rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Government delays may scuttle Nova Scotia ferry service

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Photo: Matt Hintsa/flickr

Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

It's hard not to feel a twinge of sympathy for the conundrum Stephen McNeil's Liberals face as they scramble to figure out what to do next with the listing ship that is the Yarmouth-Portland ferry service.

But it's also hard not to believe the government's decision last week to put off deciding who will run the service next year may have pulled the bath plug on any hopes the ferry service can succeed next season -- or, perhaps, ever.

The government, it's fair to say, is not happy with Nova Star, its current ferry operator. It's also fair to note the Liberals did not pick Nova Star. The then-NDP government -- which had cut off subsidies for the previous operator in 2010 (thus cutting the service) -- reached a broad-strokes deal with Nova Star on its way out the electoral door in 2013.

But McNeil's Liberal government not only negotiated the actual terms under which Nova Star runs the ferry, it also forked over $21 million to the company to keep it sailing in 2014, and has pledged another $13 million for this year.

But ticket sales have been disappointing. The Nova Star is on track to carry just 60,000 passengers this season; that's 25 per cent below the numbers the company had been projecting.

To make matters worse, the government says it isn't satisfied with the financial information the company has been supplying in exchange for its government funding.

So the government has been not-so-quietly speed-dating other companies as potential replacements for Nova Star next year.

Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan had been hoping to announce his next-year decision last week but backed off. "I've decided to take more time to make sure we get this right for Nova Scotians for the long term."

Which, at one level, makes sense. There have been more than enough mis-steps on the ferry file.

But the longer the government delays naming a new operator -- given relations between the government and Nova Star, it's doubtful that company will get a third chance -- the harder it will be for the new operator to develop and implement a marketing plan that can generate significantly more passengers at lower costs next season.

And without that, there can be no ferry service.

This article first appeared in Stephen Kimber's Halifax Metro column.

Photo: Matt Hintsa/flickr

Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.