Yarmouth’s Ferry Tale

The decision this month by Nova Scotia’s government to end its subsidizing of the fast-ferry service from Bar Harbor, Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia has left many tourism operators scrambling to reorganize their businesses.

For years a key tourism link between Atlantic Canada and New England has been the ferry. The “Scotia Prince” a  car-carrying cruise ship, was the mainstay of the ferry link until the Cat Ferry, a high-speed catamaran ferry, came into service. The “Scotia Prince” was pulled from service in 2004 and now the Cat has broken the link.

Today, the Canadian government announced today that it is looking into investing in a ferry service that will once again join Nova Scotia to the U.S. Peter MacKay, the Defence Minister and leading representative of the governing federal party for Nova Scotia, has commeced a study that is supposed to be ready by February.

What is evident is that there will be a seaborne link to Maine from here. And even though the new NDP government of Darrell Dexter announced that the province is pulling its support the key to the action was the line “in its present form. The Cat was a luxury, a functioning toy that could never replace the “work horse” function of the traditional, car-carrying “Scotia Prince.” It was expensive and its schedule messed up tour operators and accommodation businesses on the South Shore.

Whether he meant to or not, by pulling his government’s support for the expensive and highly-subsized Cat Ferry Darrell Dexter has succeeded in opening up the dialogue and forcing both the South Shore citizenry and the federal government to bring options to bear.

What I predict will follow is a better, most commercially-viable link that will revitalize tourism.

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