FREDERICTON – Premier Shawn Graham said he’s open to shaking up New Brunswick’s transportation system.

Graham said he would be interested in discussing a proposal floated by former premier Frank McKenna to create a single port authority for all ports in Atlantic Canada.

“Today, we have a forum of the leading transportation experts from across the country here to share their ideas on how to shake up the industry and Frank McKenna is providing the same food for thought,” said Graham.

“It’s a vision that I share, that there are ways we can work together as premiers to enhance our competitiveness for this region.”

Graham said New Brunswick would gain from enhanced regional competitiveness.

“We are the only province in Atlantic Canada that borders the United States,” he said. “New Brunswick can provide same-day access to more than 100 million North Americans.”

Graham said he’s interested in participating in the debate over great regional co-operation between the Atlantic region’s ports.

The premier spoke about the idea of a single Atlantic port authority following a luncheon keynote address to the roughly 130 delegates at the Canadian Transportation Research Forum.

The forum held its annual conference at the Crowne Plaza hotel this week.

McKenna spoke about the idea of a single port authority for Atlantic Canada last week during an Atlantic Canada business summit sponsored by East Coast Connected, Dalhousie University and the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

Capt. Al. Soppitt, president and CEO of the Saint John Port Authority, said the need for co-operation in Atlantic Canada extends far beyond its ports.

Soppitt said the idea of a single port authority for the region was an “interesting concept.”

“In respect to Atlantic Canada and developing the Atlantic Gateway, I think what’s is needed is an Atlantic Gateway council … That would bring all the transportation interests from Atlantic Canada into one group,” he said.

The gateway, he said, was about more than simply the region’s ports.

Graham said “opportunities are endless” for the Atlantic provinces if they work together to build an Atlantic Gateway.

“Imagine a transportation system in which all modes of transportation in all four Atlantic provinces work together seamlessly. Infrastructure bottlenecks have been overcome and unnecessary red tape has been abandoned in favour of harmonized rules that allow products to move safely and efficiently to other markets, he said. “As the only Atlantic province to share a border with the United States, New Brunswick’s transportation infrastructure would be key to this scenario.”

Graham said it’s vital for the province and the federal government to invest in New Brunswick’s transportation infrastructure.

“We need to improve infrastructure to better connect New Brunswick to the other Atlantic provinces, the rest of Canada and the world. That includes our roads, our airports, our ports and our railroads,” said Graham.

The premier said Route 1 is a key piece of Atlantic Gateway infrastructure that connects the region with the eight-busiest commercial crossing between Canada and the U.S.

“Our money is on the table,” said Graham. “We are asking the federal government to provide its share, especially in light of the major investments being made in the Windsor-Detroit Corridor and the Asia-Pacific Gateway.”