Bill favouring CBRM port development passes; MLA Hines responds

By Helen Murphy    

GUYSBOROUGH – Contentious Bill 85 passed third reading in the provincial Legislature last Thursday. The legislation, which faced strong opposition from the Strait Area, gives special powers to Cape Breton Regional Municipality in support of port development -- and specifically a container terminal. The Municipality of the District of Guysborough and Strait Area Chamber of Commerce were among organizations publicly opposing the bill and bringing their concerns to the Law Amendments Committee.

Criticism of the changes – which give CBRM the power to sell land for port development at less than market value and offer tax concessions to developers – was widespread across the Strait Region and sometimes targeted Strait Area Liberal cabinet ministers, Lloyd Hines and Randy Delorey. Complaints focused on the uneven playing field that would negatively affect Melford International Terminal, proponent of a container terminal along the Strait of Canso, if the bill passed. Melford had already paid full market value for the land it plans to develop, to both MODG and the province.

In an interview with The Journal Monday, Hines, MLA for Guysborough – Eastern Shore – Tracadie said, “Really the Bill 85 is meaningless in the greater scheme of things vis-à-vis Melford.” He said the legislation has important economic development implications for municipalities across the province, “but Melford is the leading choice for Nova Scotia to establish itself as a significant container port on the Canadian East Coast.”

He pointed to Melford’s advantages of deep water and an ice-free port.

“No amount of legislation will melt the ice in Sydney Harbour.”

Hines noted that Melford is not dependent on others to construct the rail spur it needs, as is the Sydney proposal. Reports say the rail line required for the Port of Sydney would cost $100 million.

He said that ultimately it is market forces that will dictate where a container terminal will be built.

In terms of voting for the bill, Hines said, “As a member of government I am bound to support government legislation and overall so did both opposition parties. One vote would not have mattered.”

When asked if the government has pledged to pay for the rail line needed for a container terminal at the Port of Sydney, Hines said, “No, not to my knowledge.” He called the rail line “a cost impediment to anything going on down there.”

When asked about the potential of Bill 85 to pit municipality against municipality in pursuing development, Hines said, “That situation remains now to unfold.” He noted that the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Derek Monbouquette, has indicated publicly that these types of powers may also be available to other municipalities.

“But this is the road that the department has decided to go down, so we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out.

“I will continue to do my work for Guysborough – Eastern Shore – Tracadie under many economic development files including three gold mining projects, Goldboro LNG and all the other projects that will support our community with jobs, together with Melford.”