Paying Less Means Paving More, Op-Ed
NOTE: The following is an op-ed piece by Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Bill Estabrooks.
For several weeks, the Nova Scotia Roadbuilders Association has voiced its concerns about the province's decision to move forward with a mobile asphalt plant and chip sealing crew. Let me be clear. Nova Scotians have been forced to pay far too much for some road work in this province the last number of years.
That has to stop. It has to stop because paying more means paving less.
The numbers speak for themselves. In certain communities, especially in rural Nova Scotia, there are very few bids and the bids we do receive are high. For example, in areas of the province where there is little competition within the private sector for paving jobs, prices have been at least 10 per cent higher and even as much as 50 per cent higher than in areas where there is more competition. That means that Nova Scotians end up paying higher prices for less work. That isn't fair and it has to stop.
As the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, my first priority to the people of this province, especially those living in rural communities, is to get as much road work done in their communities as possible. The purchase of a mobile asphalt plant and chip seal equipment will help make that happen.
Residents in Inverness, Shelburne, Queens and Victoria counties deserve to have their roads paved and chip sealed as much as Nova Scotians living in other parts of the province. I am committed to making sure that happens. Because of the decision to purchase the mobile asphalt plant and the chip seal equipment, many hundreds of more kilometres of road work in rural Nova Scotia will now be completed in the next few years. That has tremendous benefits for thousands of rural Nova Scotians.
Over the last number of years, hundreds of millions of dollars in road work projects has been awarded to Nova Scotia companies. They have benefitted significantly from federal and provincial stimulus projects. In fact, since 2005, the annual budget for road paving in the province has more than doubled. The road builders in this province will still have access to more than 95 per cent of all road work. They will still be able to operate a successful business in Nova Scotia.
I have a lot of respect for the work of our road builders and I want them to know that when they bid for tenders in a fair way, they will be accepted. They will have plenty of opportunity to work on Nova Scotia's roads this summer.
I want all Nova Scotians, especially those living in rural parts of the province to know that the decision to move forward with this project was simply a matter of getting a better bang for our buck. The reality is that more road work in their communities will get done because of the mobile plant and chip seal crew.
I made the decision to move forward with this project because it is in the best interests of Nova Scotians. It is a decision that I stand by and it is a decision that will not be reversed.
I encourage the road builders and any other concerned stakeholders to contact my office and arrange a meeting with myself and my staff. We will go over the business plan with them page by page so they have a good understanding of the reasons why these initiatives are not only fair to the road builders themselves, but to the thousands of Nova Scotians who will benefit from having more road work done in their communities.
Paying less means paving more.