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Atlantic Gateway fallacies

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Caterpillar, Inc. announced last week that it was shifting its Halifax operations to Norfolk, Virginia. The Caterpillar loss follows last year’s departure of major shippers China Shipping and Maersk from Halifax. So now, we’re seeing major infighting among major port figures.


First, Merv Russell, the former chair of the Halifax Port Authority, publicly blasted leadership at HPA. “ince CEO Karen Oldfield has taken over, the emphasis on the Port of Halifax has been about real estate and not the economic engine that Halifax is so dependent on,” Russell wrote in a letter to allnovascotia.com. 


Then, former HPA director George Briand told the Chronicle Herald that “there needs to be a shakeup of the port’s administration.”


But this internecine warfare misses the point. Port traffic is decreasing for a reason: all gibberish about Halifax being a “gateway” aside, it doesn’t make geographical sense to ship through Halifax to reach midwestern US markets. 


Gateway hacks like to point out that Halifax is the closest seaport to India, but they fail to mention that precisely because Nova Scotia juts out into the Atlantic, the land trip from Halifax to, say, Chicago, is longer than the land trip from New York or Norfolk to Chicago. And it is the land end of the trip that runs up the cost of shipping.


The hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on the “Halifax Gateway” may serve political patronage purposes---the usual cast of well-connected characters is no doubt grateful ---but it would be far better spent supporting home-grown industry and, especially, agriculture. The sooner we realize that, the better.

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