Question Period Highlight – Tancook Ferry Update

November 18, 2014

Your NDP MLAs are hard at work in the legislature this fall, holding the government to account during Question Period on a number of key issues, including job loses since Stephen McNeil became Premier, and how the Liberals’ health board amalgamation distraction is causing their government to take their eye off what really matters – front line care. Here is a question NDP Economic Development Critic Denise Peterson-Rafuse asked Geoff MacLellan about the Tancook ferry.

DENISE PETERSON-RAFUSE: The Tancook ferry has been tied up for repairs now for weeks. The Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal has hired a temporary ferry called Eastern Points. It’s not even really a ferry, it’s a whaler. People who rely on the ferry have serious concerns about this arrangement because, for example, today it is not operating. This means that children on the island are unable to attend school.

With lobster season set to open on Monday, fishers are worried that their bait will be stranded on the mainland instead of on the island where they need it.

My question for the minister is, what steps is he taking to correct this situation?

GEOFF MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. Look, I want to the member to know, I want the people of Tancook to know that we’re doing our best to understand the situation and the specifics that are taking place there.

My understanding from the department, from any of the residents who have contacted the department directly, there are concerns about the fuel and the bait and the passenger numbers. These are things we have to address. There’s no excuse; there’s no second option here. We’ve got to get people safety back and forth from the Tancooks to the mainland, Mr. Speaker.

With respect to the vessel, the Eastern Points is ready for service. It has been maintained. It is now ready but it can’t travel the channel due to the wind that is happening there. It has to wait for the wind to subside so the boat can travel.

Mr. Speaker, at this point I want the member to know and the people of Tancook to know that we’re going to listen and get every piece of information we can. If there are specifics that we can improve on, we’re going to do that. We understand the importance of this service and we’re going to keep it there and do whatever we can to get the people happy and safe.

DENISE PETERSON-RAFUSE: Mr. Speaker, as I expressed to the minister, the time is critical for the people of Tancook Island right now. Can you imagine travelling in the weather that we had yesterday? It’s important that we have something that is operational. The kids attending school are missing school. The fishers are starting their season.

The other problem is that residents are concerned that if they have an emergency that the temporary ship is just not equipped to transport people in wheelchairs, for example. So my question through you, Mr. Speaker, when can the people of Little and Big Tancook Island expect a better solution than the one that the minister has presently put in place?

GEOFF MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, once again I want to assure the member opposite that we haven’t heard the complaints and the severe issues about lack of service and the adequacy of the Eastern Points; it just hasn’t come to our attention.