Trans-Canada reroute frustrates affected residents
Homeowners say they don't have enough information from the province
Residents living near the Trans-Canada Highway in Bonshaw met Thursday night to form a strategy to fight the province's latest plan to reroute the road.
About 70 people crowded into the Bonshaw Community Centre to discuss the province's so-called Plan B to straighten the highway through Bonshaw, New Haven and Riverdale.
Many residents said they're confused and frustrated, and that the provincial government isn't giving them enough information about the project, which was announced in December.
"To have this one come around without any consultation on this particular route and the landowners affected and the environmental degradation that's going to take place, and the farmland and all that, that made us really upset," said Chris Ortenburger, who lives near the proposed route.
Sheldon MacNevin doesn't know is if his property will be affected.
"I got a letter from the deputy minister and it looks as if it's just a nice way of saying we may be moving you out of there. I don't know what's going on."
Residents said they're planning to attend the province's information session March 28. They're hoping it will be a meeting where they can ask questions publicly, and get answers.
Despite residents' concerns, the province has said it is going ahead with the $16-million project.
Opponents have organized a walking tour of the proposed route Sunday.
Plan B was announced in December, after the public rallied against the province's first plan to move the highway through part of Strathgartney Provincial Park. The latest plan puts the highway north, circling around the Churchill Tower.
The province says that Plan B is the result of public input, but many residents said they weren't consulted and they don't approve of the new plan.
The project is estimated to cost $16 million — to be split evenly between the federal government and the province.
Transportation Minister Rob Vessey told the CBC Friday that the estimate does not include the cost of buying up land and homes of 34 landowners in the area. Vessey said he can't yet say how much that will cost.
"That's a hard question to answer right yet because we're still in negotiations on the land and we're working with taxpayers' dollars, we realize it, and we're trying to be as efficient as we possibly can."
The province has set aside $2 million for the land purchase this year, and another $2 million next year. The federal government will not share those costs.
Some property owners have said that they will not sell, but Vessey would not say whether the province is willing to expropriate land.
"We're working right now to work with the land owners and will continue to do so ... I'm not going to speculate on what our next steps will be," he said.
"When you're talking about a $20-million project at times we're supposed to be showing fiscal restraint, I think we have to question whether it's the best time for Islanders to be getting into that kind of money," said Conservative Finance Critic Steven Myers.