Mike Duffy lends support to Maritime Union debate

P.E.I. Senator Mike Duffy says he supports the idea of Maritime Union to help the region emerge out of its financial problems.

P.E.I. senator says region faces significant financial challenges

Sen. Mike Duffy is the latest person to suggest Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter, left, P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz, centre, and New Brunswick Premier David Alward, right, should consider a formal political union. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)

Sen. Mike Duffy is adding his voice to calls for Maritime Union to help kickstart the regional economy.

The Conservative senator said the governments of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island face serious financial challenges and the concept of Maritime Union could help the three regions survive.

"Can our region carry on this way with more and more retirees coming home to live out their retirement years, a dwindling tax base, and huge expenses going up because of medicare?" Duffy said.

"We’ve got senior citizens retiring to this region because it is heaven on earth but medicare will be hell on earth if we don’t have the revenue to pay for it."

Duffy said the provinces should put aside their provincial pride and embrace Maritime Union. (CBC)

Donald Savoie, the Canada research chair in public administration at the University of Moncton, raised the idea of Maritime Union a week ago.

Savoie, who is a long-time proponent, said he would like to see a formal union between the three Maritime provinces. The Maritime provinces have worked in the past on reducing bureaucratic barriers in the region.

Duffy said citizens need to tell their politicians that it is time to move forward and forge these stronger ties. And then he said he’d like Savoie to conduct a study to better define how Maritime Union could be designed.

But the P.E.I. senator said the region could reap significant savings just by bulk buying goods.

The senator said he understands the idea will be controversial at first.

"There are many things that we can do if we put our provincial pride aside a little bit and say what is in the best interests of our people," he said.

Duffy pointed out that P.E.I., specifically, has been resistant to new ideas in the past.

"P.E.I. was against motor cars. There were big, practically burn-the-house-down debate over the [Confederation] Bridge," he said

Donald Savoie said the three Maritime provinces would be better off if they pursued a formal political union. (University of Moncton)

"But when motor cars came in about 1906 or 1910, P.E.I. said, ‘Yeah we’ll have it but you have to have a guy if you go into rural P.E.I. you have to have somebody walk in front of the car with a big red flag warning the farmers so they can calm down the cows who will be totally upset when they hear the ‘put put put’ of the Model T going by."

Each of the Maritime provinces is facing its own financial and economic pressures.

New Brunswick’s unemployment was 11.6 per cent in October, which is the highest rate since May 2003.

Finance Minister Blaine Higgs recently said the province’s projected deficit nearly doubled to $356-million in 2012-13.

Nova Scotia’s unemployment rate grew to 9.2 per cent in October and has a projected deficit of $211 million.

Meanwhile, Prince Edward Island’s jobless rate is 11.7 per cent and its projected deficit is $74.9 million.