STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
Mr. Russell MacKinnon
My name is Russell MacKinnon, I am the Chairman and MLA for Cape Breton West. To introduce Mr. Bellefontaine to members of the committee, if the members would like to introduce themselves, we will go along.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Also with us is Mr. Roy Salmon, our Auditor General for the province.
The way we usually proceed, Mr. Bellefontaine - I guess you are not new to the provincial committees, having appeared before the Economic Development Committee back in 1998 - is we generally start, in this committee, with a 5 or 10 minute opening statement, perhaps 15 if it is extended, and then we open up the floor to questioning. The floor is yours.
MR. DAVID BELLEFONTAINE: I am certainly pleased to be here. Merv will be along, I am sure. He knows we are starting at 8:00 a.m. What I would like to do is read a prepared statement, which will take five or six minutes actually, and then from that I could answer questions from you. I believe some of you, if not all of you, have had a tour of the port in the last week or so. Hopefully, it will give you an idea of what we are dealing with and how the port is managed.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, on behalf of the Halifax Port Authority, we welcome the opportunity to speak to you about the Port of Halifax. The port has been a vibrant economic engine for the Province of Nova Scotia for many years. You can go back in time, over 200 years, when North-South trade flourished through this port. On March 1, 1999, the Halifax Port Authority, which is the successor to the Halifax Port Corporation, was established by the Government of Canada, under the Canada Marine Act. This new authority was granted significant power to manage the public port facilities in Halifax Harbour. As a commercial organization, the authority has been mandated to operate with a financial discipline to ensure that its viability is not only protected but assured for the future.
The board of directors of the new authority has adopted a new vision for the port which reads, "To be a leading, viable North American Gateway Port." Our new mission statement reads, in part, "The Halifax Port Authority will lead in the development of the Port of Halifax, thereby serving as a catalyst for the local, regional and national economies." And what a catalyst we are. The port is responsible for over 8,000 jobs, with an economic income impact of $545 million, all within Nova Scotia. These jobs range from senior executives to skilled labourers, and include longshoremen, cargo checkers, security and police, pilots, tug crews, office personnel, cargo agents, shipping line representatives, railway workers, truckers, shippers, manufacturing plant workers, and the list goes on and on.
You could consider the port as the core of "a multi-modal, seamless, integrated, worldwide cargo conveyance system". That may need some description later, and I can brief you on that. As a major player in this logistics chain, the port is linked to several transportation partners, including the railroads, motor carriers, truckers, freight-forwarders and brokers, customs agencies, warehousing operators, pilots and tug companies, shipping agents, carriers, which are the lines themselves, stevedoring contractors, such as Ceres and Halterm, and longshore labour, government departments and other regulatory bodies. This chain of cargo transportation partners must work together as one single unit in order to supply the customer with a cost-effective efficient transportation service.
This year, the Halifax Port Authority will announce its second consecutive record year for volume of containerized cargo handled. We expect to record over 540,000 TEUs or 20 foot equivalent container units. This will represent an increase of almost 20 per cent over last year's volume. As well, the cruise business will also show a record performance, with 94 vessel calls and over 130,000 passengers for this year, representing a 20 per cent increase over the previous year. It is estimated that cruise passengers spent about $11 million in the area during the past season. For our part, the Halifax Port Authority has invested significant dollars into an upgraded cruise pavilion at Pier 21 and the surrounding area to accommodate and promote this business.
We are in the latter part of our $46 million capital upgrading program at the port, and our plans call for continued and increased investment in the port facilities over the next several years. Trends in the industry show an increasing, escalating pattern towards larger container ships, these are referred to as post-Panamax vessels. Already these ships are filling the order books at shipyards for use in global trade. Vessels calling at Halifax today range from 3,000 to 5,000 TEU in size. Post-Panamax vessels generally start at over 6,000 TEUs. There are plans to introduce 10,000 TEU ships in the future, assuming that the economics are right and world trade continues to grow as forecasted.
The Port of Halifax is in an enviable position to attract these giant ships. Our water is deep enough, we are known worldwide as a stable, productive port, we are cost effective, and our location as the first port inbound from Europe to North America and last port outbound is a definite advantage for carriers and shippers alike. We foresee our future as a major nodal point for goods destined for North America. Of course there are impediments to be aware of. For example, New York-New Jersey is dredging its channels to 45 feet, and the word on the street is that potentially by 2009, they will have this depth, if not deeper, in order to retain its customers who are deploying larger vessels. The competition will, therefore, intensify.
CN must continue to be a cost-competitive, first-class inland carrier to the major markets of central Canada, the U.S. midwest, and central U.S. I cannot stress enough the importance of this factor. Over 70 per cent of cargo passing through the port is carried by CN. The Port Authority must be able to generate sufficient cash flows to support its future capital infrastructure program. This constant challenge will not ease in the future. Major investments will be required to accommodate cargo growth for customers who place greater demands on all port partners.
Port labour and employers must continue to work together to enhance the workforce through continuous, accelerated training and upgrading of skills. I think there is an article in today's paper on that issue. We need this to assure customers of the guaranteed productivity levels, which are becoming the industry norm. Terminal operators must invest in modern, efficient cargo-handling equipment in order to be able to service the industry and remain highly productive. All of us have a role to play to move the port into the major leagues.
The board of directors of the Halifax Port Authority are in the midst of a strategic planning exercise, which will result in long-term plans for port development over the next 10 to 20 years. Work has been advanced on specific development options in order for us to be ready when business warrants the new investment. We intend to work with our port partners, the province and other stakeholders of the port to seek support and cooperation as we move the port into its next phase of development as a gateway to North America. We appreciate the support from the Province of Nova Scotia, and we look forward to your continued cooperation in the years ahead. That completes my prepared remarks.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Bellefontaine. We will start off questioning in 20 minute rounds. I believe the last time we started with the NDP - no? My understanding is we started with Mr. Holm at the last meeting, so this time we will start with the Liberal caucus unless there is mutual consent.
The honourable member for Dartmouth East.
DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Chairman, I got carried away there and I mentioned to the NDP that I thought it was their first day so I contributed to that confusion. I will not make that kind of mistake again today. (Laughter) I just want to thank David - if I can call you David - because you have had a lot to do with this port for a long period of time.
From our point of view this morning, our caucus has discussed things we may want to learn from you. You raised a couple of things in your report this morning but from our point of view, we would be interested in what the needs of the port are which can be addressed at the provincial level here, and how you see the role of the provincial government facilitating the functions and challenges the Port Authority is facing. Maybe we could just start with that, if you had a bit of a wish list and all the challenges that are facing you.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: If you go back to the development of the Fairview Cove Container Terminal, back to 1979-80, the province was instrumental at that time in actually kick-starting that project. I believe the figure was $6.5 million that the province invested to start the project and that certainly spurred the federal government on to come forward and finance the remainder of that project. So the province has been there in the past, we have done numerous studies with the province to look at economic impacts and so on of the port and the variety of challenges facing us.
I think for the future what we are looking for is certainly continued cooperation. The province, I believe, has a role to play in facilitating or assisting us in future development of the port. I know there is a container task force that has been formed by the province and we are a member of that. There are discussions ongoing with respect to the future vision of the port, vis-à-vis the port development options that we are looking at. If funding is available to assist in this regard, I think that certainly is a key factor.
One of the problems that ports are facing on the East Coast, as well as the West Coast, is the competition from U.S. ports. United States' ports predominantly have an advantage in terms of financing capital projects. There are many states that supply funding to their ports. There are very few, if any, federal ports in the U.S.; like in Canada, they are either state controlled or owned or municipally controlled or owned. For example, in Virginia, the Port Authority of Virginia receives U.S. $35 million every year from the state just for capital projects. As I understand it, there is no assignment of where that money has to go, it is a grant. That is like Canadian $50 million or $55 million and actually it was reduced and they are very upset because it used to be U.S. $50 million, now it is $35 million.
Other ports receive similar amounts of money. Jacksonville, I know has received significant money, tens of millions of dollars from the State of Florida for capital upgrading and capital investment. If you go to the West Coast, the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma - this is a little bit off the subject but I am just talking about the competitive situation - those two ports can actually tax the residents within the confines of the port area, so they are a property taxing authority and Seattle, I believe, receives about U.S. $40 million a year from that, which they use for capital upgrades.
In Canada right now, we don't have access to funds like that. We have to secure funding ourselves through either working capital from the customers or we need partners, like the province, to assist us in getting these projects off the rails. So that is one big area where I think the province can assist us and that is in working with us, facilitating perhaps different stakeholder groups to get together, helping us in that regard and again, supporting the development of primarily a new, third terminal in the port in the future.
DR. SMITH: Just a couple of other areas, the whole development of the airport and the harbour as one large authority, what stage do you see us at, at this juncture? Also, if you have some comments on the development of Shearwater. We hear there is a need for the preservation of an airport there for cargo access to the harbour, that seems to be a bit of an issue, the rails and also the arrangements with NATO relative to preserving some of the harbour. So how do you see the short-term and long-term goals of having one authority governing transportation; air, land and water?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: This is my personal view, not a corporate view, I think in the next year it will not happen. As far as I know there had been some discussion four or five years ago about forming a sort of transportation body to oversee the airport, the seaport and maybe the bridges, the ferries and the whole thing, but in the last few years I haven't been involved in any discussion with respect to that. I don't think that is on the table for the next year, at least, but in the long term I am not sure.
There are some benefits to that and an example is in the Port of New York-New Jersey. The Port Authority, as it is called, controls the airports, the tunnels, the World Trade Centre and the marine. When you look at access to funding in putting up billions of dollars in assets, they have much more leverage to secure funding for capital projects because of their size. In Canada we do not have that. There is an airport and seaport authority in Jacksonville which I believe is going the opposite way. I don't believe this has been publicly announced, but I hear that they are going to separate the airport from the seaport. So there are different views on the merits of that; is one big conglomerate advantageous? It has its advantages from a financing point of view and clout, if you can use that term, but from a management point of view you have to be careful that you do not lose focus with what you are trying to do.
At least in the Port of Halifax, we have a board of directors, we are focused on running the Port Authority, we are not off on tangents deviating with tunnels, bridges and so on. It is the same with the airport authority, their focus is on managing the airport. So it is a give and take, but I haven't heard of any discussion recently with respect to combining those two.
With respect to Shearwater, we looked at it from the point of view of purchasing those two parcels of land that are up for sale by Public Works and they actually are basically at the far end of the runways, a portion of the runways are available for sale. We have decided that they have very little, if any, use to a port authority if we wish to stick to our role, which is managing the port. If we want to get into condo development, residential development, fine, they have merit. We decided not to do that, we are going to stick to the Port Authority mandate.
What we have done is said to Canada Lands, Public Works and to the HRM and the province, as well - we had several meetings on this - is that we do not wish to exercise our so-called priority right because as a federal agent we have a priority right over federal lands that we can purchase. We decided not to exercise that and allow the municipality or through Canada Lands to acquire the land and develop it as they see fit, but we have put a reserve on 100 acres of that land just in case we need back-up land, for example, for cargo storage or dredge.
In terms of the long term, if the marine side of Shearwater ever became available for sale, our position is that we would make a move to acquire that property because it does have potential as a major seaport facility, but only at the water's edge. The back of a runway, which is 1.5 miles away has very little value to us.
[8:24 a.m. Dr. David Morse took the Chair.]
DR. SMITH: I was trying to remember the commitments that this current provincial government made on Shearwater and it just leaves me now so I will just pass over that but I think there was some commitment. I think the previous government had run into the same thing as you did, that the land available was not the prime land that would be of use to anyone needing access to the port.
In your presentation, Mr. Bellefontaine, you had mentioned the CN must continue to be competitive and over 70 per cent of the cargo passing through the port is carried by CN. I know over the years this has been - most of my information has come from the media I suppose and that sort of thing and the way you said that I thought maybe that had some implications either good, bad or indifferent. Do you want to comment further on that paragraph on Page 6 of your presentation?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Well, as you know, Halifax has one railway access and that is CN and when you look at the costs of the handling of a container, for example, once it reaches Halifax, between 65 per cent and 82 per cent of that cost - because we have a variety of sizes of containers and destinations - is railway cost. Very critical to the future of this port. In addition, over 70 per cent of the cargo that comes through the port, either inbound or export, is handled by the railway. The railway now, as you know, handles cargo right to the midwest and points beyond. So, what I was saying is that without the railway being cost competitive and efficient and improving its service in the future, we could be destined to become a regional port.
We have to access the inland efficiently and with the right costs in order to grow. CN has done a lot in the past few years to do that, since they have become privatized especially. I understand from the shipping lines and shippers that their costs are more competitive, their service has improved and they have invested actually tens of millions of dollars, probably hundreds of millions of dollars to secure the system which benefits us, such as the tunnel through the midwest, such as the Harvey terminal in Illinois that helps us with respect to bringing containers, putting them in that site for redistribution.
With respect to the Kansas City marketing agreement and the Illinois Central purchase, all of these things help Halifax become more attractive for goods destined inland. So they are doing a lot - they definitely are our largest, most important, critical partner and what I was saying here was that has to continue in order for the port to grow in the future.
DR. SMITH: Just for my information and maybe some committee members', the CN has a stake in the particular site and what percentage of that is it? Or the ownership and where is the investment of CN beyond their own stock?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: As I understand it, the ownership previously was in Halterm. They were a 50/50 owner with Newfoundland Capital and in 1997, under a trust arrangement, units were sold. CN and Newfoundland Capital sold their equity in Halterm to the public through units - shares, I guess you could say - and as I understand it, CN has no ownership now of that terminal in Halifax. Nor do they own any part of the Ceres Terminal. So they are totally independent in terms of ownership of those terminals.
They are co-managers of Halterm at the present time under that trust arrangement with, I believe, Clarke Transportation, so they do co-manage Halterm, but I believe there is no equity.
DR. SMITH: So, as far as you know, there would be no problem with CN, any resistance to development and perhaps they may encourage a third site, is that your understanding?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Yes, in discussions with them, they did encourage development of a third site. When you look at the Rockingham site, which is the so-called preferred site, the main line from CN comes right along that shoreline and it is just a short rail spur that would go into a new terminal. It is ideal from the point of view of rail for a large terminal. So, they, as I understand it, support the development of that terminal.
DR. SMITH: Thank you. My last question would be relative to labour and you have referred to that in your presentation as well. What is the status there? I think during our tour someone had mentioned something to that - that the American ports were in a position that some of them were getting long-term agreements and we are not into that situation yet at this time and how do you see that? Can you inform the committee on those matters - a status update if you will.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Yes, indeed. Well, the labour in this port is known worldwide. It has a good reputation. We have our hiccups, like any other port and 99 per cent of the time they are kept internally and they are resolved by the employers and the employees. But we are known as a stable, reputable port worldwide.
With respect to the internal situation on labour, what had happened was, there were a couple of factors that created that. First of all, I guess success is great. A 20 per cent increase in cargo this year - no one expected that. We expected double digit - 10 per cent, maybe 12 per cent because of the economy, it was doing well. The midwest traffic was moving very well last year and again this year. But no one really foresaw 20 per cent increase in cargo volume. That creates a lot of pressure on the utilization of cranes and equipment at the terminals. So that was one factor creating the so-called shortfall.
Secondly, I think the employers and labour fell behind in training. I think what happened, a few years ago they enhanced their employment, they hired a number of people. There was some trouble caused over that by virtue of challenges and grievances and so on, so I think after that happened, things were left on the back burner for awhile and as a result, I think they got behind in the skills training and the hiring of new workers. So I think that has caused some problems and they are now in the midst of catching up and that should be resolved over the next few months.
DR. SMITH: Did that show up in safety? You mentioned being behind in training - I know from my days of seeing patients from there, it is a place where some very serious injuries can happen. Is that an issue? Or do you think performance is as well as can be expected under the circumstances?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: I think it is. On the safety front, you would have to talk to the Halifax Employers Association - the actual employer of labour. I don't get those reports, I am not involved in that, but what happens if there is a shortage of labour, a crane unit as we call it, a gantry crane would not work. It would shut down which means it affects productivity of the terminal in terms of number of lifts per hour, so that could be affected. As far as safety, you would have to talk to HEA about that.
DR. SMITH: How many unions are you dealing with? Or will the Halifax Employers Association be dealing with?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: There are four ILA unions in the port - the largest by far is the Longshoremen's Association, I think there is in excess of 300 members of that. Then there is the checkers' group, there is in excess of 100 in that group. The third is what they call gearmen, who are the mechanics, who basically repair all of the equipment at the two terminals and around the port and the fourth union is the watchmens' group and I think there are two, maybe three people left in that union - a very, very small group. The largest by far and the most critical in terms of skills and upgrading and so on is the Longshoremen's Association.
DR. SMITH: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Cape Breton West. You have three minutes.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Bellefontaine, my understanding is that in the New York area, the entire New England States situation, they are essentially bottle-necked and they are at maximum growth potential because of land mass problems. There is a growing, competing force for Nova Scotia and in particular, Halifax. Between that particular entity and the free trade route coming up from Mexico up through the central U.S. up into Montreal, Quebec City and then down through New Brunswick and to Halifax and that is the free trade corridor, that is the preferred option for long-term development over the next 50 years or so. That seems to be supported by all three federal governments - Mexico, United States and Canada.
How do you see Halifax fitting into this process? I guess the question I would have is, is Halifax being cautious in not locking itself into any contractual arrangements with the northeastern U.S., i.e. through the New York terminal, the New England States that would prevent it from the exponential growth that is expected for Halifax through the free trade corridor? You may or may not be aware of the study that was done by, I believe, the State of Connecticut, a fairly in-depth study. There is a tremendous potential here, post-Panamax, for Nova Scotia and in particular Halifax, regardless of what New York does. I want your thoughts on that.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: I will comment first on the free trade corridor. When you look at free trade going inland, from Halifax to, let's say, Montreal, through the U.S. and down to Mexico, that is a very long haul, and it would definitely be by rail. I mentioned earlier rail is the major factor, which makes us competitive or not competitive. On the inland side, we are experiencing a large growth factor now from Halifax to Chicago and points west, and a few down south. We even did studies, we worked with CN, looking at Memphis, for example, as a major distribution point. That is feasible. Once you go beyond there, the economics kick in and you have to ask yourself, can we reach those markets at a cost-competitive level? It is very difficult. I am not saying it can't be done, but we are doing work on that.
The more important side of it is your latter comment, with respect to post-Panamax. Absolutely, Halifax, as I said earlier, is in an enviable position for these ships in the future. When you look at the map, and you see ships coming through the Suez from Asia, southeast Asia primarily, or you look at ships coming from Europe, Halifax is the closest port on the the East Coast. What we have to have is infrastructure, the right labour stability - which I think we have - the deep water and the right financing packages to make it attractive for these ships to come here.
When you look at the volume of business this year, we are up 20 per cent, I mentioned that earlier, New York is up 7 per cent, Montreal is up 6 per cent. That indicates something to me, that indicates that we are getting a market share from those ports, because we all serve similar markets, Montreal, primarily, northern Europe and western Europe.
In terms of post-Panamax, from Mexico, there is potential there, but I think what you are going to see, in my opinion, is two or three major hub ports on the East Coast of North America. One is in Panama right now, and one should be Halifax - that is our plan, to make Halifax the so-called northern hub - and there will be another, whether it is New York or Baltimore or Philadelphia or Charleston, it will be one of those ports, at least. I think you will see a concentration of cargo changing from the many ports which ships call at now, with smaller ships, to fewer ports with larger ships.
As the ships get larger, it doesn't make sense to call 8 to 10 ports on your itinerary, it makes sense to call three, maybe four down the coast and then leave. Even one, theoretically, would be ideal. If you were a shipping line, would you want to put all of your traffic in one port, and if that port was on strike or had a major problem, you would be held captive. I don't think that is going to happen. I think you are going to see fewer ports, larger ships, and Halifax will be in the swing of that. I think we will have a piece of that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The answer took us a little bit over time, but had some very interesting information.
The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.
[8:39 a.m. Mr. Russell MacKinnon resumed the Chair.]
MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Bellefontaine, as you know, this is a matter of some considerable interest to me. It has been for many years, but specifically after I got elected in 1998, and was a member of the trio who traipsed off to Ottawa to try to convince the government that the funding for the super-port ought to be supported federally and the need for the investment in the port in significant terms. You know all of that.
I wanted to start by picking up where my colleague left off. My recollection - and correct me if I am wrong - of the discussions that took place at that time, and certainly in my head I can hear the echoes of you saying, well, it is not enough to simply say the bidding for the super-port is over, because from Halifax's perspective not becoming a super-port is not an option. What that means, really, is you are going to, in fact, lose market share, and you are going to become less significant unless you are prepared to handle the post-Panamax vessels. I think that is the widely-held consensus, is it not?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Yes.
MR. DEXTER: There is no question that that means a significant investment on behalf of the authority but also on behalf of government. I heard Mr. MacKinnon refer to New Jersey and the bottleneck that exists in land transportation. My understanding is that the State of New Jersey has committed something in the order of $7 billion to try to clear up some of those problems, to refurbish the rail links going in, essentially a massive investment to try to reposition its port, if that isn't a contradicting visual.
Here we are, we are in a position where if a piece of container traffic sets down in Halifax, I remember you telling us that you could have that container in the Midwest 24 hours before it was landed in New York. That was an important competitive advantage. The corridor into the Midwest is something of significance. I also remember that one of the problems was that the rail links, especially to the Eastern Seaboard were very problematic for you, and that continues to be the case.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: If I may answer that, just to correct the issue about our traffic being in Chicago. I think what I said was the traffic can be in Toronto by the time the ship arrives in New York, and then it is another 24 hours to Chicago. You are right, we can certainly beat them if they call Halifax first inbound. In terms of the post-Panamax ships, you will find that Halifax is definitely planning a post-Panamax terminal. There is no doubt about it, it is a matter of timing. It is a matter of whether it will be three years, four years or five years, we don't know, and there is interest there.
When you look at the Maersk Sealand proposal and how we would feed traffic to New England and to New York, it was very problematic. We did not have rail service to that area. Now, CN, just this year, introduced - you may be aware - a new service linking with
Guildfords and the New Brunswick Southern Railway to feed traffic right into Air Massachusetts. I believe I am close on this, it is 37, maybe 36 hours from point to point. That makes us competitive, in terms of getting traffic there. But I am not sure if it is enough. I think CN is probably relying upon the growth in traffic to justify the continuation of that line - this is just my opinion - so if the traffic is there, it will continue and likely will improve. If the traffic doesn't use it, then CN would have to decide whether or not to continue with that service.
To complement that, we have a feeder service - that is a weekly service - now from Halifax to Portland and Boston, on an ongoing basis. There is no reason to think that in the future, as we become more of a hub and get these large container ships, that you could not feed New York by vessel. That was one of the options we looked at in the Maersk Sealand proposal, and it had merit. If you cannot feed by rail, you can feed by vessel. The downside to that is you are double-handling the containers on the ships. You have a so-called mother ship coming in, which feeds a number of smaller so-called feeder ships. You would have to take the container off the large ship, put it on the small ship in Halifax, and then offload that in, let's say, New York. The economics will drive the decision, no doubt, but we do not have very efficient service into New York by rail.
MR. DEXTER: This brings me to the next point. Part of the super-port bid was a significant investment by CN in its yards at Fairview Cove. Where does that stand now? Once the bid was lost, did CN move off that plan or do they recognize as well that in the long term that is going to need to happen if the port is to grow significantly?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: I have no reason to believe that CN is not continually interested in that site. In terms of their investment with the previous proposal, their investment was in the form of the rail trackage on the terminal, not really investing in the terminal. So, I am not sure what the figure was but that was their role in the investment. I have heard nothing to counter that, I think they are still interested in investing in a terminal when all the parties come together. Actually, I am working with CN on the future aspects of the port over the next month or so, so hopefully that will come together.
MR. DEXTER: You mentioned in your presentation and I think some of the follow- up was around the whole question of financing. I think this goes to perhaps the heart of some of the questions that we might have because with the Canada Marine Act, I think it was Bill C-9, one of the very significant results of that bill was to eliminate the ability of the Port of Halifax to be able to use its assets for loans; you can't float bond issues or issue debentures, as I understand it. I also understand that is commonly done in the U.S. as a way to raise capital to finance expansions to put in place capital infrastructure.
Bill C-9 went further and, in fact, if I recall the wording of the Act at the time it said that the federal government could make no appropriation on behalf of the port. Yet they have a revenue source from you, they are taking money out of the port but apparently aren't in a
position to invest in the port. At the time that seemed to me to be a significant handicap for you, in terms of looking for ways to find the financing. You mentioned that there are 8,000 people working in the port and my understanding was that if a super-port went ahead, that would almost double - one of the estimates, I think, was 5,000 to 7,000 additional jobs. I guess on an investment point of view, on behalf of the federal or provincial governments, I would think you would want to be in a position to be able to invest in that kind of potential success. I would like to hear your comments on that.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: I think it comes down to where you are sitting, do they look at it as an investment or do they look at it as a grant of money and I think that is where we are at. What we are saying is, any monies given to a port authority for infrastructure is an investment, there is no doubt in my mind, it creates jobs, economic spin-offs, it is very simple.
Just to clarify a few of your points, you are right, we cannot pledge our federal real property, our land, to secure loans. Our borrowing power right now is $25 million, which is very low, you cannot build a pier for $25 million and it is based on our cash flows only. In terms of appropriations, under Section 25 of the Act it states that no appropriations may be made to a port authority for its debts or whatever. But we are looking at the question and no one has been able to answer it yet, if government said there was an infrastructure fund of x,y,z, tens of millions of dollars, can't the port authorities seek compensation from that fund just like any other business? We never received an answer on that and I think we can. So if government said, there is $250 million or $300 million available for infrastructure, there is nothing that I can see that would prevent us from going forward and trying to get $25 million, $50 million, or $75 million from that fund. So there may be something there we can tap into.
But you are right, the Canada Marine Act has made it much more difficult to secure funding, that is why we have to be more self-sufficient, generate more revenues and diversify our revenues and so on. We are paying what we call a stipend to Canada, it is about $0.5 million a year, as a payment for use of the assets, I guess you could say, and that is laid out in our letters patent as well. We can issue bonds with the approval of the Minister of Finance but the difference is, in the U.S. many ports issue tax-free bonds so you, as an investor, if you are getting 3 per cent tax free you may say, that is not bad, I am going to take that and invest in the port, it is an incentive. We don't have that capability in Canada without, I think, a change to the Income Tax Act or some other Acts, but we can issue bonds in order to secure some form of funding.
MR. DEXTER: It seems to me though that there is an important philosophical difference in approach to our port. Many Nova Scotians, many people who are in our business of examining the economy of the province would say that the Port of Halifax should be seen as one of the cornerstones of the economy of this province for many years to come. Despite the growth in the IT industry and all of the other wonderful things that are happening
out there in terms of growth in the economy, the port is not going to go anywhere. They are not going to fill in Fairview Cove, the port is going to be there. Yet, here we have essentially an abdication of responsibility on behalf of the federal government in a major piece of East Coast infrastructure through the Canada Marine Act.
It ought not to be good enough, in my view, to have to rely on interpretations of Section 25 of the Canada Marine Act to say, it is possible, although it says no appropriations, we may be able to qualify for infrastructure grants or money under other programs. I obviously agree, I believe that any reasonable interpretation would be to allow us to access those monies and I think that was the basis on which we were going to Ottawa at the time. At the same time it seems to me that that piece of legislation and I know certainly the current government when they were in Opposition took the view that the Canada Marine Act had the net effect of handicapping the port's ability to grow. Is that not the case?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: It may. There is no doubt about it, it has made it more difficult and if I can add one more comment on that, the Association of Canadian Port Authorities, of which I was just chairman and my term is up, we formed a task force comprised of a number of people, including chairmen of different port authorities and CEOs from around Canada and we are reviewing the Canada Marine Act now, with view to taking a presentation to the minister, likely early in the new year, with respect to changes that we think must go forward to amend the Act, which would make it more palatable for the ports of Canada to be in competition with the U.S. That has to be done; there is no doubt about it, in my mind. There are a number of amendments that have to go forward and I think they will be receptive to that.
MR. DEXTER: Specifically, with respect to the ability of the Port Authority to access funding directly for capital projects in the port?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: I am not sure they will agree with that but that is certainly one of the issues.
MR. DEXTER: I have to say, here we are in the middle of a federal election campaign, and I don't think to date I can recall the funding of the Port of Halifax as an issue that has surfaced from the government. I have heard Opposition members say that with respect to ports and transportation links that this is something the government has been negligent in in its attention to. Here we are in the middle of an election campaign and we see what, in my view, is a continuing kind of disregard for one of the cornerstones of the economy of this province. I am at a loss to understand it. You have the potential to create an additional 5,000 jobs to 7,000 jobs in your economy, yet as far as I can tell there is nothing in the way of debate going on on that issue, unless you know something that I don't.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: I don't.
MR. DEXTER: So we have talked about the Canada Marine Act and a little bit about the rail links, and I think all of us here are watching with some interest what is happening in Montreal these days. You talked a little bit about labour peace, there is the continued issue around a skilled workforce. Is it possible that we would also see something like what is happening in Montreal?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Well, their problem appears to be the truckers at the present time. They have had union problems as well with their own workforce. It appears to be the truckers. I know Vancouver has had a hiccup with truckers; Montreal, I hope it stops there.
I do not think it will happen here - if it does, it will not be as dramatic and the reason being, Montreal is predominately a trucking port. A lot of their products that arrive there are distributed by truck and they come to the port by truck. In Halifax, about a maximum of 20 per cent of our products that come through the port is handled by trucking so we have about a 20 per cent local market you could say. The rest is inland, as I said, by the rail or down the coast by feeder.
I heard no hiccups from union truckers with respect to that and as I said, I don't think it is as predominant here because of the volume. So, I hope it stays where it is.
MR. DEXTER: Do fuel costs have a significant impact on the port?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Well, it does on truckers, which I guess indirectly would have on the port indeed. What it does, it puts more pressure on the truckers to get in and out of terminals faster because they can't sit there idling and wasting time and they want to get their product to market, so I guess, yes, it does filter through their whole operation.
MR. DEXTER: But nothing from the perspective of the shipper. It adds to their cost, but they just pass it along.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Well, it adds to the shippers' costs, which they do not like. Some shippers have contracts with their principals and whether they can pass on any surcharges, I am not sure. Some likely can if they provided for it and some can't, they have to eat it. Hopefully this will be short term, but it may not be, so I think eventually you will see this surcharge for fuel, or whatever you wish to call it, and it will be passed on to you and me in everything we buy.
MR. DEXTER: During the discussion of the super-port, I remember that one of the very interesting aspects of this was the competition, or I guess the many levers that could be orchestrated during those negotiations, including the impact of labour negotiations in the U.S. on the bid itself where you had strong, organized ports such as Boston and New Jersey where essentially they were using the collective bargaining process to put pressure on their
employers to go after more, in a much greater way, in that contract. I guess what I assume is that is another difficulty for our workforce. We are just not as large, we don't have the same ability to put that kind of pressure on the employers to invest.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Well, it is true. I don't think I would use Boston as an example. It is one of the most costly and inefficient ports on the East Coast and as a result, they are losing business. I know a decision by Maersk Sealand to either stay in Boston or not to call in Boston is going to be made probably this week. I think they are waiting until after the federal election in the U.S., if we ever know who the winner is. But, Boston is not probably a concern to us, but other ports are, such as New York. New York will always be there. I think shipping lines will always call in New York in one way or another, whether they offload in Halifax and top-off and they continue to New York, but I think you will always see them call in New York.
It definitely is a challenge. There is no doubt about it with the U.S. ports. It is going to remain and probably will be more of a challenge. On the labour side, New York has done many things with respect to their so-called guaranteed annual income. You may have heard of it as GAI. It has been reduced because there was a guaranteed income in New York for years, most of these people now have retired and therefore the guaranteed income is diminished to almost zero. It is no longer a major cost to the shippers.
In terms of putting pressure on here, the shipping lines themselves are members of the HEA, the Halifax Employers' Association. These are the people that pick up the tab for any labour costs they wish to negotiate and many times our contracts have expired and we have had no problems with that. The contracts have continued even though they have expired, the work has continued and negotiated three to four year contracts has been the norm. I don't see that being any different in the future at all. I think our people are very responsible. They have two cars, two houses, three or four kids and grandkids - they need to make money too, like all of us. I think they are pretty responsible people.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Very informative. We will now move on to the Conservative caucus and we will start off questioning with Mr. Barnet.
MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Chairman, first of all, I would like to thank David for coming out this morning and extend congratulations to the Port Authority and to all the people who work at the port for what appears to be a very successful year - two years, back- to-back years - what we hope and expect to be subsequent successful years into the future.
I think it is important to point out that the type of leadership at the port will help hoist, not just Halifax, but Nova Scotia into the future. My first line of questioning is with respect to Bill No. C-9 and Mr. Dexter highlighted an important issue. One is the fact that Bill No. C-9 limits the ability for the Port Authority to raise capital. It begs the question that either the local MPs were asleep at the wheel or they were ineffective at making changes to that bill that would positively impact the Halifax Port Authority and I know that the Leader of the NDP, Alexa McDonough and Wendy Lill and Peter Stoffer all approached Senator Forrestall sort of after the fact when the bill was in committee stage, but it is completely, from my point of view, unacceptable that after the fact they are looking for changes to this bill when there should have been an intensive lobbying, an intensive effort to try to secure the port's position with respect to that bill. That is not a question, I guess it is a statement.
There are a number of initiatives (Interruption). They did nothing. I guess the points that I want to raise are with respect to labour. We know that in this morning's paper there is an article written by Tom Peters about shortfalls in labour and we heard some discussion here this morning about that. We understand that it is difficult to respond immediately to the increase in traffic that the port has seen and obviously as has been highlighted, the concern about safety and proper training is an issue. I guess from a future perspective, having read the article and understand that there is some relief in the very near future with respect to labour. Is this something that the interest groups should be in discussion with the province, to the labour secretariats to try to make sure that the province which plays a role in educating the work force in the Province of Nova Scotia is able to respond to the needs of the interest groups?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Well, my opinion is, I think there is a role there for the province to play. For example, there is no so-called course that I know of for longshoremen. Maybe it is time that there is a vocational school program, for example, where we are proactive and people who wish to become longshoremen just like mechanics and welders and pipefitters and everyone else, they go there for a course, they get a trade. Maybe there is a role there that can be played in the vocational schools for longshoring certificates, so when there is a need they go into the hiring hall or to the ILA and say, I have my certificate, I am ready to go to work. I am skilled on gantry cranes, skilled on the trucks and everything else. That is where I think we have fallen down over the years - and it is not just here. This is worldwide. Singapore is a little different for some reason, they have their own college in the port, but when you look at 30 million TEUs a year, they can do that.
I think there is an opportunity to be more proactive on training. There is no doubt about it and maybe the best thing that could have happened is what did happen to make sure that this doesn't happen again. Because we have lost no traffic as a result of it, so as I call it, it is a hiccup that is being cured. I think we can learn from this.
MR. BARNET: Well, I am pleased to hear that and I agree with you 100 per cent and I know that Mr. Ivany at Nova Scotia Community College is a proactive type of person and that our government has demonstrated in the last budget that we are interested in training Nova Scotians. We have added additional millions of dollars to the Nova Scotia Community College budget. There are opportunities in terms of the financial abilities there, we have a leader in the community college that is open and receptive and I think it would be wise that the groups get together and through the labour secretariats or through whatever committees or arrangements that are made, they look at opportunities through the Nova Scotia Community College. The other interesting point is that the Halifax Community College is just up the street, and it would be a good training opportunity, I would think, between the port and the community college.
The next point, with respect to - and this is such a positive story in the news - the port. I hate to bring up a negative but I have to mention, and I know it has been talked about in the media, the Premier Cruise Lines failure in the past couple of months or inability to continue operating business has been an issue. I looked at the literature the Port Authority had produced with respect to port visits by cruise lines. I was interested, I guess somewhat astonished, to see that Premier Cruise Lines actually made up a large portion of that. What has the Port Authority done to offset that potential loss? Are they out looking at trying to promote itself to other players in that business so we don't have, not necessarily, a loss, particularly at the port, but a loss in other sectors, like tourism? That is obviously a major issue with Nova Scotia and we need to make sure we address that as fully as we can.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: To answer your question, we certainly are being aggressive on that. We have a small marketing department of three people in the port; Montreal has seven and they have two accounts. Vancouver has 22. We have three. The idea is to keep these people on the road, knocking on doors and trying to find out where we can stress these opportunities. Cheryl Bidgood, who is our manager of marketing, has now been dedicated, totally, to cruise. You will find, so far, I think - Tom can correct, he is here - we have confirmed 90 calls for the year 2001, right now.
In terms of, have we lost business? No. What you will find is that when a cruise line disappears from the so-called radar screen, these other lines pick up the slack. There is still going to be a huge number of people travelling on cruises, from the U.S. particularly, and we have an advantage, being where we are, to attract that. I don't think you are going to see a loss, I think you are going to see a net gain continuing through the use of other ships, other cruise lines. It is unfortunate Premier Cruise Lines went under, but you can only buy a market share for so long. You have cruises at $500 and $600 for four days, you are not going to survive.
MR. BARNET: That is good news. I know that the small tourism operators, particularly along the Halifax waterfront, obviously must have been concerned, because the knew the potential impact of that lost business. It is good news to know that that slack has
been picked up by others and that there is a focused effort out there trying to generate some additional business to offset that.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: May I answer just a little more on that? Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you. Just so I can give you a complete picture. We are also a member of the Atlantic Canada Cruise Association, and that is comprised of Atlantic Canada, the four provinces, and they work towards securing more business through cruise. We also go to Miami once a year for the annual sea-trade cruise conference. While we are there we make calls on the cruise lines ourselves, direct calls to try to solicit more business. I know the province and the city has been helping us with this as well. It is coming together quite nicely. Can you do more? You can always do more with more funds. I think what we are doing is reasonable, and it shows in the numbers that are coming to the port.
MR. BARNET: Just to shift gears again, I hate to go back to history and talk about another concern that was raised a couple of years ago. I know that as a municipal councillor, it was something that was discussed at the municipal level. That is Ports Canada's devolution of policing. Now that there has been a couple of years under your belt with respect to HRM policing the port, and we have seen media items surrounding illegal activities, not necessarily at the port, being shipped through the port, I am talking particularly around drugs. Do you see that shift from Ports Canada policing to HRM as having any appreciable impact, either positive or negative, on the port? From an operational point of view, are there any issues or concerns surrounding that?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: First of all, to answer your question on the results, overwhelmingly positive on all fronts, from the point of view of the shipping lines, the terminal operators, very positive. These people are there, their presence is certainly seen. They are doing a number of things that I am not involved in, and I don't want to be aware of it. I think it is keeping crime to a minimum on the waterfront here. We are very happy with that. Of course, there is always the debate over the cost of the service. When we had the Ports Canada Police Service, it was about $1.5 million a year, too much money for what we were getting. We are paying about half of that now to HRM, and we would like to get it down even further, because we have to find all the ways we can to keep our costs down. That is the only area of concern to us, the cost. We have to make sure it doesn't creep up and get to where it was before. That is one of the best decisions we made, to devolve the Ports Canada Police and to hire HRM. It has worked very well in our favour.
MR. BARNET: I know one of the issues that had been raised at the time was that there would be a concern about HRM's focus, actually, on the port, and that from time to time, even though there is a contract service in place, that when needed they might pull away from their duties in the port. I guess, from that perspective, it appears as if there are no issues, nothing that is of major concern.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: I think that is done from time to time. If there is a policeman needed down in the city, they are going to respond. We expect that. Also, if there is a major issue in the port, we expect more police to come down from the city and to respond to those things. It is a give and take, and as a result it has worked very well.
MR. BARNET: With respect to CN, there has been some discussion here that once the containers get off the ships and they are heading for points east or south, has there been ongoing dialogue with the senior people at CN, Mr. Tellier and others, to try to make sure they are fully aware of our position here in Halifax, that there is continuity in terms of an understanding of the Port of Halifax and CN to deal with upcoming issues? I know, for example, the double-stacked containers obviously had a major positive impact on that port. There may be others in the future we are looking at, other possible changes that can positively impact the port. Is there any ongoing discussion with CN?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: There are. I guess there are as many questions as there should be. You can argue that. I will be meeting with some senior members of CN at the end of this month, actually, to discuss that very issue. We would like to have more dialogue at the senior level with CN. We had a meeting with Mr. Tellier some months back, in Halifax, a private meeting, where we expressed a number of views, back and forth. We had a great discussion on the port and CN moving forward together. It was very positive. We don't meet every week. It is very difficult to get the senior person there.
There is dialogue with the senior marketing people on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, we are even considering, which is a good idea, calling customers together. I think that would be a very positive attribute to take to a customer, when they see the port and CN coming in together. We are working on that type of program right now. We are certainly in favour of it.
MR. BARNET: The Premier has shown his interest and his support of the Port of Halifax in a number of different ways on a number of occasions. There has been some discussion here with respect to other U.S. governments' ability to raise capital, to provide improvements. Somebody mentioned $7 billion in road off-port development. Obviously, we are not in a position to come up with $7 billion to improve our road network, and I don't think anybody here in this room believes that is the case, ever. We know we have a natural advantage with the Port of Halifax, and that will help us in the future. Obviously, there are road improvements that are necessary and the province has recently undertaken some road improvements, just under construction now, at the Bicentennial Highway to allow traffic to get onto that highway. Is there ongoing discussions with the Department of Transportation and Public Works and HRM to deal with the off-water transportation and off-track transportation? I am talking the truck stuff and the highway routes that get to Highway No. 101 and Highway No. 102, those routes. Is there ongoing discussion? Is the work that is being done looked at as a positive to the port?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Absolutely, there is no doubt. Any time you can improve highway access from the port, it is 100 per cent favoured. It is a big issue. As I said earlier, our domestic traffic or local traffic is about 20 per cent over volume. That is about 100,000 20 foot containers a year, that is quite a bit, and it is growing, the local market is growing. Any time you can make improvements to the highway, absolutely, it goes right to the bottom line of the trucking companies, and it goes right through the whole port system. It is very critical to us. We haven't had ongoing meetings with the department; we have met from time to time to discuss these issues. I think that is something that we are probably going to have to move forward in the future.
MR. BARNET: Getting back to Highway No. 102 or the Bicentennial Highway overpass or connector ramp that is being constructed now, I know there have been people who have approached me in the past, as a municipal politician and even since my move to the provincial scene, to move that project forward. People in the trucking industry see that as a major advantage to try to get out of traffic that involves cars and onto highway traffic so they can move their product. I have always wondered why it hadn't been done earlier, whether it was just a matter of money and priorities. Is there anything else you would see in terms of major improvements to our highway infrastructure right now that would provide a strategic advantage to people in the transportation business getting their product off the port?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: I think the more highways we can twin, the better, for trucks, there is no doubt about it. I think that is all I can suggest, that we keep the highways open, accessible, and the more twinning the better, these trucks have to get through.
MR. BARNET: I guess I will try to finish up with an issue that, quite frankly, I don't know a lot about but I do know it has been talked about in the media and maybe to some extent it has been resolved or partially resolved, and that is the issue of fairness and equality between the ports. I am talking about the Port of Halifax, the Port of Vancouver and Montreal, the St. Lawrence Seaway. I am talking about the cost to the federal government and the commitment by the federal government to the three ports. I know in the past there has been discussion around ice control in the St. Lawrence Seaway, there has been discussion around piloting fees, navigational aids and that sort of thing. How does Halifax fare in terms of getting our fair share from the federal government in these areas, and are we getting the same kind of service and the same kind of financial commitment as Montreal and Vancouver, with respect to the federal government's contribution towards ports and traffic?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: I don't think Vancouver is getting any preference, at least not that I am aware of in any way. Montreal certainly does and we have spoken on this many times, on the ice-breaking issue. The federal government announced some years ago that there would be cost-recovery for navigational aids and ice-breaking services. We worked for months and months, we had committees struck, eastern Canadian committees and national committees, on the so-called subsidies of the navigational aids.
We came to an arrangement or an agreement that it would by x,y,z, based on user-pay. There is nothing more direct in that you can justify any better than user-pay, if you use it you pay for it. The same philosophy we try to apply to ice-breaking and, of course, we ran into a roadblock many, many times. Finally, after much consternation and debate, the government instituted a rate to charge for ice-breaking going to the St. Lawrence. I think a few months after that, just before Christmas recess, it was reduced by 50 per cent - Tom probably knows the figure - for no justification other than pure political purposes in my opinion. So that is where we are; and then there was a freeze for three years.
Now we are going to get back to this debate next year again, and what we are saying is fine, if you want to subsidize ice-breaking to Montreal do it, but then give us the same amount of money for the Halifax corridor because the shipping lines calling here have to pay for the rail haul inland. If it is $40 million, give the $40 million to the port, we can invest it in rail or whatever and then we are on a level playing field, that is all we are asking for.
MR. BARNET: That is disappointing. I have to say that is what I thought you were going to say, I hadn't followed the issue all that closely in the last little while. I must say it is disappointing, that we have a natural advantage here because we have an easy port to call on, it is close, but at the same time we have a disadvantage, which is our proximity by rail to our market. On the flip side, you look at the Port of Montreal who has a disadvantage because of the ice-breaking services that they need and, yet, from an economics point of view, we are not being treated fairly.
To me it would make good sense that this be an issue that our Members of Parliament, particularly those who represent the Halifax area, the area that is most affected, to try to do what they can from their position to further the Province of Nova Scotia and particularly the Port of Halifax's position on this because quite frankly, it is unthinkable that we would be disadvantaged like this. It just goes to show that we have been relatively ineffective in Ottawa trying to deal with these things.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Bellefontaine, I would like to go back to this corridor. You are so familiar with it so I know you don't have to refer to the map but just for the sake of simplicity, going from memory, when we attended the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Provinces Conference several months ago - you are familiar with this Connecticut study?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: No, I am not, actually.
MR. MACKINNON: The final corridor, so to speak, for transporting products from Mexico through the U.S. to Canada?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: I have heard about it but I have never seen the study, no, I don't have that.
MR. MACKINNON: I do have a copy but, unfortunately, I don't have it here today but I know the Minister of Transportation and Public Works attended that conference as well and he does have a copy because I provided him with a copy from the seminar we attended. Essentially, in a nutshell, from the New York area, that entire block from Portland, Maine right down to the Philadelphia area, that is essentially all landlocked, as they refer to it, it is gridlocked. They have a number of major disadvantages because of their lack of capacity, their port is not deep enough and New York, I understand is at bedrock now.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Well, they are dredging but . . .
MR. MACKINNON: But they are hitting bedrock.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: I think in places they are, yes.
MR. MACKINNON: My understanding is they are lobbying provinces such as Nova Scotia, particularly because of the Port of Halifax; they would like to lock us into some type of contractual arrangement to keep us out of this free trade corridor, which is the main arterial route, so to speak, which would inhibit us quite a bit. I was listening to your points about the profits, 20 per cent, and I am sure you must have done fairly well last year as well or the year before. Despite Bill C-9, all indicators are that Halifax is a strategic and important locale for trans-Atlantic shipments. So going back to the $6 billion or $7 billion that would be required for investment, that still wouldn't really solve their problem, would it?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: I don't think so, there are a couple of problems there. One is, as you mentioned, they are landlocked. They have major problems with trucking routes going from the ports, it is congested. Look at Boston, for example, they are in this so-called Big Dig. New York is the same way, there is a lot of congestion, a lot of concern by environmental groups about the trucking out of those ports. Secondly, their water is not deep enough and it involves hundreds of millions of dollars; I think in New York it is U.S. $750 million for the dredging program - that is Cdn. $1 billion - it is phenomenal. You are right, we can't match that, we don't have to. They are dredging and they are not going to get the depth we have now. They are going after initially 45 feet, then the next phase is 50 feet; I don't think they will ever get there. We have 60 feet today in the channel, so I think you are right, Halifax is on the map.
I would never recommend that this port be constrained from any route. The more routes we have, whether it is a free trade route, the water route, the truck route, whatever, we have to keep open as many accessible options as we can for Halifax to trade and move cargo.
MR. MACKINNON: I am very pleased to hear you say that because this free trade route from Mexico - and we are locked into this free trade agreement and, of course, the U.S. have their agreement with Mexico as well and we are tied in there as well - it is a direct line right through Montreal, through New Brunswick, straight to Halifax. When you take the
population factors into account and so on, you take this large congested area in and around New York and Philidelphia and up to Portland, they would be almost required to build an access route into the main corridor to remain competitive, now that they are at the max factor. So, that is why I raised that point.
If Halifax is doing this well, despite their limitations on financing through Bill C-9 and other things, it would appear to me that despite any limiting factors, or even the competing forces on the ice-breaking which is important, I think that is where you folks have to dig in your heels and certainly the provincial government and the federal representatives have to dig in their heels and that is what it is all about. But it would appear to me - and I am going to take a chance and ask you to make a projection - would you not feel that based on these variables, all indications are, that Halifax will almost double its container-ship capacity or at least increase it by close to 50 per cent over the next 10 years?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: I agree. If we don't double, there is something wrong. That is my projection.
MR. MACKINNON: So the big issue yet to be answered is the next terminal, you know, Terminal 3?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Right.
MR. MACKINNON: I am not familiar with all the generic language. How far are we in being able to meet the demand for that potential growth in terms of financing this Terminal 3? How do you envisage that package?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: The financing has not been arranged yet, of course. We have done some numbers internally from our own projections to determine how much we can invest as a Port Authority and it is significant. Whether there would be a shortfall, it is likely there would be. It depends if you want a two-berth facility, three-berth facility. You are into these variables, but if you take a two-berth facility, you are probably close to $200 million to $250 million when it is fully equipped with cranes, and that is not a piece of change. That is a lot of money.
MR. MACKINNON: Has there been any discussion with the provincial government on potential cost-sharing?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Not cost-sharing, not at that level yet, but we have had discussions with them recently on the future, where we are going and so on, but not in terms of how much money can you kick in, no, not to that level. We still have environmental work to do and preliminary engineering in order to firm up these numbers. So, right now, it is a
little more than a concept, but we have to firm up all the details so that we can go to, let's say the province, and say, okay, now we have a plan, here is the cost, here is the critical path, here is the timing and so on, we need your participation.
MR. MACKINNON: What is your anticipated time-frame?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: On that one, within a year; we will have that ready within a year. We do not need this terminal tomorrow morning. We have excess capacity at Halterm and Ceres and we just had a study done by an expert. You have to hire experts for people to accept studies. So we have that done and Halterm and Ceres both agree with the numbers that came out of that. So there is excess capacity.
If you ask me, can we get more ships at Halterm on Saturday morning? No, but Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, you can. So it depends on how you look at this so-called study, but there is excess capacity and it is a matter of the timing. If the cargo continues to grow at its current pace, you are going to see development of a new terminal probably within three to four years. That is when the first bit of dirt could be turned.
MR. MACKINNON: How many jobs do you anticipate will be created?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: I think directly it was 2,000, I believe was the number, and I know Mr. Dexter referred to . . .
MR. MACKINNON: That is the construction phase?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Yes, and ongoing. I have those numbers; I would say I think it is about one-third of the total port, so about 3,000 jobs that would be direct and spin-offs in total.
MR. MACKINNON: Have you had any discussions with the federal government on financing?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Not recently, but a year ago, yes, we had them as a result of the sort of post-mortem of the Maersk Sealand decision. I want to emphasize too that the announcement was made that Maersk Sealand chose New York, but they chose New York for what? It was for a future hub. We have more traffic coming through here from Maersk Sealand than we have ever had before, we have not lost any cargo. They still call the same ports that they had been calling before the decision, but what they are saying is they now have a home in New York that they have been able to get through leveraging their so-called decision and they got a good deal, a long-term contract for the Port of New York. They got the property that they wanted. They are all concentrated. So it paid them dividends by going out for bids.
MR. MACKINNON: Are the Americans providing them a subsidy?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: That is not known, but I bet they are. I cannot find it, but I will guarantee you there is some form of support payments, if you want to call it that, to these lines either through rental payments . . .
MR. MACKINNON: That would be at the state level, I presume, is it?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: I do not know, but money can flow to the port authority from the United States and the port authority can then flow the money to the user. There is a way to do it. They subsidize everything else. There is no reason to believe this is not supported somehow.
DR. SMITH: Smarten up you guys, just launder your money a little better, you know. (Laughter)
MR. MACKINNON: I do not want to be sidetracked by rabbit tracks here, but I really see that you folks seem to be on the right path here and I think despite all the negative factors that have worked against you, all indications are that the Port of Halifax is going to be the leading port over the next 10 years in terms of growth.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: It is going to be one of the leading ports. Don't ever discount Charleston. They are very dynamic. They have a good port and they are investing a lot of money.
MR. MACKINNON: Obviously, they have had generations ahead of you.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Exactly, yes, that is true, but I can assure you we will be one of the top ports in North America, absolutely, for future growth.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I would like to recognize Mr. Epstein for the NDP. I have tentatively been running it at 12 minutes. The Liberal caucus has given up about 30 seconds.
The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.
MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: David, I did not notice a list of the membership of the Port Authorities board, the seven people, in the materials. Do you think you could provide us with a copy of that when you get the chance?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Yes, no problem.
MR. EPSTEIN: Can you help me through an understanding of the proposal you mentioned about the possibility of a new third terminal to come here and what I wondered really was what the state of the thinking was as to location and how that would actually work. The proposal that was last developed and promoted and brought forward as the current state of thinking here, I think, focused on Rockingham as the likely location and that contemplated building a whole new facility. I assume, when I heard you mention the $250 million or above price tag, that really what you had in mind was building a facility from scratch in that location. Is that right?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Yes, that is correct.
MR. EPSTEIN: But at the same time, I heard you earlier talking about the possibility of buying land in Shearwater if land becomes available that is immediately adjacent or that is harbour-frontage land?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Yes.
MR. EPSTEIN: That at the same time indicates to me that the authority must have some plan for what it might like to see developed over there. So can you help me understand what your druthers are when it comes to development?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: What we look at is short term and I guess short term in the shipping business for planning for construction is 5 to 10 years. We have done a number of reviews, studies and analyses on the different sites in Halifax and Dartmouth, and Rockingham came out number one for a variety of reasons. I can give you those if you want.
On the issue of Shearwater, Shearwater was looked at when we were looking at the various sites in Halifax for future development and at the time it was not available. We talked to CN and CN just picked a figure out of the air, I believe, and they said that in order to put a rail line to feed Shearwater, it would cost at least $200 million. You would have to re-route the whole rail system because the rail system now goes right down through the City of Dartmouth and there is no way you can have 10,000 foot trains double-stacked. Somebody is going to sit at a light there for two hours. It is not going to work. So you would have to re-route the whole rail system to Shearwater. So, therefore, that basically provided the major negative factor to look at another site and, of course, Rockingham was number one anyway.
What I said about Shearwater was if the waterside became available, it has the capability, I guess, of becoming a major trans-shipment hub. Failing the railway to put a new track in - let's assume they cannot, they will not, or the economics do not justify putting a track in - there is no reason to believe that if the Shearwater land became available on the waterside, that a major trans-shipment hub could not be developed. That means ships coming in and ships going out, no rail, and that is done at various ports around the world. So we see
that as having some value for that kind of operation, but without the rail, it would not serve as an intermodal terminal, there is no way, and this is where Rockingham . . .
[9:35 a.m. Mr. Russell MacKinnon resumed the Chair.]
MR. EPSTEIN: Do you see Shearwater as potential only as a drop-off and pick-up site for ships, nothing intermodal?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: At this stage, without the railway, it would be just ships. There could be some domestic delivery by truck because the highway system is quite good there, but by rail, you could not use the current rail system to feed that terminal. It would not fly.
MR. EPSTEIN: Yes, and it doesn't seem likely that CN is interested in doing it.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: It is unlikely. I don't know if they could justify the investment because now they are a private company and it is all ROI and IRR, so I don't know if they could justify spending that kind of money if they could see the returns coming back to them. If they could, then definitely it would have potential as an intermodal terminal. Right now we are saying we don't see that as coming from the railway, therefore we have to look at other options and that option is very singular, it would be a . . .
MR. EPSTEIN: Just to look at this one more time, I always thought that one of the advantages that was promoted with respect to Shearwater was the inter-global aspect, especially focusing on the possibility of having ship, rail, truck and air all perhaps come together in one facility. Is that correct?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Yes, that is correct.
MR. EPSTEIN: That does not sound to me as if you are thinking along these lines at this point.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: No, not for intermodal for containers, no, because of the volume and the frequency. It is just not there yet. It may, but it is not there yet. But you are right, it has an airport, a seaport, it has highway, infrastructure and rail, it is a so-called Cadillac or a Lexus today in terms of a facility. That does not mean that every factor that creates a facility is a good factor. So, the rail is one that is the weak link in that whole scenario. That could become a free-trade zone, for example, or a foreign-trade zone, where goods come in, manufacturing is done and the duty is not paid until it is at the end of the line. It has some potential for that, you have an airport and there could be a good seaport there.
MR. EPSTEIN: Could you also explain to me why it is you are thinking that you may come forward in a year or so with a proposal to go ahead with a whole new post-Panamax facility, apparently still with the Rockingham location in mind? The reason I am wondering about this is, when we had the tour last week of the port facilities, the Halterm people were presenting themselves as if they already were a post-Panamax facility. They were saying, well look, we have these two whacking great new cranes, they are big enough to reach across 22 widths of containers on ships and we have the capacity now to do it. What is the problem?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: The problem is if you get more than one ship in at a time, they can't handle them.
MR. EPSTEIN: Well, they have two cranes there.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: You even need more than two cranes on one ship.
MR. EPSTEIN: Of course, yes, I see.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: If you look at Maersk, they are demanding a minimum of 100 lifts per hour on their ships. That is three cranes, not two. So when you look at a post-Panamax terminal, in my opinion, a post-Panamax capable terminable would have at least gantry cranes, three post-Panamax cranes, not two or not one, three minimum, and you need that for each berth. So, at Rockingham, we would look at six post-Panamax cranes for two berths. That to me would be, if you want to use the term state of the art, efficient, post-Panamax terminal.
I agree Halterm can handle post-Panamax ships; one at a time. They can do it very well, but in the long term they would have to acquire more post-Panamax cranes to be considered a post-Panamax terminal.
MR. EPSTEIN: You are still projecting that there is likely to be enough volume increase in business here to justify that?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Yes, we are. Not just volume. One of the problems we have with the Halifax call is the number of ship calls. We have more ship calls than another port with the same kind of volume. The reason being is that we are the first port inbound, last port outbound. A ship comes in from Europe, it offloads 600, 700 or 800 containers here, then goes down to New York. When it leaves New York it may go to Savannah or somewhere else, it comes back up to Halifax, loads before its destination across the ocean. So we get two calls for, let's say 1,200 or 1,500 boxes. If they call New York they will go down with the ship and offload 3,000 containers, one ship call. So what that does is puts a lot of pressure on this port to create more berths, deeper water to accommodate the more ship calls, but not more traffic. That is where we get into the major investment issues versus a port that is a destination port.
MR. EPSTEIN: What was your capital expenditure in terms of the changes that have been made at the Halterm facility? I take it you were not involved in purchasing the cranes?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Not the cranes, but we actually are paying for, I think it is $3.3 million for the crane rail upgrade, they had to put in a new rear-crane rail and we are paying that this year.
MR. EPSTEIN: Just to get back to the point earlier that was raised about your fund-raising capacity. You haven't issued bonds, I take it, you haven't sought or received . . .
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Not yet, it wasn't necessary.
MR. EPSTEIN: Okay, so you have either generated it from cash flow or borrowings?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: That is correct.
MR. EPSTEIN: Have you had to borrow?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: We have $7 million in debt, and the loan requires a payment of $400,000 a year back. We are doing okay right now, we are financially stable.
MR. EPSTEIN: One of the things that has always struck me about the Halterm facility and its intermodel transfer to trucks is how inconvenient it must be for the trucks to trundle up and down these narrow streets that we have in the downtown, Lower Water Street and Hollis Street. It can't be convenient for them, and it certainly isn't very convenient for people trying to do business in the downtown otherwise. As I recall, there is a long-standing policy in the Halifax Regional Municipality, or the former City of Halifax's, municipal planning strategy that talks about investigating the possibility of running trucks up and down the rail cut. Has that ever been investigated as between you and the HRM or the City of Halifax, and what is the current state of play?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: It has been, a few years back, when trucking was on the increase, and it still is, mind you, but we had quite a surge there in one year. We sat down and discussed that. I think they are in favour of that. It comes down to the solution being, I guess, decided by CN, as those are CN tracks there.
MR. EPSTEIN: Is CN opposed to it?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: They have been.
MR. EPSTEIN: They don't want to give up their rail capacity, or they don't see a way to accommodate both trucks and rail on there.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: I think they see it as a problem. I have that on a list on my desk, actually, to sit with CN and discuss a future so-called truck route, if we can use that term, to take the trucks off the city streets. We would love to do that.
MR. EPSTEIN: I guess what is striking about any discussion about the port is that it really becomes obvious, the multiplicity of actors involved in trying to coordinate any thinking about this. You have three levels of government and you have independent Crown agencies. Is there any kind of a set mechanism for round-table discussions?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Whatever works.
MR. EPSTEIN: Do you all ever get together, on a regular basis, and talk through, including the planning authority for the rest of the port, the Waterfront Development Corporation?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Yes, Fred Were and I have a good relationship, and we do sit down and discuss common plans. That is quite frequent that we do that. We do sit with the municipality, through our planning people, and we look at things such as this truck route. We have been trying to get together on this for quite a while now, and we are not having much success with it. It is on the top of my list, to sit down. All you need is one incident with a truck, and people will raise the issue of why trucks are on Lower Water Street.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We will now allow the PC caucus an opportunity to ask some questions in the second round.
The honourable member for Preston.
MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Chairman, following up on the previous questioning, there has been some discussion about the divesture of the federal government and its involvement in various infrastructures across this country. We have seen the devolution of its involvement with airports; we have seen the Halifax International Airport and Shearwater. We have seen the devolution of lighthouses. We have seen them getting away from the wharves, landings and rural outports. Now we have the port itself here in Halifax. We are seeing more downloading to provincial and municipal and sometimes local community groups in maintaining these things. It seems like the federal government is quick to build monuments, but they don't want to stick around for the maintenance.
In regard to the involvement here with Halifax, it seemed that the federal government was very slow to make any commitments towards the Maersk Sealand proposal. Do you feel that that hurt us in any way, in regard to securing a competitive bid in that process?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: No, I can tell you, in fact, it didn't.
MR. HENDSBEE: In regard to the taxing authority, you mentioned about some of the U.S. ports. Do you believe that if taxing authority was given to the Port Authority, do you believe there should be more, perhaps, participation on your board from the municipal and provincial levels?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: I am not going to discuss the board composition. We have representation there now from the municipality, we have representation from the province and, of course, we have one from the federal government. I guess it depends on how they wish to participate. There is representation there on the board.
MR. HENDSBEE: I see that the new board composition for the Port Authority is seven members: five are federal appointments, one provincial and one municipal. They say that four of the five would be in consultation with the other port stakeholders. I just find it odd to see that the federal government is prepared to divest itself of other investments but not in its interests around the table. It would have seemed more appropriate that the province and the municipality perhaps should have had an additional seat space. Instead of two and two and three, perhaps it would have been an all-around better composition.
Could you help me clarify some of the concerns or the confusion that may be out there in the public domain with regard to there was a Port Corporation, now the Port Authority, but how does that work with or it sometimes gets confused with the Port Commission or the Waterfront Development Corporation?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Well the Port Commission is wound up now, there was confusion there. We used to go overseas and talk to our accounts and the first thing they would ask is, what is the difference between yourselves and the Port Commission? There was confusion and we stressed that time and time again to the provincial governments and finally, that commission was wound up this year, I think, in May or June, so that confusion no longer exists.
There is very little confusion, if any, with the Waterfront Development Corporation, certainly not as predominant as it was with the Port Commission. We don't seem to have a problem with that. I guess if there is any confusion it would surround the issues of who owns what on the waterfront but not from the business perspective, not the shipping lines.
MR. HENDSBEE: With regard to the discussion about the rail links to the Midwest and the discussion about the corridor going from north to south from Mexico through to the heartland of the U.S.A., has there been any discussion with CN in trying to improve its links to the Eastern Seaboard from what they call the Bos-Wash corridor, the Boston to Washington area?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Yes, there have been with successive people at CN. We have to be careful because one of the downsides of promoting CN access into the East Coast is that they may decide to use U.S. East Coast ports, that has always been a concern of ours. It comes the other way, if you look at their proposal with the Burlington Northern acquisition which, of course, is in a moratorium right now; we supported that because it gave us access into the central and western United States, basically. One concern we had was if CN ever got into bed with a U.S. railway or purchased a railway to feed the U.S. East Coast, I am a little worried about that because then they may decide to use New York as their home port, Baltimore, Philadelphia, so we have to be very careful on what we are promoting.
MR. HENDSBEE: Further to that, in talking about Shearwater and there has been some discussion about should this become part of a hub in regard to by air, by land, by truck, or by sea. What discussions have you been having with the Halifax International Airport? Their concern is they don't want to see the amount of freight traffic they are doing by air to be perhaps relocated to Shearwater.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: We are not involved in that at all. The only discussions I have been privy to was a meeting called by Public Works when they were divesting the airport components over there, two parcels of land, and the Halifax Airport Authority was in attendance, along with everyone else. We haven't had discussions because we have no interest in pursuing an airport at Shearwater; we have an interest in pursuing a seaport. I am not sure if anyone is really studying that whole aspect of a foreign trade zone or the airport, the land and the waterside. I know we haven't at this point because we had other things to deal with of a higher priority. Perhaps it is something that should be looked at, what benefit can be gained by this whole concept.
MR. HENDSBEE: Furthermore, in regard to other ports in the Atlantic Region, we are also competing against Saint John and as well, as we already mentioned, Montreal. Can you tell me what involvement or discussions you have had with the Sydport facilities and what type of opportunities we have with bringing more freight traffic to Nova Scotia, in general, instead of just Halifax?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: We have had no discussion with Sydport at this stage. The only involvement we have had with those ports would be through the Atlantic Frontier, through the cruise business because we all share that business as one itinerary from New York to Montreal, let's say. But on the container business, no, we haven't had discussions with Sydport at all on that.
MR. HENDSBEE: Regarding the cruise line business, there has always been discussion or perhaps some aspirations by many people at different levels with regard to whether Halifax should have a state-of-the-art, world-class type of cruise line terminal, similar to what you see in Vancouver and other places. I have also noticed the amount of infrastructure improvements that the port has done to the old piers, what comments would
you have on whether we should have another terminal and if there is to be another terminal, would it be advisable to have it on the Dartmouth side of the waterfront, instead of the Halifax side?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Well, when you talk to the passengers and the owners of the ships, and you ask them what the most important attributes of a port are, the port facility is not the top of the list, it is way down, fourth or fifth. The important things are land-side services, trips and so on, not the state of the facility. We have about 90 ships coming right now, confirmed next year, so 130,000, 140,000 passengers. It is very difficult to justify a $12 million to $15 million - and that is what you are looking at - facility, for that kind of volume, not to say that it won't come in the future.
What we have done is we have invested about $2 million in what we call a cruise pavilion as sort of the first stage. They are very happy with that. We talk to passengers, we do surveys, we talk to the masters of the ships, the brokers, the agents, and everyone is very happy with that. They think it is reasonable for the volume of traffic we get. We get very few, if any, complaints about the facility. You have to put that in line with everything else that we are trying to do and prioritize it, it is not a top priority.
MR. HENDSBEE: In regard to the services that are available at the cruise line terminal now, in regard to the brokers, be it the tourism, transportation links, everything else, with the vans and the buses, as well as services to downtown, do you believe, perhaps, that there might be an opportunity for the Port Commission to look into having one of those Nova Scotia Liquor Commission agency stores for duty-free shops, to provide services for the cruise line public?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: The shipping lines may not like it. It is like gambling. If you had a casino on the waterfront, the shipping lines don't want that. It takes money away from the gamblers when they get back on the ship. We would be against it, I am not sure if it would fly with the so-called customer.
MR. HENDSBEE: I would like to pass the rest of my time to the member for Kings South.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Kings South.
MR. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Chairman, I have certainly learned a lot today about this wonderful natural asset that we have here in Halifax. Thank heavens we have so many natural advantages or it sounds to me like we would not be in business. I find it passing ironic that the U.S., the hub of capitalism and the bastion of laissez-faire economics is so involved in the subsidy business. (Interruptions) In the Maersk Sealand competition, this was a source of great concern to us here in Nova Scotia, because we thought we might actually
lose that business. It is good to hear that we have not only retained our share but it has grown.
Mr. Bellefontaine, you have pointed out that Virginia subsidizes their port operation to the tune of about U.S. $35 million a year, a grant, that's U.S. not Canadian. Seattle is able to tax, that is worth U.S. $40 million a year. Mr. Dexter, from the NDP, has pointed out that New Jersey was anteing up $7 billion to compete on a level playing field with Halifax in the Maersk Sealand competition. You have told us that the U.S. makes provisions for tax-free bonds, cutting the cost of borrowing in half for those ports. In Canada, we have Bill C-9, which ties our hands and the ability to just go out and borrow money. It sounds like it is not much of a level playing field, and yet we have 8,000 jobs, you tell us?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Yes.
MR. MORSE: A $545 million contribution to the local economy, and despite all the U.S. subsidies, we still hope that that may as much as double over the next 10 years. That is marvellous news. Not all businesses have the natural advantages of the Port of Halifax, that we could accommodate here in Nova Scotia. We can compete, but if we are going to compete against these massive subsidies from the U.S. and indeed other provinces in Canada, such as we see with the Port of Montreal, sometimes we need to have a little something to level the playing field, and that is where the payroll tax subsidies, for proven performance, may make a difference. I hope Nova Scotians hear what you have said to us today and consider that when they judge them.
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Bellefontaine, would you like to make a closing statement?
MR. BELLEFONTAINE: No, other than I think this is a good opportunity to brief all of you. I am not sure if you have been advised yet, but we have invited, through the Premier, all the MLAs to a briefing session on the port, I believe it is December 6th, so you will be hearing about that, if you haven't seen it yet. It would be at noon, we have a lunch and then what I plan to do is a presentation, overheads with pictures and I can go through - you are going to hear a lot of things you have heard today, but in pictorial form, I have charts, so I think it is a good add-on to what you have heard today. I appreciate you having the interest in the port and any way you can help us, we will certainly work with you. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Well, on behalf of the committee, we would like to thank you for coming and being very forthright.
DR. SMITH: If he hadn't come, there would be no one. He was 100 per cent of the delegation.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, we thank Mr. Bellefontaine for coming. Unfortunately, Mr. Russell didn't appear; I am sure there is a logical explanation for everything.
That pretty well concludes today's inquiry with the Port Authority. Now, we will just look ahead for next week. Do we have a briefing session? Okay, we are going directly to the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission and we will meet here in the Legislative Chamber next Wednesday morning.
We stand adjourned.
[The meeting adjourned at 9:57 a.m.]