Toll trou­ble ahead

New Brunswick pro­pos­als could cost P.E.I. truck­ers half a mil­lion dol­lars a year

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE PROVINCE - THE GUARDIAN sshar­ratt@the­guardian.pe.ca Twit­ter.com/GuardianSteve

A pro­posed high­way toll at New Brunswick exit points would cre­ate a huge trans­porta­tion in­crease for Is­land food ship­pers who say it should be chal­lenged by this prov­ince.

The tolls could be de­liv­ered in New Brunswick’s Feb. 2 bud­get, and if a $40 truck rate is ap­plied, it could cost the Is­land agri­cul­tural and trans­porta­tion in­dus­tries at least $500,000 a year.

“It will def­i­nitely hurt our peo­ple on the farm and in the trans­porta­tion sec­tor,’’ said Bear River potato farmer Kevin MacIsaac, who is the chair­man of the United Potato Grow­ers of Canada. “I know they have bud­get prob­lems, but this is go­ing to hurt. There is only one main route to get our goods off this Is­land.”

The New Brunswick govern­ment is ex­plor­ing high­way tolls at var­i­ous exit points as a way to deal with a mas­sive $600 mil­lion debt. The tolls, de­pend­ing on which of the three pro­posed plans be­ing re­viewed is ac­cepted, could gen­er­ate $40 to $60 mil­lion a year for the prov­ince.

An es­ti­mated 10,000 truck­loads of P.E.I. pota­toes travel through New Brunswick ev­ery year for ex­port mar­kets in On­tario and New Eng­land — and that doesn’t in­clude trucks car­ry­ing live­stock and other goods.

“We’re al­ready be­hind the eight ball on the costs of trans­port­ing goods off the Is­land,” said Con­ser­va­tive Leader Jamie Fox at the leg­isla­tive agri­cul­ture stand­ing com­mit­tee Fri­day morn­ing. “This only adds to the bot­tom line and in­creases costs.”

The tolls would be aimed at “choke” sta­tions like bor­der cross­ings at Holton and St. Stephen and ac­cess into Que­bec. A toll could also be ap­plied to ma­jor high­way sys­tems through­out the prov­ince, and cars could get dinged $10.

Al­most all of P.E.I.’s ex­ports must be trucked through New Brunswick to other parts of North Amer­ica, and Fox wants P.E.I. to fight the pro­posal.

Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Alan McIsaac said he wasn’t aware of the costs, but says the toll op­tion comes as no sur­prise.

“I’m not sur­prised and per­son­ally I don’t blame them,’’ he said prior to an ad­dress at the an­nual meet­ing of the P.E.I. Fed­er­a­tion of Agri­cul­ture Fri­day. “They are look­ing at all pos­si­bil­i­ties to deal with their $600 mil­lion debt, and it will af­fect us for sure and be more costly to get goods to mar­ket.”

How­ever, McIsaac said the New Brunswick high­way sys­tem is now likely the finest in Canada and ship­pers can get their goods to mar­ket a lot more quickly than in the past when a sin­gle­lane high­way me­an­dered through the cen­tre of the prov­ince.

“I’m sure most of our truck­ers are pleased with the new high­way sys­tem and I’d like to see the New Brunswick govern­ment fix that last run to the Con­fed­er­a­tion Bridge,” said the min­is­ter. “As for tolls, it’s some­thing we will have to ad­dresss.”

Fed­eral Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Lawrence Ma­cAulay, also at the fed­er­a­tion meet­ing in Char­lot­te­town, said he was con­cerned with ad­di­tional costs fac­ing Is­land op­er­a­tions try­ing to ex­port goods but said he could not in­ter­fere with pro­vin­cial ju­ris­dic­tions.

“I ex­pect I will be hear­ing a lot more about it in the days ahead, but I re­ally don’t want to com­ment on an is­sue that is a pro­vin­cial mat­ter.”

SUB­MIT­TED IM­AGE

Th­ese are the pro­posed road toll routes and rates from the New Brunswick govern­ment’s pro­gram re­view web­site.

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