1. Yarmouth ferry
Geoff MacLellan, the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, announced yesterday that the province has ended its contract with Nova Star for operation of the Yarmouth ferry and is in “negotiations” to have Bay Ferries operate the service:
Bay Ferries Limited, majority owned by CEO Mark MacDonald, is the preferred candidate to operate the ferry service from Yarmouth to Maine.
“Staff have been in discussions with Bay Ferries Limited and we are now ready to officially enter into negotiations on contract details,” said Geoff MacLellan, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. “Bay Ferries Limited has the experience, expertise, industry relationships and much of the operational infrastructure already in place, such as a reservations system, that would allow them to hit the ground running. There will be a service out of Yarmouth for 2016.”
Government received four proposals to operate the Yarmouth ferry service. The preferred candidate was selected after evaluating criteria that considered their business proposal, including a marketing and financial plan, along with industry experience.
“We believe in a service from Yarmouth and the benefits it brings to the residents and business owners of Southwest Nova and beyond,” said Mr. MacLellan. “Our role as government is to ensure an operator is in place that can provide long-term stability at fair value for Nova Scotians. I have confidence that Bay Ferries can deliver on those objectives.”
Details about the contract between government and the operator will be released once negotiations are complete.
I don’t know, I guess we’ll see what comes out of this, but isn’t announcing a deal before you’ve completed negotiations painting yourself into a corner?
Bay Ferries currently operates both the Digby–Saint John and the Caribou, NS–Woods Island, PEI ferries. It also used to operate the “CAT” ferry between Yarmouth and Bar Harbor.
The ferry review panel discussed the failure of the CAT:
Until 2002, passenger volumes increased steadily on both the CAT (the high-speed catamaran service between Yarmouth and Bar Harbor) and the Scotia Prince (a “cruise ferry” between Yarmouth and Portland). In 2002, despite the shock of the “9/11” attack in the United States, the total number of one-way passenger trips on the two services peaked at about 330,000. The SARS outbreak in 2003 discouraged tourism to Canada as a whole and carriage on the two Yarmouth ferries declined by about 9% to 300,000. The next year, even though US visits to Nova Scotia increased slightly, the decline in the number entering via Yarmouth accelerated as ferry ridership fell a further 13% to 260,000. (The factors responsible are addressed in detail in the next chapter.) With the termination of the Scotia Prince, effective at the end of the 2004 season, and with only the CAT service to Bar Harbor operating, overall passenger volume between Yarmouth and Maine, despite a bump-up on the CAT, dropped sharply in 2005 to about 150,000. This was less than half the number only three years earlier.
The contraction of traffic on the CAT continued in 2006, falling by almost 20%; then by a further 13% in 2007. Meanwhile, marine fuel prices had been rising rapidly since 2003, more than tripling by 2008 (Exhibit 2.2). The commercially toxic combination of falling ridership and rising fuel cost (which is a particularly significant issue on a high-speed vessel) led to a series of agreements between Bay Ferries and the Government of Nova Scotia under which service was maintained—and in fact extended in 2006 to include Portland on certain days of the week—while the Government provided subsidies that increased from $1.25 million in 2006 to $8.9 million in 2009 for a total of $18.6 million. (The CAT service had operated without subsidy prior to 2006.)
By the time the CAT ceased operation at the end of the 2009 season, passenger volume had fallen to just over 75,000, which was 54% below its peak in 2002. Total ferry traffic—the CAT and Scotia Prince combined—had dropped by 77%.
Later in the report is a short discussion of what I think is the primary reason the CAT failed:
The initial novelty of the CAT inevitably faded. Its relative speed advantage was eroded somewhat as major road improvements were completed, particularly in New Brunswick. For example; for a traveller, say from Boston, contemplating a trip to Halifax, the straight driving time via highway (through Amherst) would be 12-13 hours (1,125 km). Using the CAT from either Bar Harbor or Portland would involve about the same elapsed time, though obviously a lot less if Yarmouth were the destination.* Of course, the ferry traveller would avoid the wear and tear of being behind the wheel the whole time.
* The travel time estimates assume ferry travel times on the CAT, including on/off, of about seven hours from Portland and four hours from Bar Harbor.
What that misses is the need to time the travel to meet departure time. Driving the entire way to Halifax provides flexibility in scheduling — travellers can leave when they want, stop along the way where and when they want, and aren’t tied to a ferry timetable. That’s unfortunate; it’s too bad people feel so rushed, but with limited vacation time, that’s the reality. There’s also the additional cost factor.
In the end, Yarmouth ferry supporters can blame the “Gateway” enthusiasts who demanded the four-laning of Highway 1 through New Brunswick for the failure of the ferry.
Will a Bay Ferries-operated Yarmouth ferry be more successful than Nova Star? Perhaps. Judging by the 2009 subsidy, the province will probably end up paying something like $8–10 million annually for the service, which is a considerable savings compared to the $32 million Nova Star ate up in two years, but it’s still $8–10 million annually. Who knows if there’s the political will for that?
It’s worth noting that Bay Ferries gets considerable subsidies for its other routes. From 2006 to 2014, the federal government subsidized the Digby ferry by $38 million, and in 2014 the federal government bought the new Digby ferry for $44.7 million, while the provincial governments of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia kick in a combined $6 million three-year operating subsidy.
From 2006 to 2014, the federal government subsidized the PEI ferry by $97 million.
Sobeys has purchased Pete’s:
“Sobeys is an ideal match, truly an Atlantic Canadian success story, built on the same entrepreneurial spirit as Pete’s,” Luckett said in a statement.
A friend writes me this morning:
Success? For whom? I guess the “entrepreneurial spirit” is basically the same as supporting poverty. You are actually relying on people being poor in order for your business to exist. Pete’s requires that someone work for them in a professional and responsible role, for 40 hours a week and make no more than $27,000/year supervising a department.
If people want to know why so many of us cannot make ends meet here, they simply have to do the math: calculate the average cost of living in Halifax, and see if you can pay your bills with only $27,000/year. There’s your answer to why there are so many working poor here.
When I was in my 20s, living in Virginia, grocery store jobs were coveted positions. The big chains like A&P and Safeway were unionized, and after working a probationary period, checkers would get paid $17 an hour or so. Long-term employees would reasonably expect to make $25 or even $30 an hour. Those good wages didn’t seem to prevent the companies from making healthy profits. That was in the 1980s. Then we had the joys of Reaganomics, neoliberalism, and the war against unions, and here we are 30 years later and grocery store workers across North America get little more than a meagerly minimum wage and find their hours cut below full time lest benefits kick in.
Something ain’t right. It seems now to be a matter of pride for employers to pay workers shit wages. Yes, yes, we all have to live in the real world and budget accordingly, but why get into a business in the first place if you have no desire to pay anything more than poverty wages? We can do better than this.
3. Mother Canada™
The Chronicle Herald’s Erin Pottie interviews newly elected Liberal MPs in the Cape Breton area about their views on the Mother Canada™ proposal:
Rodger Cuzner, Liberal MP-elect for Cape Breton-Canso, said he can’t say for certain what will happen with the project, but he is adamant that it proceed without any further government funding.
“It’s a pristine portion of the trail and just spectacular in its natural beauty. I’m not sure what a monstrous statue would do to enhance the beauty that already exists.”
Mark Eyking, the Liberal MP-elect whose riding encompasses the proposed statue location, agrees that whoever is selected to oversee the operations of Parks Canada as environment minister will play a major role in deciding the project’s fate.
Eyking said although he supports the monument and what it represents, government must take a closer look at the site location overall.
“When we dig into this, maybe it’s not the right location, I don’t know. We don’t have all the details, and I’m sure the new minister and whoever is the deputy minister will figure that out.”
The old cougar v bobcat debate is brewing in Brookfield:
The Chronicle Herald showed the photo to the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History’s zoologist, Andrew Hebda.
“Quite a stout-looking face on it, and it certainly looks like a cougar.”
However, after enlarging the photo to look at tufts on the ears and colour markings on the face, Hebda said there is a 95 per cent chance it is a bobcat and only a five per cent chance it is a cougar.
He said the last confirmed case of someone seeing a cougar in Nova Scotia was more than 350 years ago. A cow farmer in St. Peters by the name of Nicolas Denys made such a report in 1653 and it was published in 1672.
1. Charles Rennie Mackintosh
While he was in Scotland, Stephen Archibald checked out the work of famed architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
2. Trick or treaters
Lezlie Lowe likes them.
3. Cranky letter of the day
A strong word of caution to those with bicycles using or considering the free shuttle offered by the bridge commission. You would never imagine that a purposefully designed bike trailer could have such a design flaw, but depending on the bike design and what gear the bike is in, damage may occur through the use of their service.
After the lower part of my rear derailleur was damaged and I realized how this occurred, I noticed that roughly half of the bikes using the trailer had their idler (lower) pulley in contact with the metal tubing that holds the bikes in place; this may damage your bike during transit. I put in a claim to the bridge commission. They replied: “Users of the shuttle bus do so with the knowledge that interaction between bicycles and the trailers used are both possible and probable.”
Halifax Harbour Bridges did not accept any liabilities associated with my claim. They suggested I explore other options for cross-harbour transportation.
They have since put yellow plastic in the areas where the “interaction” may occur. After making a comment that this would hardly alleviate any cyclist concerns, I was informed this was to protect the metal tubing! It’s unfortunate that this may decrease those engaged in active transportation and contribute to the problem as opposed to the solution, but having bikes damaged and rendered unsafe is hardly a solution either.
J. Cyclist, Halifax
No public meetings.
This date in history
On October 30, 1929, Nova Scotia ended prohibition. How that came about is interesting; explained E.R. Forbes in Prohibition and the Social Gospel in Nova Scotia:
The resistance to prohibition as usual was strongest in Halifax. The Conservative M.L.A.’s from the city found it expedient to show their opposition by resolutions in the House. These [Premier Edgar Nelson] Rhodes deflated with amendments to the effect that the law would not be changed without a referendum. Such signs of growing hostility stimulated a flexing of muscles by the prohibitionists. On January 1, 1928, H. R. Grant announced that the Social Service Council, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Sons of Temperance were joining forces to prevent any changes in the Temperance Act.
The pressure upon the provincial administration to resort to government control was substantially increased in 1926 by the federal government’s announcement of an old age pension scheme, the costs of which were to be shared equally by the provinces and the Dominion. While such a plan might be within the reach of the western provinces and their relatively young population, it was totally beyond the resources of the Nova Scotia government with its much larger percentage of potentially eligible recipients. In 1928, Rhodes appointed a Royal Commission to explore methods of financing old age pensions and called an election before the Commission was due to report. During the campaign he reiterated his promise not to abandon prohibition without a plebiscite but gave no indication when such a referendum would be held.
The election nearly proved disastrous for the Conservatives as their majority shrank from 37 to 3. Both prohibition and old age pensions were issues in the campaign. Discontent over the former was probably a factor in Halifax where Conservative majorities of over 7,000 in 1925 melted away and three of the five Conservative candidates were defeated.
After the election the Royal Commission presented its report. To the surprise of no one, it recommended government control of liquor sales as a possible source of revenue for old age pensions. Shortly thereafter, Rhodes scheduled a plebiscite on the question of prohibition versus government control for October, 1929.
The Rhodes administration apparently did everything possible to aid the campaign for government control. Rhodes, particularly, seems to have seen the future of the government riding on the question. His jaundiced explanation of the opposition to government control is perhaps more revealing of his own commitment than of the forces described. According to Rhodes, three elements were fighting for retention of prohibition: the Liberals, on the principle that “if government control carries, Rhodes is in power for twenty years”, the towns, “because of the revenue from fines”, and the bootleggers “who were practically solid against us and the rum-runner as well”.
Government control won a decisive victory in the plebiscite, 87,647 to 58,082. It received a majority in every county but six. Only the rural counties of Shelburne, Queens, Kings, Hants, Colchester and Annapolis — counties in which the Baptist and United Churches were predominant — did prohibition retain a majority!
The government lost no time in implementing the wishes of the people.
Punishing Women’s Unruly Bodies (12:10pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Julie Bilotta, a Prisoner Rights Advocate; Emma Halpern, from the Elizabeth Fry Society of Cape Breton; and Sheila Wildeman, from the Dalhousie Schulich School of Law, will discuss “Punishing Women’s Unruly Bodies — pregnancy, childbirth, and mother-baby separation under conditions of imprisonment.”
Thesis defence, Interdisciplinary Studies (2pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Suzette Sooma will defend her thesis, “Elucidating the Role of Scientific Information in Decision-Making for Fisheries Management.”
Palestine (3:30pm, Marion McCain Building, room 1170) — Jens Hanssen, from the University of Toronto, will speak on “Albert’s World: Historicism, Liberal Imperialism and the Struggle for Palestine (1936-1948)”
In the harbour
Oceanex Sanderling sails to St. John’s
The cruise ship Saint Laurent (up to 200 passengers) is still in port today.
The penultimate cruise ship of the season will be the AIDAmar, with up to 2,686 passengers, visiting Halifax Sunday. The Aidamar is a trans-Atlantic cruiser; it was leaving Greenland Thursday at 5pm:
A writing day for me, all day.