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Tories again take government to task over tolls

Cobequid Pass toll plaza
Cobequid Pass toll plaza - Google Earth

Baillie accuses province of wavering on Cobequid Pass commitment

HALIFAX – The provincial Progressive Conservatives are again taking the provincial government to task over a pledge to remove tolls from the Cobequid Pass that connects Cumberland and Colchester counties.

Speaking at Wednesday’s public accounts committee meeting in Halifax, PC leader and Cumberland South MLA Jamie Baillie suggested the government maybe wavering on removing the tolls from the highway in 2019 as promised during last spring’s provincial election campaign.

During the meeting, Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Deputy Minister Paul LaFleche and Peter Hackett, president of the Highway 104 Western Alignment Corporation appeared before the committee.

“We’re no closer to finding out if the tolls will actually be removed in 2019,” Baillie said in a news release. “The department says that bonds on the highway will be paid off by 2019, but that doesn’t mean the tolls will totally come off.”

The outgoing PC leader said Cumberland County residents deserve to know when Prmier Stephen McNeil will eliminate the toll on the 44-km highway between Thomson Station and Glenholme that opened in 1997.

Baillie said the Western Alignment says the tolls will come off the highway once the debt is paid, but he said both LaFleche and Hackett suggested the commitment is to remove tolls for Nova Scotian motorists, but there is no commitment for non-Nova Scotian motorists and commercial trucks.

“The tolls left for commercial trucks and non-Nova Scotian motorists still leaves a burden on residents of Cumberland County. It’s frustrating because everything that comes in and out of Cumberland is taxed more,” Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin said in a news release. “Nowhere else in the province is there this extra cost to businesses and families.”

She said the Liberal government has flip-flopped on the issue several times.

“When it comes to roads and toll passes, Cumberland County residents deserve to be treated fairly and equally,” she said.” Families and business-owners have been burdened and taxed to the max. Residents don’t deserve to be treated like this.”

Baillie and Smith-McCrossin are demanding the McNeil Liberals finally remove the tolls on the Cobequid Pass.

In an email to the Amherst News, Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Lloyd Hines said the goal is to remove the tolls from the highway once it’s paid for.

“The provincial government has committed to taking tolls off the Cobequid Pass for Nova Scotia motorists once the bonds are paid off, which is expected to be in 2019,” Hines said in the email. “Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal officials are reviewing the Highway 104 Western Alignment Act and the agreement with the bondholders as well as maintenance and other costs for the Cobequid Pass to provide government with its best options for moving forward. No decisions have been on the removal of tolls for truckers or non-Nova Scotia residents at this time.”

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