By: Samuel Midkiff
Allow me to tell you the tale of two separate bridges, one in Quebec and the other in PEI (and New Brunswick). The PEI/NB bridge is all too familiar to Maritimers as the Confederation Bridge while the other, lesser known bridge is the now infamous “Champlain” bridge in Montreal.
Let’s take a look at PEI’s bridge (Sorry NB, it’s the Island’s bridge): it cost a total of $1 billion in 1991, roughly equal to $1.6 billion in 2018 dollars. Spanning 100 metres short of 13 km long, over the Northumberland Strait, and built through private corporate contracts and public money, the bridge was a logical answer to Canada’s constitutional responsibility to maintain a constant transportation connection with PEI to the mainland since 1873.
Meanwhile, in Montreal, the Champlain bridge was built to deal with traffic congestion on the original bridge dating to the 60’s. The bridge spans just under 3.5 km, will be one of the widest bridges in the world when completed, and the current bill sits at an astronomical price of $4.2 billion, or $2.62 billion in 1991 dollars. Unlike in PEI, the Government of Canada was under no legal obligation to build this bridge.
But here is the kicker: as of January 14, 2019, the toll on the Confederation Bridge, for both locals and tourists, sits at $47.75 per car. The toll for the Champlain Bridge? $0.00.
That’s right. The government of Canada expects Canada’s poorest population to pay nearly $50 to leave their Island while charging Montrealers nothing to leave their island, even though their bridge was twice the cost (in ’91 dollars) to build and less than a quarter of the length and over a river rather than a strait!
The controversy doesn’t end there. The firm awarded the Champlain bridge contract have repeatedly gone over budget and beyond the original deadline for the bridge to be built. In fact, the Auditor General confirmed that the delays in the bridge cost the Canadian taxpayer $500 million (nearly half the cost of Confederation Bridge) in avoidable expenses.
This is beyond crooked! But one shouldn’t be too surprised: there are plenty of votes to be bought in Montreal. The city metro itself has more seats in parliament than does the whole of the Maritimes.
I guess the only Islanders that seem to matter to Ottawa are those on Ile De Montreal…
This article belongs to The Cadre’s opinion section. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Cadre.