N.S. transport minister has few answers around Yarmouth ferry's move to new port
Published Thursday, February 14, 2019 4:13PM AST Last Updated Thursday, February 14, 2019 7:12PM AST
HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia's transportation minister had few answers Thursday on the Yarmouth ferry's ongoing move to Bar Harbor, Maine, prompting opposition parties to charge the government file has gotten out of control.
Lloyd Hines said following a cabinet meeting he understands demolition work is underway at the Bar Harbor terminal, but he couldn't say whether the province is paying for that work and he also couldn't give an overall cost for the move from Portland, Maine.
"I have no idea," Hines told reporters.
He said the heavily subsidized private operator, Bay Ferries, is yet to sign a new lease deal with the province and with the Town of Bar Harbor.
And while Hines expressed concern time is slipping away for marketing a season that is expected to start in June, he said he remains confident there will be a service in 2019.
He offered a 1990s Gulf War reference to demonstrate his confidence.
"Yes there's an element of uncertainty around what would happen if whatever, a Scud missile came that took the operation out, but at this point in time we are quite confident that this is a prudent expenditure of taxpayers money," he said.
Meanwhile, the minister also said he hasn't read a consultant's report prepared for the province that assesses the cost of renovating the Bar Harbor terminal, and had no update on ongoing talks with United States Customs and Border Protection around its services and the renovation work.
Hines did say he expects to be updated in a briefing by department staff next week.
The opposition Tories and NDP wasted no time in pouncing on the information vacuum.
"I think it's embarrassing," said Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston. "There is so much information that should be available to Nova Scotians. The minister doesn't know or is not saying."
Houston said he thinks the government is "scrambling on this file" and doesn't know what it's doing.
"I can't get even my head around the fact they are just willing to keep writing cheques and hope that it works out."
NDP Leader Gary Burrill said the ferry is an essential piece of the province's transportation infrastructure that requires the highest standard of competence and skilled management.
"I just think there is an inadequate level of prudence and care across the board on every part of this file," Burrill said.
Bay Ferries did not respond Thursday to a series of emailed questions.
The provincial government has spent $32 million in subsidies since the ferry service resumed in 2015.