Investment in a vital link

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In many areas of Canada, the need for ferry service isn’t readily apparent. And we won’t pick on the landlubbers. But live in the Atlantic provinces or other coastal regions and those crossings are not only part of the backdrop, they represent vital links.

Thankfully, the federal government sees it that way too. Transport Minister Lisa Raitt was in Saint John, N.B., Wednesday to announce an investment by the feds of $58 million over the next two years towards the safety and efficiency of ferries in Eastern Canada.

We hate to say it, but such acknowledgement of the importance of the ferries can be tenuous, and questions about future funding often arise.

In announcing the investment, Raitt said the money will allow for the continued operation of three ferry services: the route between Wood Islands, P.E.I., and Caribou, N.S.; between Digby and Saint John, N.B.; and the service between Souris, P.E.I., and Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Que.

Since construction of the Confederation Bridge to P.E.I. – opening in 1997 – many Nova Scotians in the eastern region have had reason to fear a dwindling demand on the Caribou crossing could spell bad news. Thus, any renewal of commitment from the federal government is cause for optimism.

For travellers in the area, it’s not a bad idea to think about the value and advantages of the service, compared to the alternative.

Think of it as mass transit of the marine variety. Have a meal, a coffee or a snack, rest your weary eyes from road travel or read a book or paper, have a stretch walking the deck and peel your eyes for aquatic life. Sure you pay a fee, as you do on the fixed link, but you save a longer drive and a bit on fuel.

Raitt described ferry service as important to the region’s economic sustainability.

That it is. It’s important to the communities surrounding the terminals and vital to the transport of goods. The service deserves the same kind of attention as the rest of the travel infrastructure in the country.

Geographic location: Saint John, Eastern Canada, Wood Islands P.E.I.

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