As appeared on page D6
Try not to think of Atlantica when you take your vacation on the Bay of Fundy.
Since 1989, the cross-border, public-private partnership of the Gulf of Maine Council has been monitoring the marine environment that Atlantica depends upon directly for over six billion dollars of fishing, tourism and transportation. Today, more than 600 NGOs (non-governmental organizations) study and preserve the ecosystem under the umbrella of the council.
Try not to think of Atlantica when you watch Halifax dock workers unload containers to be destuffed and repacked at a transload facility for transport up to Bathurst.
The highway system we now enjoy was a dream not long ago. It wasn’t whimsy in our provincial and national capitals that built these arteries, but recognition of the demands of consumers for lower costs. This drive for efficiency was further enhanced by NAFTA and regional agreements on standardized safety standards, driver hours, etc.
After having said that, there remains much work to be done on this front from harmonizing vehicle standards to the twinning of the highway near St. Stephen; an improvement which will reduce highway fatalities as well as increase freight traffic.
Try not to think of Atlantica when you see a mill worker in New Brunswick processing logs from Maine.
Intergovernmental agreements on border crossing improvements and exemption to load limits on short logging roads are keeping people employed when the pulp and paper industry is undergoing hard times. In fact there are Atlantica cross-border industry clusters in footwear, forest products, agricultural products, distribution services, fishing products and power generation transmission.
Try not to think of Atlantica when you see a gas worker in Guysborough.
The Goldboro gas plant was and remains a key opportunity to bring jobs to one of the more depressed areas of Atlantica and it was made possible through provisions in NAFTA and strong regional ties between Maritime Canada and New England.
Think about it: would you invest in infrastructure that can handle between 400 million and 500 million cubic feet of natural gas per day if you thought the governments couldn’t get along?
Try not to think of Atlantica next time you are in the U.S. and you see Stinson Seafood or Sabian Cymbals or Cherryfield Foods.
The preceding list are all owned by Atlantic Canadian firms that have used the natural, easy relationship we have with our regional neighbours to build an international presence and bring income back home. It is not just the Irvings and McCain’s that have U.S. businesses which cross the border.
After having said that, the development of an energy hub goes a long way to explaining the revitalization of Saint John.
The bottom line is that Atlantica is about neighbours finding common solutions to common problems.
One opportunity is to facilitate trade between Asia and the continental interior; an opportunity available to us because of our strategic location half-way across the Atlantic. It is an opportunity that we can embrace or we can squander. But the gateway is just one of many stories.
Atlantica is about creating wealth, not lowering a minimum wage.
It is about creating good jobs to keep our graduates here.
It is about neighbours building an economy that can sustain itself.
Try not to think of Atlantica when you find that you can finally buy a case of Keith’s beer in Quebec without a $4.50 surcharge. In December 2006, Nova Scotia and Quebec finally waived their right to surcharges enshrined in the 1994 Agreement on Internal Trade.
It may not make us wealthier, but it should make us happy.
Stephen Kymlicka is a Senior Policy Analyst with the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (www.AIMS.ca), an independent non-partisan public policy think tank in Halifax, N.S.