Scrap mobile asphalt plant, urges transportation minister
Geoff MacLellan says government paving 'didn't bear fruit'
Nova Scotia's newly-appointed Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal says he wants to leave paving to the private sector and wants to scrap the government-owned mobile asphalt plant.
Geoff MacLellan said he doesn't believe it was the best option for taxpayers.
"It's competing with the private sector, it was a huge investment and outlay of money from the taxpayers and it just didn't bear fruit," MacLellan told Cape Breton's Information Morning.
"It wasn't something that was providing benefits for Nova Scotians."
In 2011, the New Democratic government announced it was buying the mobile paving plant and said it would save taxpayers millions of dollars every year. The government said private contractors were charging too much to pave rural roads.
Road builders roundly criticized the move as unfair competition, but bureaucrats said taxpayers were better off due to earlier tenders calls and better planning for paving projects.
The plant cost $3.5 million and went into operation last year after numerous delays due to missing parts and assembly time.
While MacLellan left no doubt where he stands on the issue, the Canadian Union of Public Employees urged him to hold off on any quick decisions.
Peter Baxter, a national representative for CUPE, said this was the asphalt plant's first full paving season and he thinks the Liberals should do a full analysis.
"What we're saying is, let's just take our time to make sure we have all the true costs and all the true figures," he said.
"Then, further discussion can take place with regards to the viability and relevance of the provincial operation."
Baxter believes the government plant forced private contractors to be more competitive. He said the mobile plant did jobs in remote communities — such as Meat Cove — that large contractors didn't bid on.