A Transport Canada contingency plan for connecting P.E.I. to the mainland if the Confederation Bridge is shut down is currently under revision, says the bridge's general manager.
'There's no inventory of bread, no inventory of flour. What if we had to invoke the contingency plan, what would happen in this kind of reality?' - Michel Le Chausseur, Confederation Bridge
The contingency plan was only just released to the public this week, following a Freedom of Information request by CBC News. Transport Canada initially refused to provide the plan.
Bridge general manager Michel Le Chasseur told CBC News it became clear revisions were necessary after the bridge was closed to high-sided vehicles for more than two days because of extreme winds in December 2009.
Le Chasseur said that's all the time it took for grocery store shelves to start to empty. Since Confederation Bridge opened in 1997, Island businesses have moved to a just-in-time delivery system relying on regular shipments of goods from the mainland.
"It makes one think that there's no inventory of bread, no inventory of flour. What if we had to invoke the contingency plan, what would happen in this kind of reality? And I'm just taking about bread here. I didn't talk about fuel," said Le Chausseur.
"It makes you think that there's been a change in the way business is conducted."
Le Chasseur said the contingency plan is being adapted to reflect those changes.
Identifying alternative resources
The plan requires Transport Canada to set up a temporary ferry service if the bridge is out of commission for more than 24 hours by an accident, extreme weather or an act of terrorism. It also calls on increased air service, possibly using aircraft from the Department of National Defence.
The plan, as it stands, does not account for partial bridge closures, such as the one in December 2009.
The government of Canada has a constitutional responsibility to maintain a transportation link between P.E.I. and the mainland. Under the terms of the Bridge Operating Agreement, however, Strait Crossing would be responsible for the costs of contingency operations in most circumstances.
The contingency plan prepares for a bridge closure as long as three years.
The report provides a comprehensive list of resources that could be used in the event of the bridge being shut down, including airlines and flying clubs, ferry services, marine carriers. It also lists ports that could be utilized on the Island and the mainland, with a description of their capabilities.
For mobile device users: View the Confederation Bridge contingency plan here