GUYSBOROUGH – As Nova Scotia ushered out the month of February, the province also ushered in a new premier. On Feb. 23, Iain Rankin was sworn in as the 29th Premier of Nova Scotia. The change at the head of the table brought a new 16-member cabinet with some new faces and revisions to roles and names of departments.
Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie MLA Lloyd Hines holds his position in cabinet as the minister for the Department of Transportation and Active Transit (formerly Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal).
Hines said of his appointment, “I am so very humbled to rejoin Premier Rankin’s cabinet as Minister of Transportation and Active Transit. I look forward to working with our communities and the department’s great staff to provide safe efficient transport for all Nova Scotians.”
Speaking to the change in the department’s mandate, Hines told The Journal that over the past four years a “significant portion of my responsibility and a massive amount of budget was specifically for the rebuild of the bricks and mortar of hospital facilities in the province … The infrastructure portion of the responsibility grew significantly over that period of time.”
The new premier, said Hines, decided those responsibilities, along with those attached to Housing Nova Scotia, would justify a stand-alone minister. Geoff MacLellan was named the minister of the new Department of Infrastructure and Housing.
“I fully support the establishment of that particular department because spending that kind of public money – it is good to have that close oversight on it,” said Hines.
Hines said he was particularity pleased to remain the “minister responsible for the implementation of the highway budget in the province. That was my primary desire and because I enjoy the work and we also have a tremendous team of people. We have 2,250 people in the department and a tremendous senior management team at all of those levels. Everybody is pulling together to make sure we have good safe highways for Nova Scotians. On that side of the ledger, we have the five highway twinning projects that are all underway, fully funded and financed.”
When asked about the active transit addition to his portfolio, Hines said, “Active transportation is something that started in the last decade. Of course, we have paved roads and cars, but we also have other modes of transportation. We have a great trail system in the province, which is probably the best example of active transportation and, of course, we have bicycle transportation; the piece of road between Boylston (Guysborough County) and Guysborough is purposely widened so there is a paved shoulder outside the main travel area to provide some area where bicycles can operate.
“Also, across the province, we have been tackling the problem of the lack of (public) transport systems. We have three (public) transportation systems in the province (Metro Transit in HRM, Kings Transit in Kings County and Transit Cape Breton in CBRM) – beyond that there is no public transportation system where it is need most; in the rural areas,” he said.
On the same day the new cabinet was announced, a CBC news story reported that the province had been paying $1.7 million a year to Bay Ferries as a management fee to operate the ferry between Nova Scotia and Maine, even when the boat was not in operation. The information was released by the company after it, and the province, lost a court decision requesting the details of the fee launched by the PC Party of Nova Scotia. The ferry and the agreement come under the umbrella of the Department of Transportation.
When asked for comment on the court decision Hines said, “The company decided not to appeal. That was the company’s decision not the government’s … The company was unwilling to release it (management fee) because they thought it was proprietary. They decided on the judge’s ruling to release it.”
Speaking to the cost of the management fee, Hines said, “It’s a standard practice. If you take it and look at it as a regular tender that we put out to build a bridge – we don’t know what the management fee is in that tender. That is not released. They bid a gross volume of money to do the project. We have an estimate of what we think the project is going to cost to do and, if the two of them are close then we award the contract. We don’t know what management fee … That’s proprietary information for that particular company.”
Hines added that the ferry business, “got sideswiped by the pandemic. And, in the last year that we were hauling people, we took in 52,000 customers, I think. That created a significant base for the tourism operations in Southwest Nova. It is important to the economy of the entire province and certainly to Yarmouth and West Nova.”
The Nova Scotia legislature begins a new session on March 9.
Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal