AMHERST, N.S. — Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Iain Rankin had to overcome hecklers Tuesday as he announced his party would remove some tolls on a section of the Trans-Canada Highway.
The announcement repeated an earlier commitment by the Liberal government to remove the toll from a section of Highway 104, which was delayed last year to pay for road improvements.
The Liberals say the change would take effect on Oct. 1 if they are re-elected.
Rankin made the announcement as protesters — some of them supporters of an opposing Independent candidate — held signs and shouted about public health orders that had restricted travel to New Brunswick during earlier stages of the pandemic.
Rankin is also promising that a Liberal government would build rest stations and maintenance facilities at the midpoint of the stretch of highway known as the Cobequid Pass.
He said truckers and motorists with out-of-province licence plates will still pay tolls, with the revenue used for maintenance and the construction of the promised facilities.
"The Cobequid tolls have been a long-standing issue and an irritant for local residents, as you can see, but I believe that issue was worsened by the pandemic and I certainly feel for the residents of Cumberland County," Rankin said during the announcement in Amherst.
He defended the restrictions on interprovincial travel during the pandemic, while acknowledging that residents of the county bordering New Brunswick "had endured a heavy burden."
The incumbent in the riding, Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, was dropped from the Progressive Conservative caucus last month after she posted a video on social media supporting a protest that blocked the highway between the two provinces.
The protest came after the Rankin government at the last minute reversed course on a planned reopening of Nova Scotia to travellers from New Brunswick, without restrictions.
The chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang said at the time that he and his New Brunswick counterpart had disagreed on what level of risk was acceptable. However, Rankin later announced visitors from New Brunswick would be able to travel without restrictions beginning June 30.
The Tories have not yet announced their candidate in the riding for the Aug. 17 election. During a news conference earlier in the day, Progressive Conservative leader Tim Houston said his party would also remove the car tolls if elected.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2021.
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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Danielle Edwards, The Canadian Press