Antigonish Liberal candidate Randy Delorey, left, and party leader Iain Rankin visited the RK MacDonald Nursing Home on July 21, they are seen with executive administration assistant Cathy Brouwer.

ANTIGONISH: On a campaign stop in Antigonish on July 21, Premier Iain Rankin said an elected Liberal government will continue twinning efforts along Highway 104, creating a safer highway from Antigonish to Port Hawkesbury.

“This is important work, and is major infrastructure to Nova Scotia; it’s about connecting communities within our province,” Rankin told reporters. “It’s about safety for Nova Scotia drivers, tourists, and other motorists. It’s about insuring our inter-provincial trade corridors are open and efficient.”

He advised Canada’s goods and products travel along Highway 104 from Cape Breton to New Foundland and Labrador, and it’s a key piece of infrastructure; one that needs to be kept safe and well maintained.

“Good middle class construction jobs will be created as a result of the continuation of twinning,” Rankin said. “We’re building a ribbon of highway that’s bringing commerce and talent and so many possibilities to Nova Scotian cities, towns and villages.”

Rankin suggested the cost of the two projects, which also includes twinning Highway 103 from Hubbards to Bridgewater, would cost approximately $475 million, and the province would request assistance from the federal government’s national trade corridors fund to pay half.

Rankin made the announcement with former Minister of Transportation and Active Transit Lloyd Hines, who is the Guysborough-Tracadie candidate, as well as Joe MacDonald, the candidate for Pictou East.

“Since 2018 we’ve worked with the federal government and invested $800 million into our 100-series highways,” Hines said. “It’s a lot of money, and it’s a big investment in our highway system in our province.”

He advised sections of Highways 101, 103, 104, and 107 were part of this investment and are all currently in construction, on time and on budget.

Travelling times have been cut, while more trucks filled with products from Nova Scotian businesses are being shipped across the province and beyond, the Premier asserted.

“That’s what our party-positive plan for economic recovery and growth is all about,” Hines said. “With this team, and leader Iain Rankin, we will continue to deliver for all Nova Scotians.”

MacDonald, who is the Barney’s River fire chief, and was a tireless advocate in getting the highway twinned from Sutherland River to Antigonish, recognized firsthand the importance of twinning highways.

“To our leader Iain, thank you for your commitment to making our roads safer,” MacDonald said. “Because I know one life lost is too many.”

He said after serving his community for 24 years as fire chief, he knows how much this announcement means to the local communities, as too many people have lost their lives on this highway.

“It’s been a humbling experience to give back to the place I’ve known my whole life, I love the community, I love the people who make us who we are,” MacDonald said. “As a first responder, the job is a privilege but it carries a heavy burden. I’ve said it too many times before, but I’ll say it again, I wish my mind could forget what my eyes have seen.”

While he said this announcement won’t bring anybody’s loved one’s back, it can be a step forward to ensure fewer families will have to deal with the pain so many have felt before.

Calling it “old-style politics” a release from the Progressive Conservative Party claimed the announcemnt was about saving seats, not twinning highways.

Antigonish PC candidate Michelle Thompson and Guysborough-Tracadie PC Candidate Greg Morrow say the big-ticket promise from Rankin is a clear sign he’s worried that voters want change from Liberal cabinet ministers Randy Delorey and Hines.

“After eight years of broken Liberal promises, including a doctor for every Nova Scotian, and a worsening crisis in health care, the Rankin Liberals will say anything in hopes that voters will forget the Liberal record,” Thompson, a registered nurse and long term care facility CEO said in a release. “Voters are a lot smarter than Iain Rankin gives them credit for.”

In a phone interview with The Reporter, PC leader Tim Houston said he’s been very clear with Nova Scotians that this province was going to have deficits for the first few years, because they have to invest in people.

“I have no interest in moving this province backwards. I’m only interested in moving the province forward,” Houston said. “To the extent that there’s federal funding there, of course we support that project.”

Two days later on July 23 in Iona, Rankin additionally committed $5 million over two years to extend the Tourism Digital Assistance Program.

The program received $2.5 million in June, and this additional funding will ensure local tourism businesses have the resources to increase their online presence to attract more customers and adopt digital technologies to improve efficiency and visitor experiences, according to a Liberal press release.

“We live in the most beautiful place in the world,” Rankin said in the release. “We invested $18.2 million to jumpstart our tourism sector this year, including eliminating admission fees for Nova Scotia’s 28 museums for July and August.”

Fees for all provincially run ferry services have also been permanently eliminated, allowing for Nova Scotians to keep more money in their pockets to spend locally, the Liberals said, noting that two of the provincial ferries – Englishtown and Little Narrows – are in the constituency being contested by Liberal candidate for Victoria–The Lakes, Nadine Bernard.

“Permanently eliminating the ferry fees speaks to the Rankin government’s efforts to make this province more affordable,” Bernard added. “It also helps to make our provincial attractions even more accessible.”