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Murphy’s Logic: Protecting Chignecto Isthmus

National unity has been a recurring issue during Canada’s 156 years as a nation. Finding ways to keep the country together, through political accommodation, has been a challenge for governments for generations.

But in 2023, Canada is facing a unity challenge of the sort we have never really seen before. While we have long heard rhetoric about Canada falling apart in the figurative sense, we are today confronted with the prospect that it might literally happen.

Storm surge and rising sea levels are threatening to swamp the isthmus of Chignecto, the tenuous 24 kilometre strip of marshy land that connects peninsular Nova Scotia to the mainland of North America.

Its name comes from a Mi’kmaq word one meaning of which may have meant “drainage place”. The dikes, built by ingenious Acadian settlers who arrived almost three hundred years ago are eroding. They need to be raised and reinforced to prevent mainland Nova Scotia from being cut off from New Brunswick.

Multi-billion dollar highway and rail links are in jeopardy.

Obviously, this simply can’t be allowed to happen.

It will cost a great deal of money, hundreds of millions of dollar, to re-engineer the isthmus and already the federal and provincial governments are embroiled in a tedious debate about which level of government should spend the taxpayers money to do what everyone agrees must be done. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, claim the constitution requires the federal government to maintain transportation links between provinces, and are threatening legal action to force Ottawa to pay.

The federal government may or may not be constitutionally obligated to pay the full shot. The politicians, lawyers and academics could spend millions of dollars and many months debating it. But let’s not.

As the only province connected to the rest of the country by a thin slice of vulnerable land, Nova Scotia is the only province that will ever face this existential threat. That make this a national issue. The national government is morally responsible on behalf of all taxpayers, to keep the country united figuratively and literally. Top Stories

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