Review offers clearer picture

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We'll have to concede on this one there are different takes on what constitutes "economically viable."

After Premier Darrell Dexter announced Monday his government would have another look at the ferry service between Yarmouth and Maine - discontinued shortly after his government took power - an opponent said it was simply damage control.

Dexter said a panel of tourism, ferry and business experts will form the independent panel to review existing studies on the service and help his government with a recommendation. The NDP cancelled an annual $6 million subsidy two years ago, understandably bringing howls of protest from residents and business people in the area.

The Liberal MLA for Yarmouth, Zach Churchill, has responded that the panel isn't necessary, since past studies have shown the ferry service is economically viable. He suggests Dexter is focused on his party's image with an election a year or so away.

But then what's the $6 million all about? You might have to qualify Churchill's statement and say the ferry is "sort of" economically viable.

On the other hand, you wouldn't find a ferry service in the region that doesn't receive government subsidies. And considering the vast sums that go into other transportation, such as roads, airports and rails, public funds for ferries is justifiable.

But there needs to be a return. Presumably the panel would look at such data as the potential for more tourism dollars and shipping of commercial goods with a ferry link in place. If that looks promising, investing provincial money in it would indeed be more "economically viable."

As to whether the premier is trying to make amends on this - could be. Politicians are known to have the occasional change of heart, often inspired by a desire for votes.

A positive review from this panel would be welcome. A glance at a map comparing a crow's flight path and a highway route between southwest Nova and Maine shows a ferry service has great practical merit.

Organizations: NDP, Churchill's

Geographic location: Yarmouth, Maine

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