If you look at economic development in 20 or even 50 year chunk, there are some megatrends that influence the success or failure of a community, province/state or country. One of these trends relates to transportation. 100+ years ago, Parrsboro, Nova Scotia was a vibrant town on a major trade route – both by sea and by road. In fact, Parrsboro was the size of Calgary in 1904. Now, after being cut off by both sea and road, Parrsboro is the shell of a formerly bustling town – a few grand, old houses and a populace struggling to keep the town afloat.
This context is why I am so adamant that Halifax needs to become a super port – the entry point for global cargo in the 21st Century. I have blogged about this a lot but a few articles in recent weeks have given me cause for hope.
It seems that the global shipping industry is indeed looking for an uncongested port on the east coast to ship cargo through. The cost and congestion of shipping cargo through U.S. eastern seabord ports is becoming a problem.
I think the whole Atlantica concept is lynchpinned by the Port of Halifax. If the Maritime Provinces were to become the favoured entry point for US and Canadian trade, it would open up tremendous opportunities across the region.
Of course, some have been calling for this for decades. But now global forces are kicking in. Massive congestion on the west coast. The emergence of the Suez Canal as an important shipping lane for North American cargo. Security and cost issues.
Now we need a rail system that takes a left turn around Sussex and would ship cargo directly to New England and beyond without the silly step of being shipped to Chicago.
New Brunswick and PEI (and Maine) should get on board this train metaphorically speaking. The Federal government is spending hundreds of millions to expand port facilities in rural British Columbia while Halifax gets crumbs. The three (maybe four) provinces should lead this charge and make that port our ticket back into to the North American trade system. Maybe we could then redress the economic harm to this region that was done by spending billions to develop the St. Lawrence shipping lane and cut off, effectively, Atlantic Canada as a trade route.