Construction of the Confederation Bridge was preceded by a Federal-Provincial Agreement on a Constitutional Amendment

In 1873, the colony of Prince Edward Island joined the Dominion of Canada under given conditions which were set out in the Schedule to the Order of Her Majesty in Council admitting Prince Edward Island into the Union,1873, one of Canada’s constitutional acts.

One of the conditions pertained to the provision of a maritime link between the Island and the mainland and read as follows: “That the Dominion Government shall assume and defray all the charges for [...] Efficient Steam Service for the conveyance of mails and passengers, to be established and maintained between the Island and the mainland of the Dominion, Winter and Summer [...].  The Government of Canada provided this link by ferry across Northumberland Strait until 1997.

Over the years, technological advances increased public pressure for Prince Edward Island to be linked to the mainland by a bridge.  By the late 1980s, construction of such a bridge between the narrowmost section of the Northumberland Strait had become a possibility, giving rise to feasibility studies and political debate.

Photo: Confederation Bridge

Courtesy of Strait Crossing Bridge Limited 

Photo: Confederation Bridge in winter

Courtesy of Strait Crossing Bridge Limited

The decision was finally made to go ahead with the project.  But before starting work, the Government of Canada had to ensure that completing such a massive project would relieve it from its responsibility to provide a maritime link.

A bilateral federal-provincial agreement between the Government of Canada and that of Prince Edward Island was reached and the following amendment was made to the Schedule to the 1873 Order of Her Majesty: “That a fixed crossing joining the Island to the mainland may be substituted for the steam service referred to in this Schedule.”

This amendment, entitled the Constitution Amendment, 1993 (Prince Edward Island), was made under the amending formula for Canada’s Constitution contained in the Constitution Act, 1982. Section 43, Part V of the Act sets out the terms and conditions for any amendment affecting « one or more, but not all, provinces ».

The 12.9 kilometres long Confederation Bridge across the Northumberland Strait was inaugurated in May 1997. It links Borden-Carleton, Prince Edward Island to Cape Jourimain, New Brunswick.

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