Nova Scotia

Highway 104 twinning petition rejected over wording, fire chief says

A fire chief in Pictou County says the House of Assembly won't accept a petition, signed by more than 6,500 people, that calls for the twinning of a deadly section of Highway 104.

'I guess the next time we'll have to get a lawyer to draw it up first'

In May, a 35-year-old woman was killed when another vehicle crossed the centre line and caused a three-car crash. (Joe MacDonald)
  The fire chief in Pictou County spearheading efforts to push the Nova Scotia government to twin Highway 104 says he got a double dose of bad news from the province on Tuesday.

  Joe MacDonald, the chief of Barneys River Volunteer Fire Department, said the House of Assembly won't accept a petition that calls on Premier Stephen McNeil to twin the highway between Sutherlands River and Antigonish.

  The petition has 6,500 names on it. But MacDonald has been told it wasn't worded properly.   

"I feel disturbed, and that's not just about me but all the other people who worked so hard about getting names signed and it's disappointing," said MacDonald.

"If you're going to nitpick about a word or two here and there then I guess the next time we'll have to get a lawyer to draw it up first."

Rejection

A petition is a document presented to the House of Assembly by an MLA on behalf of constituents, even if the MLA disagrees with it. It requests action by the House or government.

MacDonald said his group tried to submit the petition through MLA Randy Delorey. He said he got a call from Delorey's office and was told the Speaker of the House had rejected it. He said Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan confirmed the same.

MacDonald said his understanding of the problem is that the petition was addressed to the premier, and not the House of Assembly, as required by the rules.

Speaker Kevin Murphy said Wednesday he had not seen the petition, but his staff may have. He said there are rules surrounding petitions that have been in place for several decades, and every year many are submitted.

Murphy urged community groups to contact his office before gathering signatures to make sure the wording is correct. He added, however, that if the Highway 104 petition is rejected by the House of Assembly, it could be submitted directly to the government by calling up the premier's office and organizing a time to drop it off.

"All is not lost," Murphy said.

Deadly section

Barneys River Fire Chief Joe MacDonald says the province will not accept a petition to twin Highway 104. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

MacDonald's crews have been called to many fatal accidents on a deadly section of the 104 where 15 people have died in the last seven years.

The Transportation Department has said it could cost between $240 million and $250 million to twin the 37-kilometre stretch of highway.

Tammy MacLaren also organized an online petition with more than 8,000 people urging the government to twin the highway.

  "Between the two there are more than 14,000 Nova Scotians all saying the same thing, that they want this highway twinned," said MacLaren. "So when our government says they are listening, well they're not listening to these 14,000 people."

Consultations delayed

  MacDonald also found out Tuesday the province is delaying the consultation process with the public to talk about eight potential highway twinning projects.

  That process was expected to take place in late summer or early fall but has now been pushed back to early 2017.

  "It was just the magnitude of the data and information we pulled in from Phase 1 of our feasibility study really determined the timeline," said Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan, who added he also had sympathy for the petition organizers.

  "We need to have all that information clear and concise and accurate for people when we go into their communities."

  That delay isn't sitting well with MacDonald.

  "We got slapped pretty good yesterday."

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