TOM AYERS, TRANSCONTINENTAL MEDIA
The Nova Scotia Business Journal
A Liberal MLA’s comments on infrastructure spending that would help the private sector with new container terminals in Sydney and Melford have stirred up a minor controversy.
The Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce says Digby-Annapolis MLA Harold Theriault is putting the dredging of Sydney Harbour at risk, while the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce says the issue has been blown out of proportion.
Meanwhile, the Liberal party is distancing itself from Theriault’s comments, saying the party’s position is clearly in favour of infrastructure development, such as twinning the Trans-Canada Highway between New Glasgow and Port Hawkesbury and dredging Sydney Harbour.
Theriault, a member of the province’s standing committee on economic development, recently said he was concerned that tax dollars were going to support private container terminal developments in Sydney and Melford while the Halifax port is at half capacity.
“I’m certainly hoping it’s just his opinion,” Sydney Chamber President Owen Fitzgerald says. “There’s so much at stake, we can’t take that chance.
“We have to make sure the proper information gets out there and that people understand the opportunities and what could happen or couldn’t happen.”
Fitzgerald says using public money to dredge Sydney Harbour would benefit the container terminal proposal as well as the coal-shipping pier that services Nova Scotia Power. It’s also crucial for the proposed Donkin coal mine development.
“That’s the role government has to play: invest in infrastructure the public needs,” Fitzgerald says.
“We’re certainly not interested in, I’m going to use the term blowing it out of proportion,” says Strait chamber president Bob MacEachern.
“Information obviously needs to be provided to Mr. Theriault and others in the legislature. These are private investors and they’re going full steam ahead to bring (the container terminals) to reality.
“In terms of infrastructure, that’s exactly what public money should be for. My sense is that it’s certainly not a position of the Liberal party and more of a reaction that Mr. Theriault had to a presentation he heard on a development down in Halifax.”
The NDP’s Gordie Gosse, MLA for Cape Breton Nova, says Liberal opposition to the proposed $200-million container terminal in Sydney Harbour is shortsighted and would seriously hamper economic development and the creation of up to 3,000 new jobs in Cape Breton.
“One of the primary roles for government is to provide the infrastructure to make business possible,” Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said in a news release following publication of Theriault’s comments. McNeil added that new container operations proposed for Sydney and Melford are “exactly the type of investment Nova Scotia needs and we should be encouraging these private investors.”
Manning MacDonald, Liberal MLA for Cape Breton South and the party’s economic development critic, says Theriault’s comments don’t represent the Liberal party’s position on infrastructure development or private investment in container terminals for the Strait region or Sydney.
itic, says Theriault’s comments don’t represent the Liberal party’s position on infrastructure development or private investment in container terminals for the Strait region or Sydney.
“First of all, Harold Theriault… was speaking as an MLA. That’s not the policy of the Liberal party,” MacDonald points out.
MacDonald says the Liberal party is committed to investing public money into infrastructure that would help the private sector develop container terminals in Melford and Sydney.
“We’re saying that’s good competition for the future and particularly for Sydney, that could be the lifeblood of the community.
“The Liberal party is committed to seeing the harbour in Sydney dredged and committed to seeing the terminal developed in Sydney.”
The Cape Breton Post