Halfway doesn’t get us there

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It might well be located way to the southwest, but depending on whom you talk to, the ferry service in Yarmouth – or lack of it – affects the entire province.

As many waited, doubtless with bated breath, the province passed Tuesday on two proposals to revive the Yarmouth-Maine crossing. Disappointing, perhaps, but acting hastily would seem more politically motivated than a wise move.

Tourism operators and other business owners were particularly critical when the provincial government cancelled the subsidy to Bay Ferries Ltd. in late 2009, since there was insufficient return on the $6 million in public funding. The complaint echoed on up the line, with people in other areas referring to Yarmouth as a significant entry point for U.S. tourists.

That seems surprising. Visits from the U.S. are generally down for various reasons, including tighter travel restrictions, fuel prices and a high Canadian dollar.

Nevertheless, the province is revisiting the ferry issue, saying it would commit up to $21 million over seven years for a new service.

But Economic Development Minister Percy Paris said the two bids received didn’t meet certain requirements. Thus, a new quest for bids will be launched and, obviously, it will be that much later before we can hope to see a service in place.

Fortunately some of those with huge interest in the proceedings reacted to the announcement with understanding. Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood said that, while disappointed, she sees the need to get it right.

Public money helping the venture is reasonable – given the context of public money supporting a myriad of similar services in the transportation industry. But the province is sticking with its insistence on a private operator – with the right capabilities – as well as federal money for upgrades to the ferry terminal.

This latest bit might seem a setback, but we should be happy due diligence is being done. Otherwise we’d just be right back where we started four years ago.

Organizations: Bay Ferries Ltd.

Geographic location: Yarmouth, U.S., Yarmouth-Maine

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