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Northumberland Ferries, ferry worker, businessmen praise long-term commitment

Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay’s announcement that the federal government is seeking a 20-year commitment for the P.E.I.-Nova Scotia ferry service drew widespread praise from people The Guardian talked to on Friday.
Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay’s announcement that the federal government is seeking a 20-year commitment for the P.E.I.-Nova Scotia ferry service drew widespread praise from people The Guardian talked to on Friday.

BELFAST, P.E.I. - The company that operates the ferry service between P.E.I. and Nova Scotia is endorsing the federal government’s plan to put the service up for bids.

Northumberland Ferries Ltd. (NFL) issued a news release Friday after Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay announced government was seeking a new 20-year commitment for the service.

The process involves issuing a request for proposals (RFP) this year. It also means NFL might not be running the service past this year.

Still, Mark MacDonald, chairman and CEO of NFL, said he welcomes government’s commitment.

“We are pleased for our customers, our employees and the communities that we serve, that the government of Canada is making a strong and long-term commitment to the Wood Islands/Caribou and Saint John/Digby ferry services,’’ MacDonald said.

Related: Ottawa seeks 20-year commitment for N.S.-P.E.I. ferry service

One of the ferry workers The Guardian spoke to on Friday also calls it good news – although it also raises some important questions.

“It’s good news for the ferry service, absolutely, to keep the service going,’’ said Helen Pentecost of Iona who works on the ferries. “As employees (though), it still leaves us up in the air a little bit.

“If it goes out to tender, there is no guarantee that Northumberland Ferries will be the winner and so where do our jobs go? Do we have the right of succession for the jobs that come up if another company outbids Northumberland Ferries. So, there’s still lots of concerns for us, but for eastern P.E.I. and Nova Scotia it’s great news.’’

Belfast-Murray River MLA Darlene Compton echoed her concern.

“I’m concerned for the workers of Northumberland Ferries and how we move forward to make sure they have jobs,’’ Compton said.

Keir White, president of the Eastern Chamber of Commerce and Belfast Community Development Corporation, said the news is good for the entire province.

“It’s good to see a long-term commitment because that’s going to help grow the economy, perhaps even allow young families to live in this (eastern) area,’’ White said, adding that he thinks it’s good to have a little competition for the ferry contract.

John Keuper, who operates Island Pride Garden Company in Wood Islands, said he can’t stay alive without the ferry service.

“This is good news. It gives me a little more enthusiasm,’’ Keuper said. “It’s a commitment that needed to happen.’’

Rollo Bay farmer Ray Keenan said trying to get by on one ferry last year was a wake up call.

“Time is money, and when a truck is down to the ferry and not running or has to drive around . . . it’s a significant cost,’’ Keenan said.

 

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart

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