The provincial regulator has approved an application by Membertou First Nation to amend its motor carrier licence, but with conditions.
The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board released its decision Friday. The conditions it placed on the approval relate to the approval of charters from sponsored events at Membertou and travelling to locations within Nova Scotia for activities related to the Mi’kmaq culture.
A public hearing was held June 27 by telephone conference. The parties filed written submissions, which were completed on Aug. 6.
A spokesperson for Membertou’s corporate division indicated Tuesday that officials were still going through the decision and determining next steps for the bus.
“Following the decision from the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, we are pleased with the outcome and look forward to better servicing our community,” Chief Terry Paul said in an email.
Membertou, which owns a 28-passenger mini-bus and employs a full-time bus driver, sought several changes to its motor carrier licence. They included the transportation of Membertou employees for activities directly related to their employment and professional development from Membertou to all points in Nova Scotia, at no charge; transportation of clients attending sponsored events at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre from Membertou to all points in Nova Scotia, only for activities and experiences relating to Mi’kmaq culture; and pickup and dropoff of clients at the Sydney airport who are attending the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre.
It also sought to increase the rates for its existing charter authority relating to the transportation of cruise ship passengers from the cruise ship pavilion in Sydney to Membertou, from $25 to $40.25 per person, which was approved.
The lone objection to Membertou’s application was received from Transoverland Ltd., which argued that, apart from the autumn cruise ship season, there is an excess of capacity in the market.
In the case of travel for activities related to Mi’kmaq culture, Membertou is to provide the board with a schedule of such charters, along with an associated charter rate or charge for each trip. The cost must be reflected in Membertou’s motor carrier operations in its financial reporting to the board.
Membertou already has the authority to transport its residents to points within Nova Scotia but asked that it be able to extend the same service to its employees.
Membertou has indicated it doesn’t intend to get into the motor carrier business.
In response to the evidence at the hearing and questions asked by the board, Membertou later narrowed the scope of its application. Membertou indicated it was prepared to limit the transport of its employees to activities directly related to their employment, such as professional development conferences or training. With respect to the transport of clients or customers from the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre to locations off the reserve, it submitted that such trips be limited to the transportation of patrons of events sponsored by the convention centre to activities and experiences outside of Membertou, but only for activities and experiences relating to Mi’kmaq culture.
Jenna Sampson, director of marketing for Destination Membertou, testified at the hearing for Membertou and noted the community has more than 300 non-Indigenous employees who live outside of Membertou.
Sampson testified that being able to provide charter trips originating from Membertou and transporting conference patrons to and from the Sydney airport would allow the band to prepare more competitive bids for conferences and would permit them to attract larger national conferences and events.
Sampson was cross-examinated by Craig Carabin, a representative of Transoverland, who asked why Membertou could not use other local carriers for those services, noting that, except for the cruise ship season, his company has some equipment that is sitting idle. Sampson stated that the cultural experience starts on the bus with experienced interpretive guides, who outline the history of the First Nation and provide background for the cultural activities the passengers will experience when they arrive at Membertou.
The board approved Membertou’s request to add the transportation of employees from points within Membertou to any point in Nova Scotia, if travel is for the purpose of professional development and training.
The board’s decision also noted it is prepared to approve the requested amendment allowing Membertou to transport customers and clients attending sponsored events at the convention centre to points in Nova Scotia for the purpose of activities and experiences relating to the Mi’kmaq culture.
If Membertou is able to significantly grow its niche market beyond its own 28-passenger vehicle capacity, it expects Membertou to work co-operatively with existing carriers, including Transoverland, to source equipment for the additional charter work.
To address that concern, the board attached the condition that Membertou file a schedule of the charters or tours to be provided from Membertou to points in the province, along with an associated rate or charge that would apply to each.