Jim Quinn, president and CEO of the Saint John Port Authority, says the only way the long-awaited Atlantic Gateway and Trade Corridor Strategy initiative will move forward is if regional transportation leaders collaborate to improve infrastructure instead of fight for funding.
“There’s going to have to be a balance between promotion and competition, and that’s going to take a lot of focus and a lot of co-operation,” Mr. Quinn said. “We can compete with each other if we choose or we can compete with the world.”
Ottawa’s Atlantic Gateway and Trade Corridor Strategy, released March 23, includes $2.5 million more to market the region’s transportation corridors. The money will be spent on drumming up more shipping business through positioning the region’s port, rail and highway infrastructure as a reliable and secure transportation network between North American markets and those in Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Asia via the Suez Canal.
Delays in defining a strategy and targeting funding have frustrated industry in the region. “It’s better late than never,” said David Oxner, the executive director of a private sector gateway council chaired by Wes Armour, president and CEO of Moncton-based Armour Transportation Systems.
Mr. Oxner said now executives from across Atlantic Canada can speak with one voice. “It would be very rare for regional ports and even airports to cohabitate in the same booth previously,” he said.
Charles Cirtwill, president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, thinks the Port of Halifax and its competitors wasted the last four years lobbying Ottawa for gateway money when they should have been “sending letters and people to talk to the people who make and sell stuff in India and Vietnam.”
Mr. Cirtwill predicts the Atlantic Gateway initiative will sit idle until after the May 2 federal election.
Saint John Airport has been seeking gateway funding for a number of years to get centre-line runway lighting to improve safety at the province’s most fog-challenged commercial airport but has not received any federal or provincial monies since it was privatized in 1999.
Consequently, Saint John deputy mayor Stephen Chase has added his name to the ballot as the Liberal candidate for Saint John in the coming federal election. Securing airport funding is high on his list.
“We have the only airport in Atlantic Canada that has not received funding,” said Mr. Chase, who will remain on Saint John City Council during the election campaign. “We may find ourselves without an airport. It’ll be a problem for our economy, for tourism, and this is very alarming.
“Every airport in the region has received money, even Bathurst. But we haven’t seen one nickel.”