I miss Jerry Pye.
Oh sure, he and I butted heads a few times over issues related to Burnside, but he was a fierce defender of his constituents and what they needed and he included all the residents of Burnside in that group.
He was also a strong supporter of the need to have the Burnside Expressway completed. In fact, it was over the exact form of funding this particular piece of roadway that he and I usually disagreed. My position was always that the need for the roadway to be built sooner rather than later justified the use of unusual means to finance the project and get it done. In other words: not necessarily a toll road, but a toll road if necessary.
Jerry disagreed. Boy, how he disagreed. In his opinion, it was the role of government to use our tax dollars to finance infrastructure projects like the Expressway. If it was built using toll revenues, he argued, taxpayers would in effect be paying twice for the project.
I guess you could say that, in the end, Mr. Pye won this particular argument. A feasibility study showed the toll rate needed to finance the road would be too high and actually discourage the road’s use. This was eventually followed in 2009 by an announcement the project would be pursued by the provincial government using traditional funding methods.
The funding was secured via a provincial/federal cost sharing agreement that was announced later that same year. Also announced was an expected completion date: 2011.
Now Jerry’s old party, the New Democrats, are in power and they promised to uphold the commitments made by their predecessors. Except in this case. Although the current Minister of Transportation Bill Estabrooks says the Expressway continues to be a priority for his government, he does admit the timeline for completing the project is no longer valid.
“Let me tell you, this would never be the case if Jerry was still there. Mr. Estabrooks would certainly have gotten an earful about the need for this project and the importance of it staying on track.” - Ken Partridge, Editor, The Burnside News
He has told The Burnside News the project will start construction next year, but completion won’t happen until late 2012 or maybe early 2013.
Why the delay? There’s the usual reasons of straightening out the mess left behind by the former government, having to get the province’s finances back in shape and the ongoing negotiations needed to acquire all the land needed to build the project. There’s also the fact the project no longer has a fierce champion sitting in the House.
When questioned by Liberal MLA Andrew Younger in the House about why the project has gone off schedule, Estabrooks at one point replied no one had lobbied him for the project so he wasn’t too concerned about it.
Let me tell you, this would never be the case if Jerry were still there. Mr. Estabrooks would certainly have gotten an earful about the need for this project and the importance of it staying on track.
Unfortunately, Mr. Pye is enjoying retirement from politics and his successor is no longer in a position to really help the Park. Trevor Zinck has been removed from the NDP caucus and sits alone in the House, probably happy to be out of the media spotlight that focused on him after revelations about his personal finances. Probably the last thing he wants to do is attract attention back to himself by calling out one of his former colleagues over a missed deadline.
And that’s why I miss Jerry Pye. He certainly would have tugged on Estabrooks’ ear and said, “Look here sonny, you need to get this project back on track,” or something to that effect. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn there were some recent calls from a certain North Dartmouth number on the minister’s call logs.