Former federal Member of Parliament Bill Casey says he’s running for the provincial Liberals in the August 17th Nova Scotia election mainly because officials in Halifax do not recognize the special needs of an area that borders on a neighbouring province.
“People in Cumberland County feel like we’re not part of the province and I believe that I can help fix that,” Casey said on Tuesday during an interview in his Amherst campaign office.
“There’s 18 counties in Nova Scotia and it just seems to me that 17 have one set of rules and there’s a separate set of rules for Cumberland and I’d like to change that.”
Casey explains that Cumberland in the only county in Nova Scotia that borders on another province with a wide-range of differing tax policies and rules for everything from the sale of gasoline, alcohol and tobacco to regulations that govern trucking.
“When the gas prices go down in New Brunswick, Cumberland County residents will flock to New Brunswick and then when Nova Scotia prices are down, New Brunswick customers will flock to Nova Scotia,” he says.
“Other counties in Nova Scotia do not have to experience that and don’t feel it, but we do every day.”
Casey says the population of the three Maritime provinces is only the size of a big city so it makes sense to share services with perhaps, one department of transportation, one registry of motor vehicles and one liquor commission.
“It would save a lot of money and that way we would have similar regulations between the provinces so we wouldn’t have this difference.”
He points to the Atlantic Lottery Corporation as an example of inter-provincial co-operation that he says works well and benefits everyone.
“There’s not three different overheads and head offices and staff and different regulations,” he adds. “If you buy a ticket in Nova Scotia, it’s exactly the same as a ticket in New Brunswick and I believe that we should explore all avenues of government services to see how we could share.”
Casey points to the Cobequid Pass highway tolls as another example that separates Cumberland County from the rest of Nova Scotia.
“To me, it’s a matter of fairness and this is one county that’s had to pay tolls for 25 years,” he says.
“A student in Amherst who wanted to go to any university in Nova Scotia has to pay an $8 toll,” he adds.
“My daughter has to take her daughter to the IWK in Halifax, she has to pay an $8 toll and nobody else in Nova Scotia has to do that.”
Casey says Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin’s campaign promise to remove tolls on passenger vehicles with Nova Scotia licence plates is a step toward eliminating all the tolls.
“It’s the first time in 25 years that we’ve had any reduction in the tolls for anybody, so it’s a start and it’s again one way Cumberland County was treated differently than everybody else.”
When asked why voters should believe Rankin’s promise to remove tolls when Liberals made the same pledge in 2017 but never acted on it, Casey replies that now, there’s a definite date.
“They [the Liberals in 2017] had a vague time frame, but we have October the 1st as the date and I believe it’s going to happen. If it doesn’t, I’m going to be upset,” he says with a chuckle.
Casey says he’ll also fight to end provincial discrimination against Cumberland County for recognition of its history.
During his seven terms as a federal Member of Parliament for the Nova Scotia riding of Cumberland-Colchester, Casey succeeded in getting Beaubassin designated a National Historic Site.
Parks Canada installed a kiosk and panels outlining the history of the Acadian village that was burned in 1750 as England and France were battling for control of the Chignecto Isthmus.
When Iain Rankin visited Amherst earlier this month, the Liberal leader promised to explore ways of recognizing the nearby Chignecto Ship Railway.
Casey says the never-completed railway, designed to carry ships over the Isthmus between the Northumberland Strait and the Bay of Fundy, is one of two nationally historic civil engineering sites in Nova Scotia, both equal in historic value. The other is the Shubenacadie Canal.
“Talk about differences between Cumberland County and other counties,” Casey says.
“Shubenacadie Canal gets hundreds of thousands of dollars poured into it; Chignecto Ship Railway doesn’t get a cent,” he adds.
“I really believe in preserving our history.”
This is the first in a series of reports on the Liberal campaign in Cumberland North. We will also be providing additional coverage of Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin who is running as an Independent; Lauren Skabar’s campaign for the NDP and David Wightman’s candidacy for the Progressive Conservatives.