New Brunswick

Maritimes emergency radio system scrapped

The three Maritime provincial governments have scrapped plans for a shared radio system for emergency responders.

The three Maritime provincial governments have scrapped plans for a shared radio system for emergency responders.

When officials announced the plan more than two years ago, they said it was vital that emergency services be able to communicate with each other.

But New Brunswick’s chief information officer now says the estimated cost of several hundred million dollars is one reason the system will not proceed to tender.

"Cost is always important," said Christian Couturier. "It is one of several factors we have to take into consideration. But it is one factor."

The system was to be the first of its kind in Canada.

"It gets weighed against the rest. So when we did all of our assessments, cost was certainly part of the decision."

Emergency services in the three provinces will still be able to communicate with each other through improved technology, said Couturier.

"At the end of the day, it's not about the technology, it's about what we do with the technology, and can we still serve the public? Can we ensure we protect it and serve it in other ways? Yes we can," he said.

Hundreds of emergency workers — police, fire, medical, as well as search and rescue organizations — would have been able to use the integrated communications system.

The federal government had promised $50 million to support the new system through its Crown corporation set up to promote public-private partnership.

"We are disappointed with the provinces' decision not to pursue the Maritime Radio Communications Initiative," spokeswoman Lisa Mitchell stated in an email.

"It is our understanding that the decision to not pursue the project was related to fiscal constraints."

The New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. governments, as well as a private partner, were to cover the remaining cost, which was estimated in 2010 to be another $50 million.

"The project was a strong and innovative P3 project that could have further developed the Canadian P3 market," said Mitchell.

"We continue to work closely with the provinces, but respect their decision on this project."

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