Nova Scotia taxpayers may pay salaries of U.S. border agents

Nova Scotians may end up footing the bill for American border security agents if Bar Harbor becomes the new destination for the Yarmouth to Maine ferry this spring.

Although negotiations with American authorities for the new ferry terminal site have not been made public, Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines said told reporters Thursday the province is not opposed to the idea of paying for United States border services. 

He agreed with the suggestion it might be the cost of doing business at the Bar Harbor port facility.

“Essentially, that’s what it is”, Hines said.

“U.S. Customs and Border Patrol have the responsibility … to police, as it were, the entry point,” he said. “And I think we have to accept that for for what it is. We don’t see that as unreasonable.”

 Opposition leaders pan proposal

Those salaries might be in addition to the $4 million needed to upgrade the facility. 

Hines said it would be “reasonable to expect that (Nova Scotia) would incur at least some of that cost.”

He would not say how much, in total, the service might cost taxpayers for the coming year.

The Bar Harbor terminal has been vacant since 2010. It is estimated that $4 million in upgrades would be necessary to make the facility usable again. (Submitted by Cornell Knight)

Although the McNeil government is ready to accept the notion that Canadians would pay for U.S. government services, neither Nova Scotian opposition leader is.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill said the idea is particularly baffling given the current government shutdown in the U.S.

“What a crazy world that border protection officers in the United States aren’t being paid because of the government’s shutdown and we’re debating whether or not the Nova Scotia government is going to be paying them,” he said.

“Something [is] wrong somewhere.”

‘Value for the Nova Scotia taxpayer is there’

Conservative Leader Tim Houston said he’s concerned the governing Liberals are ready to fund the service without knowing the cost.

“They don’t know how much it’s going to cost but they don’t seem to care, and they have an obligation to care and understand how much it’s going to cost before they write the cheque,” he said.

He said it is not appropriate to pay for U.S. border services.

But Hines says he is convinced the service will be worth the cost.

“We are feel that the value for the Nova Scotia taxpayer is there for this service, as evidenced by the tremendous announcement by the Rodd Group to invest $5.5 million in renewing their facilities and re-opening the Colony [Harbour Inn],” he said, referring to a hotel in Yarmouth that has been closed since 2009 when the service to Bar Harbor was discontinued.

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