Treat our ferries as essential services: Atlantic mayors

CHARLOTTETOWN, Oct. 15 /CNW Telbec/ - Increased federal support for Atlantic Canada's ferry system and municipal infrastructure was the focus of today's Atlantic Mayors' Congress (AMC) meeting in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

The mayors said the most pressing issue was the need for a ferry strategy with secure multi-year funding to put regional ferry services on a solid footing.

The mayors underlined the crucial role Atlantic ferries play in regional, national and international trade and tourism. They called on the federal government to treat them as an essential part of both the regional and national transportation systems.

"Canada's national government has a role to play in maintaining infrastructure that supports national priorities and that includes Atlantic Canada's transportation system," said Saint John Mayor Ivan Court. "Atlantic ferries are part of that system but they are not getting the support they need. We must have a regional ferry strategy that includes multi-year funding. It's essential to our competitiveness and prosperity as a region and as a country."

The mayors said they would ask federal transportation minister John Baird for an urgent meeting on developing a strategy that will secure the future of the Atlantic ferry system.

The mayors also called on Ottawa to increase federal investments in municipal infrastructure and put them on a long-term, predicable track.

"We recognize the federal government has made significant investments in municipal infrastructure over the last few years. The Building Canada Fund and other investments in municipal infrastructure are crucial to our communities and must be preserved," said Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee.

"We need the federal government and all parties in Parliament to commit to protecting these investments from cutbacks after the recession and to agree that federal funding for municipal infrastructure will be increased and made long-term."

The mayors said the deadline for municipal projects funded through the Stimulus Infrastructure Fund is causing concern in communities throughout Atlantic Canada and should be extended.

These projects must be completed by March 31, 2011, to receive full federal funding. The mayors said that the time required for federal and provincial negotiations, program design and funding approvals meant that six of the 24 months allotted to the program had been lost, and as a result some communities are concerned that they may not receive all the stimulus money they are entitled to.

"This money has been announced, the funds are flowing but we're concerned that if projects are not completed by the deadline, some communities will lose a portion of the federal funding," said Halifax Mayor and AMC Chair Peter Kelly. "We need this deadline extended to two full construction seasons from the time a project is approved."

SOURCE ATLANTIC MAYORS' CONGRESS

For further information: For further information: Massimo Bergamini, InterChange Public Affairs, (613) 290-5317

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ATLANTIC MAYORS' CONGRESS

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