Questions about future of Nova Star ferry raised in N.S. legislature
Questions are being raised about the future of the Nova Star ferry and how much more Nova Scotia taxpayers will have to pay to keep it afloat.
The government says an audit will help examine the ferry’s costs and possible savings, but opposition leaders are accusing the Liberal government of having no vision and no long-term plan.
“The issue is not whether we should have a ferry, it’s whether they’re competent to act, get it done,” said Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie during Thursday’s Question Period.
“We’re going to work with that operator to ensure that the service is not only there for next year, but is there for the long run,” said Premier Stephen McNeil.
Earlier this week, the province announced it was giving Nova Star another $5 million to cover outstanding costs from the season, bringing the total to $26 million.
If the vessel, which runs between Yarmouth and Portland, doesn’t secure work during the winter months, it could mean even more money.
“That certainly wouldn’t be an ideal arrangement but you need to look at what the plan is, you know, what is the longer plan for this ship?” asked interim NDP Leader Maureen MacDonald. “The government hasn’t provided any answers whatsoever.”
“I think Nova Scotians deserve to know, how deep is the taxpayer pit that the government is prepared to dig?” said Baillie.
The minister responsible for the file said a KPMG advisor is auditing Nova Star’s costs and will advise on a plan for moving forward.
“Obviously we are hoping to have that done as quickly as possible, there’s no question,” said Nova Scotia Economic and Rural Development Minister Michel Samson. “We don’t expect that that’s going to take months. We would certainly hope that we’re looking at weeks to receive that.”
The Nova Scotia government has said that part of the agreement was that Nova Star executives would only draw half their salary until the ferry makes a profit.
A public relations agency for Nova Star released that information Thursday, indicating the combined total yearly salary of the four executives at a deferred rate is $425,000 CDN. Individual salaries were not provided.
The company owes the province $7 million, based on a $2-million bond and $5-million line of credit.
“We are in discussions with the company. It is our intention to try to ensure that we recoup as much of Nova Scotia’s investment in the ferry service as possible and we will certainly be doing that,” said Samson.
He said he plans to meet with the owners within the next few weeks.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Jacqueline Foster