PORT HOOD: Recent closures of the Canso Causeway have Inverness Municipal Council mulling over what can be done to make bad situations more tolerable.

Councillor John Dowling brought up the matter during the petitions and resolutions section of the municipality’s most recent meeting. Port Hastings is part of the area Dowling covers as a councillor.

John Dowling

Recently, a tragic traffic collision took place on the Causeway, requiring all traffic into and out of Cape Breton to be deadlocked for six hours. That incident happened on April 1, but Dowling noted it’s not uncommon to have the Causeway closed due to emergencies and weather events.

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Limiting emergencies and bad weather might be beyond council’s scope, but the ways such things are handled could potentially be improved, he said.

“It was brought to my attention that any time there’s road closures, the fire departments and RCMP are not being notified,” Dowling said.

“I spoke with the staff sergeant in Port Hawkesbury, and he said he finds out about such things through social media or by a member coming across a closure. Should we not have communication from our provincial counterparts to say this is happening?”

The April 1 incident was a case of the RCMP themselves closing the road, but Dowling explained some situations have provincial departments like the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (DTIR) stopping traffic. In those situations, he said, he understands emergency responders aren’t informed.

Dowling mentioned that compounding matters is the location of the Port Hastings Fire Hall, which is located so close to the Causeway that any significantly backed-up traffic can interfere with the fire department’s ability to get trucks on the road.

“We need to make it clear to the premier and the minister of transportation that the lack of communication to the county and emergency services is something we’re done with.

“The causeway was shut down for six hours, but what happens if it was shut down for six days? We’d be in trouble,” he said, noting that he feels it’s time to review the county’s emergency plan.

“It’s not a matter of what’s going to happen, it’s a matter of when something happens to put us in a situation that we’re not prepared for.”

Brenda Chisholm-Beaton

Attending the council session was Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton, who was in the area to take part in the draft declaration of ‘Raising the Villages.’

The mayor offered her thoughts from the gallery. She mentioned that Port Hawkesbury Town Council has a working committee looking to revise the town’s emergency measures plan. Eventually, the new plan will be looked at by council.

“Part of that process is to reach out regionally,” she said. “The plan is only going to work as well as the protocols created, so we have to learn the dance-steps together to figure out what we do when the causeway closes.

“Inverness County owns the infrastructure, but we all own the problem.”

With Chisholm-Beaton and the members of Inverness Council affirming to work together, the meeting ended with council moving to contact Premier Stephen McNeil and DTIR minister Geoff McClellan.

Council will request a communication plan be developed that requires emergency responders be informed whenever roads are closed.