Costs likely higher but bridge plaza tendering close, Hayes saysTuesday, January 15, 2013 by: Darren Taylor
Sault Ste. Marie MP Bryan Hayes told the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce the Conservative government is working to ensure prosperity and growth, both nationally and locally, in the face of a shaky global economy.
Hayes was the keynote speaker at the Chamber’s Business Breakfast Tuesday morning at Algoma’s Water Tower Inn.
“The biggest concern is the economy,” Hayes said, emphasizing that while Canada is strong internally, the country is vulnerable to outside factors.
Hayes said Canada must continue to proceed with the Conservative government’s Economic Action Plan, which he said has created thousands of jobs since 2009 (adding that these were not “job creation” projects for civil servants, but employment in the private sector), that Canada’s banking fundamentals are the most stable in the world, and that Canada has the least amount of red tape that impedes job creation.
“We must keep taxes low, as high taxes only kill jobs,” Hayes said.
Hayes gave an update on the long-awaited Bridge Plaza for Sault Ste. Marie, a project that received $44 million from the Conservative government in September 2009.
Since then, challenges in acquiring necessary property adjacent to the existing Bridge Plaza has delayed development of the project, pushing estimates of needed funding over the $50 million mark.
Hayes said, “All properties have now been acquired, there will be no job losses, and we anticipate this project going to tender in the near future.”
Hayes told SooToday.com, “We anticipate the cost will be over $50 million, but when it goes to tender, we may find it may not be that high and we really won’t know until we get the quotes.
“In the event that there is an increase, then obviously there will be a lobbying effort on my behalf to seek more funds from the federal government. Quite frankly, the stakeholders involved don’t want to see a smaller version of what was agreed to in 2009. So I’ll certainly work hard to ensure that we get top-up funds in the event they become necessary."
Hayes said it is vital to bring about another mega-project for Sault Ste. Marie -- a deep-water port.
Hayes told us the project would cost over $100 million, but said, “We have to ask ourselves what happens if we don’t do this?
“If you look at the current situation, the steel industry is in a bit of a slowdown right now, but when that turns around, and if Essar continues to expand, if they and other stakeholders like Tenaris require greater capacity to do business, then all of a sudden we’ll have a big concern. We have to address this.”
Hayes continued, “A public harbour is probably the best way to refer to it, because it will be a facility that will be available to the private sector around the city that requires its use, it won’t be something that’s dedicated solely to Essar, but obviously it will be public funds being sought to develop it.
“It will be challenging in this time of fiscal restraint to come up with funds like that but I think there is a definite case for it. It will mean job creation and increased production for our community. Our government is about jobs and long-term prosperity. To me an enhanced public port facility in Sault Ste. Marie is all about that.”
A business case for the deep-water port will be presented to City Council February 4.
Hayes said funding for the project would possibly be a public-private partnership, with funds coming from both senior levels of government and the private sector.
Hayes told this morning’s audience that since September 2012, he has been involved with Veterans Affairs issues.
Speaking to SooToday.com afterwards, Hayes told us: “We just finished our study on the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB), which is one of the avenues that veterans may go to if they applied for disability benefits and have been turned down by Veterans Affairs Canada. There have been a lot of complaints from veterans over the appeals process. So we took a good, hard look at that and studied it for four months, we brought in witnesses, and we have come forward with a list of recommendations for improvement to the VRAB for the benefit of our veterans.”
Addressing what has become a controversial issue to some, Hayes spoke about the F35 fighter jet project, aimed at replacing Canada’s aging fleet of F18 fighter jets.
Critics have expressed concern that the cost of maintaining the new F35s would be over $40 billion over the next several years.
The federal government is now re-examining its’ options, including the purchase of an alternative type of jet fighter.
Hayes emphasized, “No F35s have been bought. But, the reality is we have a commitment as a government, as a member of NATO, we must have an air force, and we can’t just disband it. Our F18s are nearing the end of their lifespan so they need to be replaced.
“The reality is it is costing us a billion a year right now to have an air force, and it will continue to cost us that, regardless of what jets we acquire. It’s a dangerous world and we need those jets to protect our sovereignty.”
Going forward, Hayes said he is formulating a Private Member’s Bill aimed at creating a national strategy to combat domestic violence.
“There is a way to address domestic violence, most definitely. Procedurally, we need to have a clearer understanding of what domestic violence programs we have across Canada, which ones are working, which ones aren’t working, and ultimately develop a strategy to put forward a series of programs to address it very early in life.”
Hayes said, “There should be a national curriculum in our education system, since the infrastructure is there already, to deliver the necessary education to individuals at a stage in life where these programs will be meaningful and have the greatest impact on their future.”
The Conservative MP announced Environment Minister Peter Kent will be in Sault Ste. Marie January 22 to take part in an environmental roundtable, followed by a visit from Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney February 15.
Kenney will be keynote speaker at an immigration forum.
On the topic of cabinet ministers, an audience member at this morning’s Chamber breakfast asked Hayes if he sees a day in which he would be named minister responsible for FedNor.
Hayes responded, “A parliamentary secretary position would be nice. Being Minister for FedNor, I am sure I wouldn’t say no to that.”