Federal government extends Digby ferry funding for two more years

Published on July 16, 2014

Premier of New Brunswick, David Alward, the federal Minister of Transport, Lisa Raitt and MLA for Clare-Digby, Gordon Wilson announced today in Saint John, the federal government’s continued support of three ferry services in the Atlantic Provinces.

Ben Cleveland photo

The federal government has committed to two more years of funding ferry services in the Atlantic Provinces.

Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport announced in Saint John today that the government of Canada will continue to invest $58 million over two years to support three interprovincial ferry services in Eastern Canada.

“Our government understands the importance of these ferry services to the economic sustainability of Eastern Canada,” said Raitt. “This investment will enhance the safety and efficiency of the services while greatly benefitting the transport, trade and tourism industries in the region.”

The funding allows for continued ferry services between Saint John, NB, and Digby, NS; between Wood Islands, PEI and Caribou, NS; and between Iles-de-la-Madeleine, QC and Souris, PEI, until March 31, 2016.

The federal government first announced this funding in the budget on Feb. 11 as part of Economic Action Plan 2014.

Since 2006, the federal government has invested $246 million in support of these Eastern Canada ferry services.

Digby’s Mayor Ben Cleveland is in Saint John for the announcement.

“We felt it was important to come and show our support for the federal government’s contribution,” he said. “It is also important to show the federal government that this ferry is about two communities, and it’s also important for these two communities to get together and talk about the service and how we can continue to support it.”

He says the federal commitment provides some certainty.

“We can look forward with certainty though 2016 which allows the fishing industry and tourism to make plans,” he said. “In the future though, with the new boat coming next year, I’d like to see some long-term funding arrangements put in place.”

Cleveland said he was happy to hear the minister mention in her remarks that the selection process for the new ferry is on schedule.

Gordon Wilson, the MLA for Clare-Digby was also in New Brunswick for the announcement, as was the Warden of the Municipality of the District of Digby Linda Gregory and Christopher Wright of the Bay of Fundy Transportation Society.

Wright had hoped before the trip that the federal government would be announcing the results of their search for a new ferry.

“They announced how much money they’re willing to spend last year so we’re hoping they’re going to tell us what the new boat is going to be,” said Wright before boarding the ferry Tuesday.

Last June, Conservative MPs Peter MacKay, Gerry Keddy, Greg Kerr and Rodney Weston were in Digby to announce their government’s commitment to providing a replacement vessel for the Digby-Saint John ferry service.

The federal government released a Public Notice of Ferry Purchase last November for a replacement vessel for the Princess of Acadia which currently operates on Digby—Saint John run.

The PNFP did not invite proposals per se, but allowed for written responses identifying vessels, which fit the search parameters outlined in the PNFP.

The government was also to scan “the domestic and international market, including by searching Internet Databases”.

The tentative project schedule outlined in the PNFP says the Department of Transport wanted to finish the identification of candidate vessels by Jan. 3, 2014.

They hoped to have selected “the most suitable vessel” by May 31 and were hoping for delivery of the replacement vessel to Canada by July 31.

They Princess of Acadia has been in service on the Bay of Fundy since 1971 with room for 155 cars and 33 tractor trailers.

Transport Canada owns the vessel and Bay Ferries Ltd., a private company, has the contract to operate the service.