A paper petition signed by more than 6,500 people who support twinning a dangerous section of Highway 104 likely won’t be going anywhere.
That’s because Joe MacDonald, chief of the Barney’s River Fire Department and the man behind the movement, recently found out the petition doesn’t have the proper wording to be presented in the Nova Scotia legislature.
“I had two little boys, they lost their father down here on the road — Ben Carver in 2015 — they signed the petition,” MacDonald told Global News.
“Maybe it didn’t constrict to the rules but it meant something to them and to say to them it didn’t mean anything, it’s going backwards.”
Since 2009, there have been 355 collisions along a 37-kilometre stretch of Highway 104 between Sutherland’s River and Antigonish. Fifteen of those resulted in fatalities.
Online petitions not allowed in Nova Scotia
MacDonald lost his brother and sister-in-law along an untwinned section of the highway and has been fighting for years to get the road twinned. Yet, he says he continues to be met with red tape and road blocks along the way.
“They just want to be heard. They want to communicate their message and they want to make sure the government is listening. So at the first opportunity for the government to say ‘we’re not interested in the petition in this format,’ it’s pretty sad,” said Tim Houston, PC MLA for Pictou East.
“There are certain rules to follow and those rules have not changed for many decades. They’re online for everybody to see, to follow,” said Kevin Murphy, Speaker of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly.
The rules around petitions may be online, but unlike other jurisdictions in the country, in Nova Scotia, you can’t submit petitions on the internet.
More than 8,000 people have also signed an online petition calling for the Nova Scotia government to twin Highway 104 and make it safer, but once again those signatures don’t count.
“We have looked at the option of bringing online capability here to Nova Scotia but the cost benefit, the math doesn’t work out for us in this province,” said Murphy.
“The important part is that 15,000 Nova Scotians are interested in seeing something happen, so that’s the key message for me,” said Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellen. “We certainly hear them.”
Public consultations delayed
On top of the petition, MacDonald is facing another roadblock. It’s estimated to cost the province about $250 million dollars to twin Highway 104.
A recent Highway Twinning Study ranked eight sections of highway based on feasibility — Highway 104 came in third.
Public consultations on the study were supposed to have already started, but have been delayed.
“Minister of Transportation, yesterday, said the consultations would not be held until the new year now, so it’s been late summer, fall, late fall, now new year,” said MacDonald.
“We don’t know when it’s going to come.”
WATCH: Feasibility study released, still no commitment by government to twin N.S. highways
MacDonald is hoping the provincial government will consider changing what he describes as “archaic rules” around petitions and listen to what Nova Scotians want.