Gulf ferry rate in­creases will have neg­a­tive im­pact

The Southern Gazette - - SPORTS -

A New­found­land MP claims rate in­creases by Ma­rine At­lantic place an un­fair bur­den on the trav­el­ling pub­lic and have a di­rect neg­a­tive im­pact on the prov­ince’s econ­omy.

Ef­fec­tive Apr. 1, Ma­rine At­lantic pas­sen­ger and commercial ferry rates for the cross­ings be­tween North Syd­ney and Chan­nel-Port aux Basques or Ar­gen­tia will again in­crease, this time by three per cent.

The MP for Ran­dom-Burin-St. Ge­orge’s, Judy Foote, re­called in 2011 and 2012, the Harper govern­ment cut a com­bined $16.3 mil­lion from Ma­rine At­lantic’s an­nual op­er­at­ing budget.

“My fear was the Crown cor­po­ra­tion would again be forced to raise fares in or­der to com­ply with the govern­ment’s ex­pec­ta­tion the cor­po­ra­tion re­cover a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of its op­er­at­ing costs. Un­for­tu­nately, the only way the cor­po­ra­tion has to do so is at the ex­pense of those who use the ser­vice.”

Mrs. Foote said this im­mi­nent three per cent hike comes on the back of Ma­rine At­lantic cus­tomers who have al­ready been hit with an eight per cent in­crease over the last two years.

“Ma­rine At­lantic pro­vides the people of New­found­land and Labrador with a vi­tal link to the rest of our coun­try. For the is­land por­tion of our prov­ince, the gulf cross­ing is as crit­i­cal a con­nec­tor ser­vice as the Trans-Canada High­way is for most other prov­inces in the coun­try.”

Mrs. Foote said in its 2008–09 to 2012–13 Cor­po­rate Plan Sum­mary, Ma­rine At­lantic noted the Min­is­ter of Trans­port, In­fra­struc­ture and Com­mu­ni­ties es­tab­lished ex­pec­ta­tions for the Crown cor­po­ra­tion to de­velop rev­enue and cost con­tain­ment strate­gies to achieve a cost re­cov­ery tar­get of be­tween 60 and 65 per cent. She claimed if the Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment was truly in­ter­ested in help­ing this prov­ince build its econ­omy, it would re-ex­am­ine its de­mand Ma­rine At­lantic re­cover at least 60 per cent of its costs.

“This de­mand is es­sen­tially forc­ing the Crown cor­po­ra­tion to in­crease its rates when, at the same time, the govern­ment cuts the cor­po­ra­tion’s budget.

“An in­crease in fares not only neg­a­tively af­fects in­di­vid­u­als and businesses di­rectly us­ing the ser­vice, but in fact ev­ery con­sumer in the prov­ince, and those in­volved in the tourism in­dus­try. The bulk of house­hold items in our prov­ince is im­ported and much of it via Ma­rine At­lantic.”

She sug­gested any in­crease in costs as­so­ci­ated with trans­port­ing these goods is un­doubt­edly passed along to con­sumers if the pri­vate sec­tor is to profit, many of which are small businesses that can­not af­ford to ab­sorb con­tin­u­ous in­creases in their trans­porta­tion costs.

Mrs. Foote added people look­ing at New­found­land and Labrador as a tourist des­ti­na­tion think twice be­fore mak­ing that reser­va­tion as the cost of trav­el­ling to the prov­ince continues to rise.

“These rate in­creases are a dou­ble-edged sword. Not only do they re­sult in in­creases in the cost of goods in the prov­ince, but also com­pa­nies ex­port­ing prod­ucts are placed in a less com­pet­i­tive po­si­tion. For a govern­ment pre­tend­ing to be con­cerned about job cre­ation, clearly, these rate in­creases can only have the op­po­site ef­fect.”

The MP out­lined based on the three per cent in­crease, the fare for two adults with a ve­hi­cle trav­el­ling be­tween Chan­nel-Port aux Basques and North Syd­ney will rise from $194.37 to $200.06. Trav­el­ling be­tween Ar­gen­tia and North Syd­ney for two adults with a ve­hi­cle will rise from $449.49 to $462.80.

She said the three per cent in­crease also ap­plies to commercial-sized ve­hi­cles. For ex­am­ple, trac­tor-trail­ers will have to pay an ex­tra $19.06 each time they cross the gulf us­ing the Chan­nel-Port aux Basques-North Syd­ney route and $49.47 ex­tra for the Ar­gen­tia-North Syd­ney route.

“An in­crease of four per cent in 2012, an­other four per cent in 2013 and now an additional three per cent in 2014, that is an 11 per cent in­crease in just three years. To­tally un­ac­cept­able es­pe­cially when the ferry ser­vice pro­vides that vi­tal link to the rest of the coun­try for so many people who live in New­found­land and Labrador and other Cana­di­ans who want to spend time in our prov­ince.”

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