Gander and Area Cham­ber of Com­merce speaks out about Oceanex court case

The Beacon (Gander) - - News - BY ADAM RAN­DELL

GANDER, NL – Given the eco­nomic dif­fi­cul­ties faced in the prov­ince, the Gander and Area Cham­ber of Com­merce is speak­ing out about a fed­eral court case that could po­ten­tially see ad­di­tional pres­sure on busi­nesses and con­sumers in New­found­land and Labrador.

Oceanex is chal­leng­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment on tax­payer sub­si­dies to Ma­rine At­lantic for ship­ping.

As pre­vi­ously re­ported by Saltwire Net­work, Oceanex is ask­ing the court to or­der the min­is­ter of Trans­port to re­con­sider his de­ci­sion ap­prov­ing the 2016-17 freight rates for Ma­rine At­lantic. Ma­rine At­lantic is ask­ing the court to toss the whole mat­ter, say­ing the court doesn’t have ju­ris­dic­tion.

The terms of union be­tween New­found­land and Canada stip­u­late the fed­eral gov­ern­ment must op­er­ate a ferry ser­vice be­tween the is­land and Cape Bre­ton; they don’t state that Ot- tawa must sub­si­dize the ser­vice. Canada’s Trans­porta­tion Act states, “com­pe­ti­tion and market forces, both within and among the var­i­ous modes of trans­porta­tion, are the prime agents in pro­vid­ing vi­able and ef­fec­tive trans­porta­tion ser­vices.” If Oceanex’s is suc­cess­ful, it’s tough times ahead for the prov­ince, says Hazel Bishop, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Gander and Area Cham­ber of Com­merce. She es­ti­mates a de­crease could dou­ble or even triple ship­ping costs.

She stated Ma­rine At­lantic trans­ports most pro­duce and meat, build­ing sup­plies, and dan­ger­ous goods to the is­land por­tion of the prov­ince. Bishop said these goods are shipped through Ma­rine At­lantic, which pro­vides two com­mer­cial trips daily, while Oceanex runs three trips weekly to de­liver goods to St. John’s. “The ma­jor­ity of our freight, from Gander and to the west, comes through Ma­rine At­lantic,” Bishop said. “Any de­crease in the sub­sidy would cause an in­crease in the com­mer­cial rate that would have to be passed on to the con­sumer. “In an econ­omy where we are all strug­gling, try­ing to keep things go­ing, an­other in­crease is a major con­cern not just for ev­ery res­i­dent but ev­ery busi­ness as well.” The cham­ber, which rep­re­sents 320 busi­nesses, en­cour­ages all res­i­dents and busi­ness own­ers to ex­press their con­cerns through so­cial me­dia, con­tact­ing area MHAs and MPs.

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The Gander and Area Cham­ber of Com­merce is rais­ing con­cerns about the im­pact on pro­vin­cial busi­nesses and con­sumers should Oceanex’s fed­eral case be suc­cess­ful in lob­by­ing for re­duced sub­sidy pay­ments for Ma­rine At­lantic.

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