What are we paying for?

Published on June 2, 2014

Everyone who’s travelled to and from this province via the Marine Atlantic ferries knows that the crossing schedule can be tenuous at best. But usually that’s because of forces that are out of the federal Crown corporation’s control, like the weather.

However, natural delays certainly weren’t to blame for Marine Atlantic’s most recent schedule alteration, which saw the company decide to scale back on its summer crossing schedule between Port aux Basques and North Sydney rather than increase it, which is typically the case. Fewer tourist bookings and a drop in commercial traffic were cited as reasons for clawing back the crossings.

Politicians in the House of Assembly also seemed puzzled by the decision last week, regardless of their political stripe. Premier Tom Marshall says he’ll request a meeting with the prime minister to discuss the ferry service.

Chances are, if most people think an idea is a bad one, it probably is.

The company’s decision affects more than just itself: Towns, Marine Atlantic’s employees and the tourism industry in two provinces will all suffer if fewer passengers have the opportunity to sail across the Cabot Strait. Add in the fact that the rates we pay to take that ferry ride have steadily increased and the tax dollars we all shell out to help support the service, and it makes us wonder: What are we paying for exactly?  

Based on a web poll conducted by The Star last week, 86 per cent of those who responded thought the schedule reduction is a bad idea. On behalf of some of that 86 per cent, there are a few suggestions to Marine Atlantic that they might agree with.

Instead of cutting crossings when tourism bookings are down, give travellers more incentive to take a ferry voyage to Newfoundland and Labrador or Nova Scotia by offering them discounts. And instead of punishing companies for their unwillingness to use ferry for commercial crossings, work with them to figure out how to keep or earn back their business.

And if Marine Atlantic chooses not to listen to those who help pay its bills, those people probably have some suggestions for other ways to get across the Gulf.