Questions By Members, 29 November 2016
Source: Legislative Assembly of PEI

Cornwall bypass original plan changes

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Earlier this year the government announced that it was going forward with the Cornwall bypass. Phase one is now largely complete with two new roundabouts having been constructed.

There’s been much made by this government for the need for consultation, transparency, and openness in all of its business.

A question to the Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy: What changes in the original plan were implemented due to public input received in the public meetings held on the Cornwall bypass?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy.

Ms. Biggar: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

When we talk about the Trans-Canada Highway extension project that we’re presently involved in it should be no surprise to anybody that this project has been on the go since back when Mike Currie announced it. It’s taken this long and our partnerships with the federal government to be able to move forward.

But when we look at infrastructure in this province we look at it from a strategic point of view. This is strategic. This will add $40 million in GDP to the economy of Prince Edward Island as a result of the construction that is going on as part of the Trans-Canada highway extension.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party, your first supplementary question.

Cornwall highway studies (further)

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I asked what changes, if any, to the original plan had been made. I heard none.

The minister in a recent presentation to the standing committee cited safety and economic benefits to the town of Cornwall as the two principal reasons for building this $65 million capital project, one which she touted proudly as the biggest ever capital project on Prince Edward Island.

Can the minister provide this House with the studies or the documents that support this project, firstly as being necessary to improve safety, and secondly, which demonstrate the economic benefits of it to the town of Cornwall?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy.

Ms. Biggar: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Actually, I’m not sure if the member was paying attention last week. I tabled over 100 pages dating back to 1979 of a number of different reports related to exactly why that project was necessary to move ahead, and with the support of the town of Cornwall.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party, your second supplementary question.

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you.

In the line of questioning which preceded mine, where the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism was unaware of the existence of the 30 economic assessments, I am also unaware of an economic assessment which has been done to show that this road is indeed necessary or beneficial.

If the research has not yet been done to support the two main rationales for proceeding with this project, then it was frankly irresponsible for government to begin work on it. It is also impossible for us to have an informed debate in this House regarding the appropriation of capital funding for this project if even government does not have this information.

Will this government withhold the approval of the Cornwall bypass until this research has been completed, new fully-formed public consultations held, and that we have a fully informed debate in this House?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy.

Ms. Biggar: Mr. Speaker, consultations on this started back in 1994 with the first plebiscite that the town of Cornwall had, but we have had consultations.

We presented four different options during our consultations. We also have estimates that estimate that there will be over $10 million in wages over the course of four years for this project; $24 million will be spent on materials like asphalt and gravel. Again, this is going to add to the economy of Prince Edward Island with over $40 million in GDP. We will continue to look at strategic investments as part of our infrastructure project on Prince Edward Island.

 

2 Comments

  1. rebootbill 2 December 2016 at 3:26 pm

    Good questions with bull shit answers. My math must be wrong, or do the contractors make 6 million dollars in profit if the project cost $40 million, or do we subtract the wages and materials from the $65. million figure? Who is making all the money? Who is making the profit?

     
  2. W.Wilkins 2 December 2016 at 10:46 pm

    When I formally requested the safety statistics upon which the Plan B project was justified, I was refused. I was told I’d have to access the data through FOIPP. I pressed, arguing that the data ought to be released as a matter of routine disclosure. After all, the government made reference to the data that supported their position, why would the data not be released?

    To this end, I told officials that I wouldn’t request the documents through FOIPP, but rather, I would be submitting a complaint to the FOIPP commissioner. Since I had a working professional relationship with the commissioner of the day, it wasn’t an idle threat. Calls were made.

    After more back and forth, officials told me I would be given the statistics, but it would take some time to put them together. I asked why time was required to “put the data together” when Plan B was announced based on documents that captured the safety statistics?

    When I finally got the data, it was not only inconsistent with claims previously made by officials in the media and within the legislature, the data appeared to be fabricated or at least, unsubstantiated. When I pointed this out I immediately received an email firmly stating I was to destroy / return the statistics I was provided. Further to that, the data I was provided was indeed incorrect. Also, I was told that by virtue of the standard confidentiality agreement one gets by default in government correspondence, I was not to distribute the statistics I was provided.

    It was at that moment my trust in our government died and my belief in the necessity of transparency was born. Or at least, that’s what I thought.

    Truth be known, I believed it when we were told that, if elected, this present government would commit to transparency. I believed it when it was clearly implied that the corruption of the previous government would be exposed, perhaps repaired. To my embarrassment, I voted for this present government.

    So, what have I learned? I’m not sure. But, I think it may be that being told what you want to hear – be it to deliver “a great big beautiful wall” or to deliver “transparency” – there are fools like me that will fall for it every time. Wish I could say I won’t be fooled again, but until there’s mechanisms (more rigorous than Election Day) to hold our politicians accountable, isn’t it all just wishful thinking?

     

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