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Friday, November 17, 2006

Trans Canada Highway into Newfoundland Nearly Abandoned by Ottawa

The Terms of Union, the official agreement by which Newfoundland and Labrador entered Canada in 1949, specifically identifies the delivery of ferry services as the responsibility of the federal government. Article 32 of the Terms of Union state:

“…Canada will maintain in accordance with the traffic offering a freight and passenger steamship service between North Sydney and Port aux Basques, which, on completion of a motor highway between Corner Brook and Port aux Basques, will include suitable provision for the carriage of motor vehicles.”

This article was included in the final agreement for the express purpose of ensuring that the island portion of the province would not be cut off from the rest of Canada and that it would have an equal access to goods and services as any other province in the Country.

In essence, the ferry system is a section of Trans Canada Highway itself. Mile 1 of the Trans Canada Highway begins in St. John’s NL. The highway extends to the west coast of the province where it meets the gulf ferry service. These ferries then allow passengers to once again connect to the TCH in Nova Scotia and continue across the Country.

I wonder if Canadians in Ontario, Manitoba or elsewhere would simply sit by and allow the federal government to allow the TCH in their area fall into disrepair. If they would let them get away with allowing it to become impassible at times resulting in their province being cut off from the rest of the Country. If protestors, demonstrators or striking government workers were to block other portions of the TCH would Ottawa have them removed? If retail prices were rising because tractor trailers couldn’t deliver goods over the TCH, would everyone just shrug it off and let it continue? I wonder how long it would take the fed to ensure that any obstruction to the highway system in those areas was cleared and traffic could flow unimpeded.

Why is it that when it comes to the TCH link in Newfoundland, the ferry service, these situations are allowed to happen again and again and continue to worsen with each passing year?

Marine Atlantic’s aging ferry fleet consists of 3 primary vessels, the Caribou, the Leif Erickson and the Smallwood. The ferries run 7 days a week, 365 days a year and each year they become more and more prone to repair issues and accidents. The Union representing navigators, engineers, electricians and radar technicians aboard these vessels have said that its time Ottawa examined the costs of repair in comparison to that of replacement.

Anyone who has used the Marine Atlantic service between Port aux Basques, NL and North Sydney, NS over the years has seen the long lineups, especially during the summer months. Truckers in particular are hard hit by the limited service and capacity available, a situation that is severely worsened when a vessel is out of service due to maintenance issues or a labor disruption. At times trailers containing goods destined for the province are stuck in line ups for days if not weeks. This delay to the delivery of goods means that truckers cannot make a living elsewhere and this in turn drives up the cost of supplies and materials essential to the province.

Union representatives are also concerned with safety issues after one ferry recently lost power and collided with a concrete dock barrier. Had the loss of power happened at sea or during inclement weather the result could have been catastrophic. They are sounding the alarm about the potential safety threat of the aging technology on the vessels and what that could mean to passengers and crew members.

In another incident in July, at the height of the provinces short tourist season, 1,300 passengers were stranded at North Sydney Nova Scotia when the Leif Erickson lost a turbo thruster and a replacement had to be shipped in from Switzerland.

The ferries are an essential part of the highway system across Canada and are required for the movement of goods but also for passenger traffic. In an average year the service moves 500,000 people (the equivalent of the entire population of the province). A large number of those passengers are tourists who travel during the short summer season and the provincial government has identified the lack of capacity on these ferries as factor limiting tourism development.

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is a huge land mass. Many tourists prefer to drive to the province rather than fly. This allows them the freedom to move about the province at their leisure and visit the many towns and outports without the added expense of a rental vehicle. Unfortunately the limited service offered by the federal government’s ferry service often means visitors opt not to come to the province because they have difficulty reserving space on the ferries or are not willing to face long and uncertain lineups.

If we look more closely at the Terms of Union and specifically at article 32, it states: “…Canada will maintain in accordance with the traffic offering…” and “…will include suitable provision for the carriage of motor vehicles.”

This clearly indicates that the intent of article 32 is to ensure that the ferry system has the capacity to meet the needs of the province. This is obviously not the case and with each year the problem worsens while Ottawa continues to ignore it.

Newfoundland and Labrador has a long ship building history. Currently there are idle shipyards in the province that would jump at the chance to build new, larger capacity, ferries for Marine Atlantic. All it would take is the go ahead from Ottawa to upgrade the fleet. Why then is the federal government ignoring this problem? One that’s affecting economic development in the province, driving up the cost of consumer goods and causing Newfoundland and Labrador to become more and more cut off from the rest of the Country?

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

boo hoo....

Brian said...

I share your pain.
Well no I don’t really.
I have way more pain, suffering under the Provincially/P3 run, federally funded Provincial ferry service.
Now that the Federal funds are all but expired, one wonders what third world type system the Island centric burgers will stick us with.

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Anonymous said...

What does the above have to do with the topic?

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Anonymous said...

Nice to see you are still all in denial.

Anonymous said...

It is not nice to see that you are still after NewfoundlandLabrador's resources. Go fly a kite you leeches!

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Patriot said...

The preceding comments were deleted because they did not relate to the topic under discussion.

Caper said...

The sign that marks the road to the ferry in Cape Breton is misleading and encourages people to take the Cabot trail instead of continuing on the NL.

The road in Cape Breton only has one or two passing lanes and is in deplorable condition for the amount of traffic it carries. Mostly all rush hour with people making the cannon ball run to the ferry.

WJM said...

If Newfoundland is "dependent" on Marine Atlantic, the solution is NOT "more Marine Atlantic".

Newfoundland needs a second route to and from the rest of the country. That's why the province has to kick in meaningful money for the TLH, no strings attached, no demands for federal matching funds... AND work with Quebec on the 389/138... AND put ferries on the Strait of Belle Isle that can handle larger loads for more of the year, if not year round.

But that would require imagination, foresight, and a willingness to spend provincial revenues in the Labrador part of the province... three qualities which are sadly lacking in Danny Williams' shrinking empire.

Anonymous said...

I do agree with you WJM. Danny has to put more emphasis on that route and see that it is completed. It must be completed. We need it.

Anonymous said...

That's because the Cabot trail is way more interesting than a 14 hour run to NL.

Better food too!

NL-ExPatriate said...

Glad to see you coming to the bright side WJM.

Up until now anytime us supposed Nationalists supported or proposed an improved TLH or fixed link across the Straite Jacket of Belle isle you have debunked in your ususal manner and called it the funnel or something along those lines.

It's ok everyone is allowed to change their mind.
You will be embraced in this new stance of yours promoting the best interests of the Province.

Don't feel put out I too have changed my stance on a few issues after having seen the light.

Now if you would just use your talents for good instead of evil and push the federallies to put up their half for the TLH we might be getting somewhere.

Who paid for the National railroad?
Who paid for the Saint Lawrence Seaway? The funnel that turned Atlantic into Atlantis.
Who paid for the road up to the NWT?
Who has put up 400 million for a pacific gateway?

Please NL'ians contribute 4 times more per capita than any other canadian to the GDP of the country. But get back one for one.
http://www.southerngazette.ca/index.cfm?iid=1821&sid=13754

After all it isn't for Newfoundland nor Labrador it is for the good of the country quebec included. The final spike if you will uniting canada from coast to coast to coast. I add the third coast because there already is a paved road up through the NWT.

For those of you uninformed on this proposal here are some links for you.

http://nl-outsidethebox.blogspot.com/2005/09/cable-car-fixed-link-option.html
http://nl-outsidethebox.blogspot.com/2005/09/cable-car-fixed-link-left-4463-metre.html
http://www.gov.nf.ca/publicat/fixedlink/
http://ca.geocities.com/fixedlink2005/
http://www.gov.nl.ca/releases/2005/exec/0228n03.htm
http://www.comt.ca/english/NHS-Report-English.pdf
http://www.releases.gov.nl.ca/releases/2006/tw/1006n05.htm
http://www.releases.gov.nl.ca/releases/2006/tw/0406n02.htm
http://www.tcr.gov.nl.ca/tcr/gulfferry/DeckandBelow.htm
http://www.tw.gov.nl.ca/FerryServices/
http://www.thetelegram.com/index.cfm?sid=468&sc=1
http://www.releases.gov.nl.ca/releases/2006/tw/1107n01.htm

Sorry for spam Myles just thought your readers might be interested in some info links.

WJM said...

Glad to see you coming to the bright side WJM.

I never left it.

Up until now anytime us supposed Nationalists supported or proposed an improved TLH

When have Newfoundland nationalists supported an improved TLH, esp. one that is improved with provincial money from the province that Labrador is supposedly part of?

If anything, Newfoundland nationalists have swallowed Danny's (and Grimes before him) line that it's a federal responsibility. It isn't. Labrador is part of a province. 90% of the money ever spent on the TLH has been federal. It's time for the province of which Labrador is supposedly a part to come up with its fair share.

or fixed link across the Straite Jacket of Belle isle you have debunked in your ususal manner and called it the funnel or something along those lines.

"The Funnel" is actually a term invented by the Minister of Transportation and Works, the Hon. John Hickey, MHA.

The tunnel makes no economic sense. Where do you get the idea that I support it? I don't, not until the highways on the Labrador side are done. Without those highways, the tunnel makes no sense.

And with a tunnel, Labrador power will be used to fuel economic growth in Newfoundland, not Labrador. In that sense, Hickey was right.

It's ok everyone is allowed to change their mind.

What have I changed my mind about?

Now if you would just use your talents for good instead of evil and push the federallies to put up their half for the TLH we might be getting somewhere.

The federal government has spent over half a billion dollars on the TLH over the years.

The province has spent maybe $50-million during the same period.

The federal share has already been spent. And yet the province wants more, more, more.

Isn't Labrador part of a province? If so, which one?

Where's the provincial share from the province that Labrador is supposedly a part of?

Who paid for the National railroad?

Which one? There are two.

Who paid for the Saint Lawrence Seaway?

Canada and the U.S.

Who paid for the road up to the NWT?

Which one? The US in part, and Alberta and BC -- unlike the province of which Labrador is supposedly a part -- have kicked in their share over the years in northern highways.

Who has put up 400 million for a pacific gateway?

The federal government, CONTINGENT ON PROVINCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS.

When is the province of which Labrador is supposedly a part going to spend money, unconditionally, in Labrador? Everything in Labrador seems to be dependent on matching federal funds. Some committment!

Danny didn't wait for federal funds to put emergency repairs into the Outer Ring Road.

What a bunch of hypocrites that run the province.

Please NL'ians contribute 4 times more per capita than any other canadian to the GDP of the country.

You should take Averill Baker with a large grain of salt.

I add the third coast because there already is a paved road up through the NWT.

No, actually there is not. There is a paved road TO the NWT, but none through it.

WJM said...

Up until now anytime us supposed Nationalists supported or proposed an improved TLH

Furthermore, Newfoundland nationalists tend to get paranoid about linking Labrador and Quebec with a highway. Just read the nonsense on Kierans' website about "culture" and such.

Ridiculous.