Eleventh Hour Proposal for TrentonWorks

(This article was published in the print version of The New Glasgow News, January 15, 2008.)

Last May I announced my intent to seek an independent candidacy in Central Nova for the pending federal election. The status of my candidacy has not changed; it is pending.

The following proposal was to be, and may yet be, a major plank in my platform. However, as the situation for the future of TrentonWorks has hit a crisis point, I have no alternative but to release this proposal now in the public interest without having myself attached to it as a political candidate.

I propose the following: that the Government of Canada undertake a feasibility study to determine if it is possible, from an engineering perspective, to retrofit the Confederation Bridge to house a hydro turbine tidal fence. The proviso for this proposal is crucial. Should a feasibility study prove to be positive from engineering and economic viability perspectives, then all fabrication work for bridge upgrades and eventual turbine manufacture, whole or in part, be contracted to TrentonWorks.

I would think that a guaranteed demand for product, with minimal shipping overhead, i.e. from Pictou Harbour to sight of assembly, and with the potential of tapping into a dynamic, global market, would catch the eye of any tentative buyer of TrentonWorks, if not the eye of Greenbrier itself.

I further propose that said feasibility study incorporate the engineering expertise of Blue Energy International (BEI) along with representation from Strait Crossing Development Inc. (the current owners of the bridge), appropriate federal ministries, and provincial representation from New Brunswick and PEI. Note that the Federal Government would occupy a crucial seat as the management and operations of the bridge resort back to the Government of Canada in 2032.

BEI is a Canadian company and a world leader of tidal turbine and tidal fence technologies. I strongly suggest a visit to the company’s web site at http://www.bluenergy.com/ to view the company’s Dalupiri tidal fence project in the Philippines and, in particular, the bridge retrofit project on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. (A note to skeptics: no, I do not hold a share position in BEI.) The total length of the Dalupiri project is roughly the length of the Confederation Bridge. On completion, utilizing 274 of BEI’s Davis turbines, the Dalupiri project will generate 2,200 mega watts of energy. I leave it to you, the reader, to connect the dots on what this implies for the energy self-sufficiency of the Maritimes and possible export of surplus.

I further propose that, within the economic context outlined herein, that a share of Atlantic Gateway monies be earmarked for the upgrade of Pictou Harbour.

A multi-billion dollar project of such magnitude as is being proposed would require careful navigation through a minefield of a myriad of political, corporate, financial, legal and bureaucratic self-interests. Some sort of 3P arrangement goes without saying. However, it all boils down to the results of a feasibility study and, based on the study’s results, the marshalling of political will.

Lastly, I propose that the Governments of Canada and Nova Scotia offer to jointly lease the TrentonWorks facility, with all current assets in place, for the length of the proposed feasibility study. In this manner, Greenbrier is not only given the option of freezing bids for the duration of the study, but it is also not out-of-pocket.

This proposal is offered to the community in good faith. As the federal political representative of the community, the onus falls on The Honourable Peter MacKay to move with it, to bring it to the attention of Cabinet, or not. As such, the proposal somewhat takes on the dynamic of a standard call option. Should Mr. MacKay not exercise the right on the option by its expiry date, i.e. the date when the writ for an election is dropped, then the option reverses back to me as my intellectual property and as a plank in my pending independent platform.

The long-range vision implied in this proposal is for hydro energy self-sufficiency for the Atlantica region. If such a simple thing as a feasibility study to kick-start the process collapses, on either Mr. MacKay’s end or on mine, then the citizens of Central Nova may be strongly urged to boldly rally behind the socialist, earth-shattering NDP vision for a $10/hour minimum wage. They will need it.



  1. Hi Sebastian

    The tidal technology is a good idea, though I’m not sure the bridge is the best place. Another place to look at might be the Canso Causeway, a barrage we already have.

    I’m not in favor though of having the government bail out big business. I see it as just a short term fix to gain votes. It won’t be long before it is no longer economic to build hydro plant there, and the work will be shipped off to far distant lands and we are back to square one with a one-trick town and a large unemployed workforce.

  2. I guess that another question is whether Trenton Works could build these things. It seems like a whole new ball game to making rail cars, a bit like asking a stick maker to turn bowls, or vice versa.

    Really, there are a whole load of things that redundant big factories could make. One example might be MDI’s air car which is seeking investment from around the world.

  3. Agreed, that the Confederation Bridge might not be the best location. The Canso Straight has also crossed my mind. That is why the gist of the proposal is for a feasibility study.

    Neither do I favour government bailing out big business. As per the proposal, the Feds would act as a broker to bring all parties together. I infer for some kind of tentative 3P arrangement. My own preference would be for all levels of government to hold a junior stake. As for the economic vialibility of it, this is another thing to be determined by a feasibility study, as it says right there in the article.

    TrentonWorks has historically been able to shift its product line in a relatively short span of time. The best example is the shift to military vehicles during the Second World War, the incentive being a war-footing. I would argue that we are not too many years removed from entertaining a similar public sentiment re the ecological crisis.

    Bridge and turbine construction are heavy industry. It’s a trade-off. These may all be moot points as it is my understanding that, even should all these factors prove favourable, the most serious obstacle standing in the way for a buyer is the union and the rumoured conduct of its members. An Asian buyer, for example, wouldn’t touch TrentonWorks with a 10 foot pole, based on rumoured past labour “relations.”

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