Why is Cape Breton having to wait?
Sustainability and good business go hand-in-hand
Cape Breton Post 11 Aug 2021
When we hear candidates or elected officials make cliched remarks such as they want assurance of a return for the investment, it’s a clue that they are not paying attention. They can’t possibly be aware of the federal government’s response to the Climate Change accord, with unprecedented funding for infrastructure which includes the short-line funding that supports a green economy and economic development.
Canadians and people all around the world are dealing with floods, fires, drought and early and protracted hurricane seasons, all climate change driven. We are beginning to feel the impact that scientists predicted years ago. Very recently we have been advised by the scientists to accelerate our efforts. This decade, 2020 to 2030, is critical to avoiding the worst consequences of the climate crisis.
Unfortunately, with little time remaining, we as Canadians need to compensate for those countries that are lax in their efforts to meet their obligations.
The Railway Association of Canada, states that “Rail is three times more beneficial to the environment than truck and four times more fuel efficient. Rail can move one tonne of freight 215 kilometers on a single liter of fuel and a single freight train is capable of removing over 300 trucks from our congested road and highway networks.”
In Canada, transportation is seen as the major contributor to greenhouse gases, 27.4 per cent. Trucks contribute to the bulk of this offence, producing over half of all trade-related emissions.
The Canadian government is strongly moving toward a green economy. If hundreds of trucks daily from the Moncton-North Sydney-Moncton route were reduced and replaced with a commitment to rail it would make an appreciable difference for the environment and would help to bring us in line with an economic policy that rejects regional disparity.
Currently, these trucks are fueled, staffed, maintained and insured in New Brunswick. Heavy trucks add to the highway maintenance costs for Nova Scotia. With only 20 per cent of the traffic going to the Newfoundland ferry being required to have a viable rail system, it wouldn’t render the trucking industry inviable. Nova Scotia’s 2019 figure for highway and road restoration is $1.6 billion. The savings to the province against these costs could alone meet the requirements of a sound business case.
Rail restoration for eastern Nova Scotia can be a sustained contributor toward solving the problem of climate change and at the same time enable the province to respond to the dire economic needs of our region and to the alarming safety concerns. The port-rail strategy will yield a thriving economy which in turn will attract and retain badly needed doctors.
In Barry Sheehy’s recent column (‘Nova Scotia lagging behind rest of country,’ Cape Breton Post, July 27), he points to the abundant natural resources Nova Scotia has that are in global demand and questions why they are not being exported. The revitalization of rail has the potential to benefit not only eastern Nova Scotia but the entire province, the entire region. Rail can facilitate new European market access for a wide range of local products, overall, dramatically increasing multilateral bulk trade.
No surprise that Nova Scotia, with the lowest per capita income, correspondingly, has the lowest trade to GDP ratio in the country. We know that trade drives the economy; trade should never be a concern for a coastal province.
It’s not just an end-of-line problem for Sydney. The whole line - Pictou County, Port Hawkesbury, Richmond and other locations – is adversely impacted without rail. It is difficult to attract new businesses and impossible for existing businesses to grow without rail. Rail will benefit all, including Halifax. Rail will ensure uninterrupted service to Newfoundland, a constitutional obligation.
The restoration of rail will position Nova Scotia as a gateway to Canada and the United States, not unlike the Vancouver-Prince Rupert, B.C., model. Keep in mind, in the beginning, Vancouver strongly opposed Prince Rupert but today the arrangement is a remarkable success. Prince Rupert did not draw traffic from Vancouver. Instead, bulk exports were increased to meet the number of imports.
The need for rail is more than a regional thing. It’s global.
We acknowledge and thank NDP Leader Gary Burrill for his public expression of support for rail. Burrill recognizes the regional disparity and knows there is no need of it.
The Scotia Rail Development Society urges the public to contact the candidates/elected officials and express your support of rail and help make it part of the discourse. Time for Cape Breton to speak up; everything hangs in the balance.
Mary C. Senecal-MacPherson serves as secretary for the Scotia Rail Development Society. The Sydney resident is a retired teacher and NGO executive assistant.
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