I'm not sure I see the point of a new container terminal on the Canso Strait. It's not very far from Halifax, so it wouldn't shorten steaming distance for liner shipping companies, and it's not very far from Halifax, so it wouldn't be much closer to Canadian and US markets. So why bother?
Halifax has excellent rail access and a 60-foot channel depth, as well as the best natural harbor on the East Coast (the Bedford Basin is huge), but it has always been a minor player among East Coast ports. Why? Well, start with the fact that it's 850 miles from Halifax to Montreal -- and at that point, you're still more than 500 miles from traffic generators in the American Midwest.
Hampton Roads, by contrast, is only about 700 miles (total) from Midwestern points, and is also close to the markets of the Northeast, where 40% of the US population lives. It's also closer to the Pamana Canal than anything in Canada. At USDOT (full disclosure -- I'm a policy advisor in the Office of the Secretary) we think that probably just one East Coast port and maybe one Gulf Coast port will end up serving the large "Post-Pamamax" containerships that will be able to transit the enlarged Panama Canal. My bets are on Hampton Roads and, probably, Houston (although New Orleans may be a player). But Canada? No way.
Prince Rupert has potential as a bulk port because it's close to Asian markets and also pretty close to sources of potash, coal, and other minerals in Canada. There aren't any minerals to speak of in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick, and major consumer markets are far away. I say all this despite the fact that a good friend is a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, sits on the Harbors Board, and has authored a book about the liner shipping industry. She'd agree with my assessment.
Randy Resor, aka "NellieBly" passed away on November 1, 2013. We honor his memory and his devotion to railroading at railroad.net.