I am surprised about a story on the front page, ‘Things To Know,’ a few weeks ago. The story made the extraordinary claim that 30 years ago the federal government began pressuring the province to accept a bridge as a substitute for the Borden CN ferry service. The truth is that a private firm, Strait Crossing Incorporated, came to the province in the 1980s with the idea of building the bridge in exchange for the federal subsidies that the CN ferry would have otherwise received.
It was financially neutral for the federal government, which was only prepared to proceed with this proposal if certain environmental conditions were met and if it received the broad support of the Island’s population. SCI went to great lengths to explain its proposal to the public and it actually redesigned the original bridge design to improve its environmental impact. It received the green light to proceed when these conditions were met.
To infer that the federal government foisted the bridge on to the province totally misrepresents the truth. I know of no one who would wish to return to the ferry service as our principal link to the mainland.
Not only has the Confederation Bridge provided a major improvement in convenience for travelers to and from the island, it has brought significant economic benefits to P.E.I. as well.
A key element of the proposal that was accepted by Islanders was that the tolls charged to cross the bridge would not exceed the tolls that would otherwise have been levied by the CN ferry and would increase only with inflation.
The current debate over paying bridge tolls seems to ignore the fact that the bridge is privately owned and the tolls are an essential part of its capital and operating financing.