In Brief: AIMS acting President Charles Cirtwill suggests that government’s role is to create a business-friendly environment for private sector investment. He says that’s a better approach to development than spending tax-payers money on ill-conceived projects. Cirtwill’s comments followed criticism that suggested a Halifax-bias in some recent comments.
May I have equal space to clarify statements attributed to me and suggestions made in an editorial and a letter published in this newspaper that I hold a
Let me be very clear – this is not an “us and them” argument. To begin, the quote referenced in Allan Murphy’s letter of October 24th actually began with “If I was the
Suggestions that comments I made in the wake of the Atlantic Gateway announcement are
But, to be very clear, they should do it with their own money (and, by the way, there is no shortage of capital out there looking to invest in ports and port facilities – just ask the folks at Melford Terminals). We as taxpayers should not be picking winners and losers and we certainly should not be backing all horses and competing against ourselves, whether you live in Sydney, Port Hawkesbury or Halifax.
We (as in taxpayers) should not be investing money to support a specific private company in
Government’s role here is to provide the environment in which as many of these private investments as possible will take place. That means reducing business taxes, eliminating the ridiculous inter-provincial barriers that still exist in this country and changing other regulatory barriers that raise our costs and make us uncompetitive. And yes, it also includes making investments in infrastructure where an infrastructure deficit exists.
But before we run out with a laundry list of needed improvements we have to look at the much bigger picture. From an Atlantic Gateway perspective, if we MUST spend what are scarce infrastructure dollars, we should be spending infrastructure dollars in Quebec and the North-eastern US (and indeed, in India) to improve our connections to the real opportunities and to make the business case for every port in this region that much better.
In this specific case, we simply do not have the infrastructure deficit in terms of the Atlantic Gateway that the west coast did and does in terms of the Pacific Gateway. In fact, our key asset, the CN rail line, is running at barely 30% capacity. Certainly, twinning the 104 would represent a significant boon to the Strait and surrounding regions (which is why it is already a priority project for the province) but it represents marginal benefit to the Strait and
Right now, our federal and provincial governments could do far more to help the folks in Melford and the folks in Sydney and Halifax by changing the tax and regulatory environment (perhaps hiring another 2 or 3 dozen people to work on the border delay question for instance) rather than creating a political slush fund that has created (and frankly inevitably was going to create) a chorus of “me toos” and “my fair shares”.
Atlantic Institute for Market Studies