Nova Scotia not keen on border toll although no indication one is coming: premier

By , on January 27, 2016

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil. (Twitter photo)
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil.
(Twitter photo)

HALIFAX—The prospect of paying to get into—or out of—New Brunswick isn’t going over well in some sectors of neighbouring Nova Scotia.

The New Brunswick government is considering three toll options as it considers how to chop away at its massive debt and deficit in a budget to be tabled Tuesday.

One would see electronic or manned tolls at four major entry points including in Aulac, N.B., a small community just across the border from Nova Scotia. The province has acknowledged there could be difficulty in securing reciprocal agreements with other jurisdictions if it chooses that option.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said it was up to New Brunswick to determine the best locations to put potential tolls, although he hinted the border wasn’t a good idea.

“Let’s just say it’ll be more difficult for them to get a toll at the border than it would be if they decided to toll a highway in their province,” he said.

But McNeil was also quick to play down the potential for inter-provincial conflict over the issue, saying he hadn’t seen any proposal from his counterpart, Brian Gallant.

“New Brunswick is not talking about having a reciprocal agreement nor are they putting forward a proposal to do that so that is a hypothetical situation,” said McNeil.

He pointed out that Nova Scotia is also looking at the feasibility of tolls as it considers funding the twinning of eight sections of major highways in the province.

Progressive Conservative party leader Jamie Baillie said Wednesday he’d heard concerns from residents in his riding of Cumberland South, as well as from the border town of Amherst, N.S., and would write to New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant to ask him to reconsider the idea.

The executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, whose organization represents 300 members across the region, said it’s “bad strategy” for New Brunswick to use tolls to simply raise revenues.

“Tolls are meant to pay off capital infrastructure when you build a road or you build a bridge, they are not to pay off the debt,” said Jean Marc Picard.

He said the move would hurt the trucking industry and also consumers who would ultimately pay more for goods moved by truck.

“It’s also going to put a huge strain on local companies to continue to compete in some key markets like Montreal, Toronto and Boston—especially for traffic originating in Halifax and Moncton,” said Picard.

In an emailed statement New Brunswick’s Transportation Department said the idea of tolls was among the most popular options during a public consultation process on how best to tackle the province’s books.

The statement said a number of factors would be considered before any of the toll options was chosen.

“These factors include ensuring no region or segment of the population is unduly affected and looking at the impact it will have on industry and on economic growth, as well as, reciprocal agreements being signed with other North American jurisdictions.”

A report done for the New Brunswick government said the possibility of eight electronic toll facilities throughout the province would increase provincial revenues by about $60 million.

Electronic tolls at border points in Aulac, Edmundston, Woodstock and St. Stephen would generate about $43 million from a round-trip cost of $10 per car and $40 per truck.

The third option would see tolls placed around the cities of Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton.