airport should be clear, but they’ve been stymied for funding.

“As of today, nothing. No word whatsoever on it,” he said. “This would increase five per cent in the accessibility of the airport, and five per cent represents 70,000 passengers and 700 flights (a year).”

Likewise, the lack of roadwork approved is a sore spot for the Newfoundland and Labrador Road Builders’ Association, too.

Austin Sheppard, the association's business manager, says the province’s exclusion “leaves a sour taste.”

“I am heading off to meetings in Moncton in early May for the Atlantic Road Builders, and that’s one topic that always comes up for discussion,” he said.

The briefing notes from the deputy minister mentions federal commitments to Marine Atlantic, about $521 million, and Byrne says it seems as though the federal government considers that Newfoundland’s share of the Gateway fund.

“If that’s the case, that’s completely unacceptable. We have a constitutional right to that ferry service. The Atlantic Gateway funding is a discretionary program to build up Atlantic Canadian export capacity through improved transportation mechanisms,” he said.

“I think within the department they are actually building in the Marine Atlantic funding as Newfoundland and Labrador’s share. That’s not acceptable. … That ferry service is not a discretionary service of the government of Canada.”

Byrne said there are deserving projects — including airports and ferry systems — across the province that, judging from projects already approved, would be eligible for the federal funding. He wants an immediate reprioritization for Newfoundland and Labrador projects to be given the green light.

“I want to see money spent in Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said. “I want to see a couple of things: that the government actually acknowledge that Marine Atlantic money has nothing to do with the Gateway — Marine Atlantic has all to do with Newfoundland and Labrador’s gateway to exports, but it’s under a separate envelope. … Second, I want to see projects which have been awaiting funding in Newfoundland and Labrador funded immediately. The St. John’s airport navigational improvements have been waiting for approval for months.”

Federal and provincial officials declined requests for comment on the funding, but provided emailed statements.

Mélanie Quesnel, spokeswoman for Transport Canada, said, “The federal government is still in discussions with Newfoundland and Labrador on transportation to identify the key infrastructure investments for that province.”

Susan Sullivan, the minister of innovation, trade and rural development, said in a written statement provided to the Telegram that there are currently several provincial projects under consideration for funding.

“These projects are large and require a detailed analysis and negotiations with the federal government. We do not want to announce projects piecemeal. Talks are progressing favourably with the federal government, and announcements will be made when these negotiations conclude,” wrote the minister.

But Byrne doesn’t accept the idea that there are currently projects in the works for Newfoundland.

“Something has been in the wings while 17 projects, valued at $230 million, have been approved in the Maritime provinces, the three Maritime provinces. Not a penny has been approved in Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said. “Is it really the Maritime Gateway? Or is it the Atlantic Gateway?”

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Transport Canada, Marine Atlantic, Gateways and Board Crossings Fund

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador Road, Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick Nova Scotia Prince Edward Island Port of Halifax Ontario Atlantic Provinces Moncton Atlantic Road Maritime

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Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Ed from western Mass
    March 25, 2011 - 16:56

    As an outsider, I feel that some Newfoundlanders do not understand that sometimes the centeral government of Canada fails to treat Newfoundland fairly. When three of the four Provinces get funding and Newfoundland gets $0, then the political parties of the island should become one. That is, Newfoundlanders!! If I remember, a few years ago the maple leaf came down and the 'ole' flag of Newfoundland went up. The same political leader recently showed the strength of Newfoundland, again, to the leader of Canada. All leaders of the centeral government of Canada must be sent a message. That is, Newfoundland has been pushed around long enough and it's time to distribute to Newfoundland its fair share. Another time has come for Newfoundland to stick together and show strength to future leaders in Ottawa.

  • Why did Danny leave so quickly
    March 20, 2011 - 12:06

    If hot air created electricity Gerry Byrne supply enough to run the Mill in Corner Brook. The mess created by Danny Williams will be around for a few more years yet and the real reason he quit so suddenly will be revealed shortly. You can count on that.

  • Louise
    March 19, 2011 - 22:51

    I've actually heard that there is funding for Newfoundland and Labrador projects but the provincial government is trying to tie the announcement to promises on Lower Churchill funding.

  • Native NLer
    March 19, 2011 - 22:30

    The comments of so many blaming "King Danny" and his ABC campaign, shocks me. I thought you all worshiped him beyond the bible. What a change a few months after he left as your king things change, I always said, the people would realize his mistakes like they did Joey's only after he is gone. Trust me there is more than the ABC campaign that will come back and bite the provience.

  • bill
    March 19, 2011 - 16:08

    Funny thing about it is that Gerry Byrne was a minister in the Government too, where was he then? So easy to complain now. Should have put your money where your mouth is! We will get our share of money...just watch!!

  • Keith
    March 19, 2011 - 14:13

    Thanks to all the commenters above for proving that the ABC campagn was correct. We are being "punished" for not voting for Harper. Is this the type of "leader" we want running Canada? I don't think so.

  • Ed
    March 19, 2011 - 13:58

    I note that it does not cost the Province of Quebec it's federal funds when they elect Liberal and Bloc MP's. Nor does it cost them when they have a disagreement with the feds over any other issue. Our Federal tax dollars continue to flow in there at greater rates every year. So much for the idea that provinces who disagree with Ottawa will lose their federal funding. There must be some other reason ? Maybe it's because we get more than "our share" , wrong again, Quebec gets more (even on a per capita basis) than any other province. No, I believe it's because we are a small province with only 6 MP's and so really don't matter much.

  • garry burt
    March 19, 2011 - 13:54

    ABC always,be careful.

  • mary
    March 19, 2011 - 13:52

    This has nothing to do with the ABC campaign. NL being left out of funding announcements has been happening since time began. I don't know anyone who voted based on the ABC campaign. It had no sway on a lot of people, they, like myself, voted against the CRAP because that is what they planned to do all along. The media has made Danny out to be something many never saw him as and some people have bought into that message. Meantime, same 'ole story, NL left out of funding by yet another governing party.

  • No fairness shown for Newfoundland and Labr
    March 19, 2011 - 13:24

    Most commentators to this article believe a country should be governed by spite. Folks: An ABC campaign should not have caused such disparity. If Newfoundlanders and Labradorians had backed up Premier Williams and took on Ottawa for the way it treated our province since 1949, Ottawa would have had no other choice but to listen. Can't you all see the deficiencies as it relates to the other provinces with the other provinces? A good Central Government should manage its Federation of entities in a fair and honest way. Do you think there aren't ABC like squabbles between the other provinces and Ottawa? For goodness sake the other provinces have been MAD at Ottawa forever, there are daily conflicts between the other provinces and Ottawa. That is the reason Canada has always being called a dysfunctional Federation, but yet the other provinces got their fair share of what was divvied out in Federal goodies and they got what belonged to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well, including Newfoundland and Labrador raw resources which saw vibrant economies grown all over Canada.

  • No fairness shown for Newfoundland and Labr
    March 19, 2011 - 13:18

    Most commentators to this article believe a country should be governed by spite. Folks: An ABC campaign should not have caused such disparity. If Newfoundlanders and Labradorians had backed up Premier Williams and took on Ottawa for the way it treated our province since 1949, Ottawa would have had no other choice but to listen. Can't you all see the deficiencies as it relates to the other provinces with the other provinces? A good Central Government should manage its Federation of entities in a fair and honest way. Do you think there aren't ABC like squabbles between the other provinces and Ottawa? For goodness sake the other provinces have been MAD at Ottawa forever, there are daily conflicts between the other provinces and Ottawa. That is the reason Canada has always being called a dysfunctional Federation, but yet the other provinces got their fair share of what was divvied out in Federal goodies and they got what belonged to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well, including Newfoundland and Labrador raw resources which saw vibrant economies grown all over Canada.

  • Skeptical Cynic
    March 19, 2011 - 13:01

    If N&L is being frozen out of the "Atlantic Gateway" initiative, it should seriously re-consider its participation in this initiative. Any government that funds inter-provincial develoment strategies solely on the basis of who may or may not have voted for it is not fit to govern in the first place. Also, development initiatives based on political motivations are less likely to succeed anyway, so N&L is better off staying clear of them. As for the first comment by "No Fairness..." it's not a question of separating, it's a question of N&L disengaging from unproductive entanglements and engaging in productive ones. Little pink houses for you and me....

  • Native NLer
    March 19, 2011 - 12:56

    It appears to me that Mr. Byrnes is certainly looking into this issue and has been working on the benefits for NL from the start and especially his region. Where is MP Judy Foote? Millions of dollars requested for the St. John's Airport. Millions more requested by the Gander Airport and I am sure millions more being fought for by Gerry for Deer Lake airport. WHO is requesting any much needed support for the Stephenville airport? Again waiting around for other regions to get money and see what might fall down the drain pipe to the Stephenville airport? It looks like ignoring the availability of funds all together. Ms. Foote has access to a business plan that cost the town of Stephenville thousands of dollars, yet it has not budged off the shelf. People of South western NL do not have to wonder why their region is always left out. The fore-runners such as Mr. Byrne are ahead of the game, with boxing gloves on. While other MP in the South western region of the province sits by and does nothing.

  • Voter
    March 19, 2011 - 11:05

    Well, we can reward Harper for this at the polls. ABC.

    • Chuck
      March 20, 2011 - 05:43

      There seems to be a lot of criticism directed toward Danny. It would be greatly appreciated if someone could explain to me Canada's mistreatment of N&L for decades before the successful ABC.

  • No fairness shown for Newfoundland and Labrador.
    March 19, 2011 - 10:40

    First of all Thanks Mr. Byrne for keeping on top of things. But it's the same old, same old story and for the same reasons as: Why doesn't the province of Newfoundland and Labrador have a registered Military base, despite the fact it provides 10% of the Military recruits and 20% of the Navy recruits for the Canadian Military? There ae 100,000 Military personnel in Canada, so if you did the math our province suppplies about 15,000 personnel. Why did Ottawa promise that it would put 600 military personnel in Goose Bay 7 years ago but has reneged on that promise ever since. There was supposed to be an exercise in Goose Bay this summer, but that got cancelled last week. Why? Why doesn't our province have the presence of Federal Regional offices like the other Atlantic provinces? Why is the biggest presence of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans centered in Ottawa and Halifax, despite the fact most of the fish resource is off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador? Why, after we received our Atlantic Accord money, did the Feds wipe out $1.4 Billion of that in its Federal Budget a year after we received that money? I could go on with 'Why is'? forever but I think you get the picture. I am not a separtist, but I am wondering if we should put that question to our people? If we aren't going to be treated fairly by our Federal Government, then what else can we do?

  • emathews-williams
    March 19, 2011 - 10:36

    Thank-you Danny for ABC. We are proud strong determined and poor. We will not forget. Why would a Canadian province need stinky federal money? We don't want it to look like Ottawa here with tall buildings and all those crappy federal jobs. Now let put our fists in the air and shout litigate!!!

  • Mark D
    March 19, 2011 - 10:19

    So are we being punished for the danny Williams ABC campaign of 2008 or are our MP's asleep at the the wheel? Can MP's Coady, Harris and Andrews show any letters of support they have written in support of the St. John's airport expansion? Mr. Edison did not provide that information. It is a worthy question for the Telegram to ask of the politicians or the airport authority - don't you think??

  • Graham
    March 19, 2011 - 09:40

    Some of the people in this province were stupid enough to listen to Danny Williams and give Prime Minister Harper the big Goose Egg and elect people like you Gerry. You seem to have all the answers to everything these days. Too bad you weren't that way when you yourself were part of the then Federal Liberal Government. Well Danny is gone now and hopefully after the next Federal Election you Gerry and the others who got elected because of Dannys idiotic ABC campaign will be gone with him.

  • barry whelan
    March 19, 2011 - 09:23

    I seem to remember an "A B C " campaign during a past election ! I think it has come back to bite us on the arse. Remember, they don't think of it, now, as the Gov't of Canada.....it is the Harper Gov't ! Hope everyone is happy with their last vote ! ! ! B W

  • Political Watcher
    March 19, 2011 - 09:16

    ABC coming back to bite us....... Then again, Trevor Taylor thought he was signing up for a Readers Digest subscription when he signed the agreement.

    • sam
      March 19, 2011 - 16:05

      Did you read the agreement? Maybe you should check things out before you make a comment like that. Lets see your name on the slate for the election in October, maybe then you can fix everything. You know the old saying that if you don't do anything you will never be condemned. I guess the more you do the more people complain. Just stick the Liberals in again and we won't have anything to complain about because they won't do anything. Can you imagine Yvonne Jones as Premier...scary thought!!

  • BedBug
    March 19, 2011 - 09:01

    Is this another loss of major funds to NL due to the former premier Williams conflict with Ottawa.? Shouldn't someone prepare a report of how much NL is not getting from the Feds due to Williams approach? Maybe a job for Ms Matthews as she is suppose to be in the know of all issues.

  • ABC
    March 19, 2011 - 08:24

    Doh, there is a price for ABC.

  • William Daniels
    March 19, 2011 - 08:16

    Sullivan says the projects are under consideration while 17 are moving in other provinces? She is in a dreamworld. Wasn't ABC great.

  • Danny accomplished absolutely nothing
    March 19, 2011 - 07:30

    Who cares? We're masters of our house going it alone with pride strength and determination and all that other garbage remember? If there was a buck to be had, Bill our man with the cab in Ottawa would have got it for us!

  • Maurice E. Adams
    March 19, 2011 - 07:22

    I trust Susan Sullivan is doing a better job in the Canada/EU trade negotiations than she is able to do with our "own" Minister --- Peter McKay.