Mitigation & Prevention
Ottawa offering to pay $200M to protect key Maritimes land link: minister
By Hina Alam
The federal government is ready to pay up to $200 million to protect a vital land corridor linking Nova Scotia and New Brunswick from climate change-related flooding, a federal minster has confirmed.
The estimated figure is in a June 23 letter obtained by The Canadian Press that was sent by federal Infrastructure Minister Dominic LeBlanc to New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs and Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston. The sum represents about 50 per cent of the anticipated cost of the Chignecto Isthmus project, which Houston this month estimated would cost $400 million or more.
“I continue to encourage you to seek funding,” LeBlanc wrote. “You can seek up to 50 per cent of the total eligible project costs from the federal government, approximately $200 million to my understanding based on current estimates provided by your officials.”
LeBlanc’s letter urges the premiers to apply for the funding by July 19, when the federal Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund program closes.
He said the program is the only one available to deal with the isthmus, and he reiterated that the federal government is not responsible for paying the full cost of the project. Houston has said Ottawa has a constitutional obligation to pay for all of it.
Speaking with reporters in Fredericton Wednesday, LeBlanc said the federal government will not and cannot pay for 100 per cent of the cost.
“So the number of times they (premiers) repeat that publicly is not, in my view, very genuine,” he told reporters. “They know that there’s an offer on the table to look at a proposal that they will submit, that they will design, for up to 50 per cent as a federal contribution. There is no program in the government of Canada now that will pay 100 per cent.”
Higgs said he saw LeBlanc’s letter with the $200 million offer and is “cautiously optimistic” a solution can be found.
“I think we’ve got a bridge there,” Higgs said. “I’m anxious to have further discussion with Minister LeBlanc on the prospects here and in working with my colleagues, obviously in Nova Scotia.”
There is a precedent where the federal government has paid for connections between provinces, such as the bridge connecting Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick, he noted.
“We’ve talked about $300 million as a full price tag but we don’t have a full estimate at this point,” Higgs said. “I think it’s important that we understand clearly what we are talking about for final design and costs .”
With files by Keith Doucette in Halifax.
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