Gulf ferry rate increases will have negative impact
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.”