Hundreds protest proposed Bonshaw highway development

Ryan Ross
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Stop the proposed "Plan B" highway development was the message Thursday afternoon (April 26) as hundreds of people gather to protest outside Province House.

Hundreds of people gathered outside Province House April 26 to protest proposed changes to the TransCanada highway in Churchill, Prince Edward Island, known as Plan B.

For Judy Rayner, who lives on Riverdale Road near the proposed Trans Canada Highway change through Churchill, (Prince Edward Island) she said she went to the protest because she saw the project as a waste of money.

"Obscene waste of money that we don't have," she said.

Rayner said she didn't think there was a safety issue with the current highway configuration and she thought it was just an excuse the government was using to go ahead with its plan.

"Who doesn't want to be safe," she said.

The provincial and federal governments are sharing the costs on the highway development as part of the Atlantic Gateway with a $16-million price tag.

Part of the province's argument for moving forward with the plan is the need to use the available federal dollars or lose them.

The provincial government also says the current highway route is unsafe with 103 accidents between 1996 and 2010 on the stretch of highway to be redeveloped.

Those accidents included two deaths and 38 injuries on a stretch that has 56 per cent more collisions than any other section of the Trans Canada Highway in P.E.I.

Initially, the government planned to re-route the highway through Strathgartney Provincial Park, but changed the plan after public opposition.

At times there was almost a festive atmosphere outside Province House Thursday as protest songs filled the air between speeches as area residents, Island environmentalists and politicians took to the microphone to speak out against the proposed highway re-alignment in Churchill.

"Quit the road Ghiz," Peter Bevan-Baker sang to the tune of Hit The Road Jack as a trombonist and guitarist accompanied him on the steps of Province House to resounding cheers.

Protesters with signs lined the front of the crowd while others held them up on the Province House steps in universal disapproval of the plan.

Not every speaker raised the same concerns, but for the most part the points they raised centered on concerns about the environment, the high cost of moving the road and the fact a highway re-alignment wasn't needed to make it safe.

For UPEI economics professor Jim Sentance, he said he hasn't been known as a big critic of the government's finances, but the decision to move the highway had him shaking his head.

The government's argument seems to be that it's a bargain it can't pass up, he said.

"A bargain is only a bargain if it's something you need anyways."

When Argyle Shore resident Roy Johnstone addressed the crowd, he said the government's decision was made with consent from the communities that would be affected.

"This is a project the province can't afford," he said.

Among the politicians at the rally were Georgetown-St.Peters MLA Seven Myers, Opposition Leader Olive Crane, Green Party leader Sharon Labchuk and NDP leader James Rodd who all spoke out against the highway development.

Premier Robert Ghiz also addressed the crowd that drowned him out several times as people booed or shouted in response to him saying it was an unsafe section of highway.

The same happened when he told the crowd part of the funding for the project was coming from the federal government for the Atlantic Gateway.

"This is an opportunity for us to improve highway safety, to save lives and also have the opportunity to improve the highway," he said.

The protesters also submitted a petition with almost 3,000 signatures from people who oppose the development.

The Guardian

Organizations: Trans Canada Highway, Province House, Green Party

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Riverdale Road, Strathgartney Provincial Park Argyle Shore

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  • Darcie Lanthier
    April 27, 2012 - 18:17

    This is not a safety issue! One fatality in 22 million safe trips is not a safety issue. The question is, do we want to borrow another $12-16 million dollars to fix a road that isn't broken so that we can shave 300 metres or 12 seconds off the travel time? I hope not. The Federal Government, which also does not have the cash will give us $8 million and they don't really care a bit about the families,farms and natural beauty destroyed in the process. Do we want that money so badly that we are prepared to do anything to get it? If this road was really unsafe someone would have been required to put up some warning signs about the grade or curves and they would have improved the existing road with lights, rumble strips, speed reductions or ENFORCEMENT! Roads do not cause accidents, drivers who drink or speed or text while driving cause accidents.