Monday, April 7, 2014

BREAKING THE ICE

Former Liberal Cabinet Minter Charles "Chuck" Furey  once said that the Marine Atlantic Gulf Ferry Service was a constitutional cattle car.

He was never far off. 

 I suppose if there  were cattle cars trying to get across a lake or even a river in Western Canada, chances are there would be more efficient ice clearing. I can not imagine a section of the Trans-Canada Highway where a cattle truck would be left stranded for days at a time waiting for a snowplow.  


Successive  federal governments have argued that they have invested in infrastructure, leased bigger better ships, offer better schedules and enhanced services for users.

All of those things might have a kernal of truth, but without looking at lost time, issues with ships that are too large to navigate in certain weather conditions, hike after hike in business and personal fares, hikes in fuel surcharges, stranded passengers, ships stuck at sea in ice, reduced work force and gross managerial incompetence.

The sole purpose of the Gulf Ferry is to provide the island of Newfoundland with a daily connection to the mainland of Canada. It is the Newfoundland Ferry Service not the Nova Scotia Ferry Service, yet Nova Scotia has seen incredible benefits in terms of jobs, providing goods and all of the benefits of servicing the fleet which spends too much time on dry-dock.

I do not blame the professional staff at Marine Atlantic, they have to work within the confines of what the bureaucrats and politicians in Ottawa determine. If budgets are slashed rates go up, they work with what they are given.  The captains did not pick the vessels, the ticket sellers don't set the schedules.  Theirs' is not to ask, but to do.

Forecasting ice conditions and flows is big business off Newfoundland and Labrador. The safety of shipping and offshore instillation has led to the development of an industry.  Changing wind conditions can send the compacted ice in a new direction, but there are many forecasting models. One would think that the government of Canada would be more committed to ensuring there was a dedicated, efficient  and responsive ice breaker available on the ice route which bridges Newfoundland to Canada.

A long term plan should include the Governments of Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Canada working together on a strategy that makes our reliance on the Gulf Ferry a thing of the past.

 It is time to work in concert with Quebec to finish the North Shore Highway and link to the rest of Canada via a ferry across the Northern Peninsula. Each such should ante up to the mutual benefit of all.

In the meantime our residents, businesses and the tourism industry are stuck with never- ending problems  forced to pay more for less. The province keeps investing in marketing to make our province a travel destination and Marine Atlantic keeps throwing up obstacles.

The Marine Atlantic ferry service is our main transportation link to the rest of North America and it is not consistent or reliable!

Anyone feel like belting out O Canada?


I certainly do not!

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