Liberal leadership hopeful says ditching ferry is best cost-effective means
Danny Dumaresque. — Telegram file photo
Liberal leadership contender Danny Dumaresque wants a tunnel from Newfoundland to Labrador, and he’s willing to renegotiate the Terms of Union with Canada to get it.
Dumaresque was campaigning on the Northern Peninsula Thursday when he spoke to The Telegram by phone and talked about the idea, which he said people in the area are thrilled about.
“Everybody in this region of Newfoundland and southern Labrador are very excited by it. They always thought it was the right thing to do, and you know, they always wondered why it wasn’t being done,” he said.
“This would bring Newfoundland and Labrador to Canada like we’ve never been before, and that cannot do anything but help in my opinion.”
The idea would be to trade away Marine Atlantic service between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia in exchange for funding from Ottawa for the tunnel and upgrades to the highway.
“It would be a 20-minute-crossing, and when you get there, there will be paved highways right through to Quebec City,” Dumaresque said. “Right now there’s 2,360 kilometres that it would take from St. John’s to go to Quebec City by coming up and going through the tunnel, and the direct distance going to Quebec City by Port aux Basques would be 2,320 kilometres — so only 40 kilometres in the difference.”
Dumaresque said because the federal government pays $125 million annually in operating subsidy for Marine Atlantic, it would be willing to talk about negotiating to get rid of it.
“I would be prepared to negotiate away Marine Atlantic because I don’t believe it’s sensible for us as a modern economy to think about developing a province and a provincial economy by depending forever on a maritime link, especially one that’s seven hours in duration,” he said.
As for price, Dumaresque said it would be cheaper than a different tunnel in Norway covering a 20-kilometre stretch.
“The most recent tunnel, under thousands of feet of water in Norway, was commissioned last year, and will be completed in five years time for less than a billion dollars,” he said.
“So you know, here we have anywhere from 17-18 kilometres going under 300 feet of water, so it’s only fair to conclude that it would only be costing in the order of $800 million.”
Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons, who represents Port aux Basques and the southwest coast of the province, definitely didn’t like the idea of getting rid of Marine Atlantic. He said locally, people understand that Marine Atlantic is the “hub” for the entire region.
“What I would say is that’s quite a big proposition that Mr. Dumaresque is putting forward. Certainly I understand the importance of the fixed-link concept between Newfoundland and Labrador, and having been up there during a campaign, I see the issues that they’re dealing with.,” he said.
“However, getting rid of Marine Atlantic is obviously something that I’m not willing to discuss.”
Parsons is supporting Dwight Ball in the leadership campaign.