Paving the way for Tories


When the Harper Government announced an Infrastructure Stimulus Plan focused on construction-ready projects, Nova Scotia saw a golden opportunity to make headway on a huge problem: its crumbling highway system. The province sought federal approval for 39 paving projects.

But Ottawa approved only 20 of the paving jobs. Since the 19 rejected projects were all but identical to the 20 that received a federal go-ahead, it’s hard to figure out what criteria Ottawa used for its decisions. Until you look at a federal electoral map.

Projects in ridings held by Conservative MPs were almost four times as likely to receive federal approval as those in Liberal-held ridings. Contrarian used the provincial Freedom of Information Act to obtain a list of proposed projects for comparison with those approved. The map above shows the ratio of Harper-approved projects in each Nova Scotia federal riding. (Click here for a larger image.)

Projects proposed for the large Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley riding left vacant by the resignation of independent MP Bill Casey, where a byelection must take place by Fall, fared even better than those in Tory ridings. Seven of eight paving projects proposed for the traditionally Tory seat met with the Harper government’s approval, for a total of $5.2 million in federal funding.

Because they mainly encompass urban areas, the four Metro seats—two Liberal and two NDP—didn’t figure prominently in the calculations. One of two projects submitted for the four ridings, a paving job near Stanfield International Airport in NDP-held Sackville-Eastern Shore, was approved.

In the Central Nova riding held by Minister of National Defense Peter MacKay, Ottawa approved six projects worth $6.1 million, and rejected a single project worth $942,300.

By contrast, Liberal MP Scott Brison‘s Kings-Hants riding received approval for only one of seven proposed projects. It was worth $630,000 in federal aid, while the six rejected projects were worth a total of $4.2 million in federal funding.

In all, the province submitted paving projects worth $71.5 million, of which the feds would pay 45 percent or $32.2 million. (The federal portion of infrastructure stimulus projects is billed at 50 percent, but some costs are not eligible, so the actual federal contribution works out to 45 percent.)

Approved projects total $40.1 million, of which Ottawa will pay $18.1 million. Projects killed by the feds totalled $31.4 million, of which Ottawa would have paid $14.1 million.

The following table summarizes the outcome of the Harper Government’s response to Nova Scotia’s requests for approval of paving projects under the federal Infrastructure Stimulus Plan.


UPDATE: A spokesman for the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal referred questions on the federal approvals process to federal Infrastructure Minister John Baird. A call to Chris Day, press secretary to Baird, was returned by a departmental communications officer, who promised to get back to contrarian shortly.

UPDATE II: It appears that a section of the only project approved in Scott Brison’s riding actually crosses the line into Tory Greg Kerr’s turf. So the tally should read:

  • Kings-Hants: 0.75 of 6.75; 11%.
  • West Nova: 2.25 of 3.25; 69%.