Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ottawa Increases Ferry Funding for the East Coast

Last Tuesday night, November 30, 2010, the Federal government came to the decision to increase the amount of funding they would normally give to the companies running the three ferry services of the Maritime Provinces and Quebec. These services are vital commuting and communication links connecting the Islands to the Maritime Provinces.

Over the next three and a half to four years the ferry systems for the Gulf of Saint Lawrence will receive a boost to their financial burdens. The Federal government has decided to increase the funding for the services another $51 million over the next three years, until the end of March 2014 for the Picto/PEI run and the PEI/Magdalen Islands (Iles de la Madeleine) run until March 30, 2015. This will be in addition to the $32 million already earmarked in the 2010 federal budget.

The funding will be broke down in several ways, including the use of $6 million to keep the Madeleine running between Souris, PEI and Grindstone (Cap-aux-Meules) Magdalen Islands, 12 months a year by using the icebreaking services of the coast guard, to use the service February and March, two months when the ferry services is normally shut down for the winter. This will be the third winter season the Madeleine has been in service all year round.

These ferry services employ hundreds of personal and generate many millions of dollars in revenue. These services contribute significantly to the economic sustainability of our region by promoting employment and business opportunities for the people of the region. Forty-five million dollars will be used operating costs and maintain the ships in service.

"The Government of Canada understands the importance of these ferry services to the local communities and economy," said the Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. "In addition to providing safe and effective transportation to remote communities, the investments announced today will go a long way in supporting the regional economy and transportation network in Eastern Canada."

In support of these three ferry services, Transport Canada owns four vessels and six ferry facilities that are leased to the private operators for a nominal amount. They are: Saint John, N.B. - Digby, N.S., Ferry Service; Wood Islands, P.E.I. - Caribou, N.S., Ferry Service; and Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Que. - Souris, P.E.I., Ferry Service. The existing agreements for these ferry services were set to expire on March 31, 2011. Transport Canada is committed to working with the provinces and local communities on a long-term approach to these ferry services.

les-de-la-Madeleine, Que. - Souris, P.E.I., Ferry Service

The federal government has been providing support for the ferry service between Îles-de-la-Madeleine and Souris since 1971. This service, which is operated by CTMA Traversier Ltée, is normally provided for 10 months of the year (April to January), closing for two months (February and March), given the challenges of operating TC's vessel in heavy ice conditions. In 2008-09 and 2009-10, TC supported two short-term extensions of the ferry service in February and March using the operator's own ice class vessel. Since 2005-06, TC has provided nearly $40 million to the private operator (including $3.8 million for an extended winter service in 2008-09 and 2009-10).

The extended winter ferry service is expected to generate nearly $12 million in socioeconomic benefits* for the community and local businesses, mostly due to reduced transportation and business costs, and increased employment.

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