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Out of commission: N.S. Commissionaires won't bid on Halifax bridge contract


If you're one of the tens of thousands of Haligonians who travel over the harbour bridges every day, you'll be seeing some new faces in the months ahead.

Nova Scotia Commissionaires, who've had the contract to man the bridges for nearly 70 years, is not bidding for the job this time because an internal business analysis didn't add up.

"We did a comprehensive review - an internal business analysis - that was mathematically based, where we looked at the opportunity in an empirical way, as a collective team which included representatives from finance, operations, employee representation," said N.S. Commissionaires CEO Barry Pitcher on Tuesday.

"We did a scoring system, and we decided, based on the score that we would not submit a bid for the current RFP."

Commissionaires have staffed toll booths and operated security at the MacKay and MacDonald bridges for decades.

N.S. Commissionaires head office in Bedford is pictured. (Source: Bruce Frisko/CTV News Atlantic)

"I'm very proud of our 52 employees, not only our present employees, but all of our employees over the last 68 years," said Pitcher.

Commissionaires Nova Scotia is one of 15 divisions that form a federation known as Commissionaires Canada.

The not-for-profit has a social mandate to “provide meaningful employment that meets the needs of veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, their families and others who wish to contribute to the security and well-being of Canadians.”

The provincial group is in its 86th year and has 1,400 employees.

Pitcher insists the decision not to bid on the tender was more than just financial.

"We look at all aspects: human resources, operational, employee input," he said.

"And each area, where the process itself is confidential, but the whole equation results in a score, and the score equated to at this time, we would not look to the bridge as an opportunity to submit a bid," said Pitcher, adding the organization's review process is only triggered on a renewal or extension.

"We are not actively reviewing all contracts," said communications lead Rebecca Brown, via email.

The MacDonald Bridge tolls in Dartmouth are pictured. (Source: Bruce Frisko/CTV News Atlantic)

Still, the decision has generated some disappointment.

Commissionaire Robert Dobbin has only had a bridge position for about eight months.

"I love it," he told CTV News at the MacDonald Bridge. "Commissionaires is a great company to work for, and working on the bridges is a lot of fun. So, I'm a little bit disappointed that we're going to be losing it.”

Tony Wright, CEO of Halifax Harbour Bridges, admitted the end of the partnership was a loss.

"We certainly value the relationship," he said. "We've had a great relationship with Commissionaires Nova Scotia that dates back to the beginning of Halifax Harbour Bridges. They provided us with great service over the years and so it will be a loss for sure.

"We strongly believe there are other entities out there who can provide the service for us as well.”

As of Tuesday, no bids had been received.

The bidding closes Friday at 2 p.m. Atlantic time.

Commissionaires will work their last day on March 31.

"It's our goal to ensure, when we hand the keys over to the lucky bid, on the bridge, that we do so professionally, and we go out with the same level of service, and we've guaranteed our employees," said Pitcher, adding there'll be no job losses associated with the decision.

Asked if there was anything he wanted Haligonians to know, Pitcher said, "As you cross over those bridges, give a wave, or if you're getting some change, tell them, 'Thank you for your service' to our men and women in blue."

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page. Top Stories

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