Venture entails degree of risk

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People from outside the region visiting the Maritimes will often have visions of catching a ferry somewhere as part of the trip. One of the longer crossings touching these shores has just got back up and running – and that it’s turning out to be a costly venture probably won’t come as a surprise.

In fact, recent reports show the new Yarmouth-to-Maine ferry has already had to dip into the bulk of the money earmarked for it by the Nova Scotia government.

Economic Development Minister Michel Samson said Friday $19 million of the $21 million committed to the operator over seven years has already been shelled out. Nova Star Cruises just started up two weeks ago, the replacement after the former NDP government pulled funding shortly after elected because the crossing was too highly subsidized.

That reflected the harsh reality of the province’s finances, and certainly set off a lot of hand-wringing, particularly from south shore tourist operators and municipal leaders who said the loss would mean a big hole in their business.

The NDP, before voted out of office, managed to get things on track for a replacement, and had pledged $10.5 million for the new operator’s first year. That sum grew to a $14 million total with money on advertising and other costs. It jumped again when the Liberal government advanced $5 million after the State of Maine failed to deliver on a pledge to offer a $5 million line of credit.

We’ll have to hope state officials do see the mutual benefit of this service and keep it in their plans. Samson said the business is still trying to negotiate the deal with Maine.

It sounds like a shaky start to ferry link that, depending on where you are, means boom or bust for businesses. To see it fail after all the work to get it restarted would be heartbreaking. But undoubtedly this will be an operation the province will be keeping close tabs on, along with their fingers crossed that finances don’t force another tough decision.

Organizations: NDP

Geographic location: Maine, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

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