By: Danny Cavanagh, President Nova Scotia Federation of Labour.
How high is the price of gas? How much is your grocery bill? How much does it cost to fill your oil tank? In general, Nova Scotians are having a hard time keeping up with the rising cost of living. Our province has the second lowest wages on a national average in Canada and our child poverty rates are bad. Not to mention we have 13,000 fewer full-time jobs and 12,000 more part-time, low wage jobs.
Toll highways mean government wants to hand you another bill because of where you live. What’s even worse is they want you to say yes to doing it, so they get the credit for fixing roads. Why should residents of the south end of the province pay a toll when they need to come to Halifax? Why should people living in Cape Breton pay a toll to get to New Glasgow, Truro or Halifax? We should demand that our government make better choices on how they spend the dollars we give them now.
A November report on poverty by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – NS (CCPA – NS) confirms several things about poverty in the province. One in five children live in poverty, one in three in Cape Breton. I thought the government of the day campaigned on helping families. The child poverty rate in the South Shore is estimated at 21.3% per the same report from the CCPA. Helping families that are already living in poverty does not mean slapping a toll on them.
Have we asked this question? How come New Brunswick received new federal cash to help build highways without a toll? Why isn’t the MacNeil Government asking Prime Minister Trudeau for more money? It seems that the Feds have some $300 million in waiting.
Of course, we need safe roads and frankly they should have been twinned by now. Did anyone bother to look at investing into transit? We are one of a few places where public transit has not been looked at as a serious option to enhance our highways and now is a good time to look at building those links.
Newer four lane highways are good, but what about the other options, like adding a lane to existing highways or barriers? There are other ways to make highways safer to travel on.
Should voters in regions outside the HRM be asked to pay tolls with an election coming? We should all pay for safe highways through our tax system, not repeatedly through tolls.
That is however what we are being asked to agree to. Imagine running in an election where the best highways get built, your government of the day receives the credit for doing it and a segment of the population pays for it. Not bad.
The other big question is once we have in place a government revenue-generating machine like tolls, will they ever come off? We know where government promises get us. Remember when the MacNeil Government promised to end the monopoly of NS power and lower your light bill? How’s that working for us?
This country built railways and a Trans-Canada Highway and in NS we can build highways. It’s all about choices and we need government to govern for us all and not suck people into buying this government’s political future with tolls.
I live in Truro and can travel on twinned highways without tolls to get to Antigonish or Halifax. I paid for that with my taxes. To the voters in Cape Breton and south of HRM, think about what you are being asked to agree to. It may sound slick now, but safe, decent highways can be built without tolls and built just as fast. Our provincial government must look at all options. Ask your MLAs why the Liberals think it is ok for us to pay more than once for highways in Nova Scotia.