By David Shipley
As appeared on page B1

Atlantica opponents need to get their facts straight, says the head of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

“It’s pretty clear they’ve issued a report without understanding the concept of Atlantica or apparently making any real effort to get their heads around it,” said Charles Cirtwill, acting president of the Halifax-based think tank.

Cirtwill was reacting Thursday to the release of “Atlantica: Myths and Realities” by the Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The report is skeptical of the Atlantica trade zone concept and criticizes the idea of creating an Atlantic Gateway to move container goods from Asia through the Suez Canal to Halifax and on to the U.S. Midwest.

It also slams the idea of exporting oil and gas to the U.S. market as not being beneficial to the region.

As envisioned during a summer conference in Saint John, Atlantica is a trade zone encompassing the Atlantic Provinces, the northeastern United States and parts of Ontario and Quebec.

Atlantica aims to restore the traditional north-south trade relationships between Atlantic Canada and the northern United States that were lost after Confederation.

The trade bloc concept is seen as a way to restore economic vitality to the have-not provinces and states of the North American east coast.

Among the core strategies of the Atlantica concept is to develop the region as a global hub for trade, moving goods to markets in Canada and in the U.S. from Asia and Europe as well as moving goods to those areas.

Atlantica opponents were focusing only on certain aspects of Atlantica without understanding the whole concept, said Cirtwill.

Cirtwill said the report’s authors, Scott Sinclair and John Jacobs, should explain to workers on projects such as the new liquefied natural gas terminal in Saint John how exporting energy to the U.S. doesn’t benefit the region.

“Atlantica is a reality on the ground today and it’s just going to continue to grow,” said Cirtwill.

Atlantic energy developments such as the Sable Island natural gas project in Nova Scotia or the LNG terminal in New Brunswick wouldn’t be feasible without U.S. markets, he said.

The construction of those facilities had led to the adoption of more natural gas in the region, which has benefited individuals and businesses, he said.

Cirtwill described it as a “symbiotic” relationship in which Atlantic Canadians benefit alongside Americans.

“You can’t cherry-pick which part you want to have, you have to have all of it,” he said.