Williamson puts forward petition for year-round Campobello ferry service

Submitted photo East Coast Ferries currently operates the ferry between Campobello and Deer Island. The season is nearly over, and Campobello Island residents are hoping the Federal government will help them to achieve their goal of having a year-round ferry. Last week, Southwest NB MP John Williamson tabled the petition with the House of Commons. Parliament has 45 days to respond.

Campobello – Will there be a year-round ferry service between Campobello and Deer Island? Southwest NB MP John Williamson hopes so, and last week, he was able to table the petition, which he has authorized, for this service at the House of Commons. He said they were able to get the required amount of signatures to “make it official and have it tabled”. Now, the waiting game is on, and the Federal Government has a month and a half to respond.

“I had pledged to table it at the first opportunity I had when I was back at the House of Commons,” said Williamson. “I did that yesterday (Tuesday). Because we went through this process by putting forward an official, sanctioned petition, the Government of Canada now has 45 days to provide a response to the petitioners.”

Williamson said this is just one more way to keep the pressure on the Federal government, so they will continue to work with the Province to solve this issue for Campobello residents. While in the House of Commons, Williamson made it a point to let them know that the residents are not asking for any special favours. They just want to be able to go to mainland New Brunswick at any time of the year without having to cross the border to do so. Other islands in New Brunswick Southwest have ferry services, and the residents of Campobello only want the same.

“As you know, there are three other islands in New Brunswick Southwest, in the Bay of Fundy. All three of them have some sort of ferry service that allows them to access mainland New Brunswick without having any difficulties or having to travel through a foreign country,” said Williamson.

The problem is that residents of the island only have freedom of mobility for part of the year, and during the winter, the only way they can come to the mainland is to travel through the United States. Williamson said this is an issue that needs to be solved, and the sooner, the better. He added that the Provincial government was required to create a plan of action which included scheduling, routing, and pricing in order to be able to take it to Ottawa.

“As I’m fond of saying, Ottawa funds plans, not ideas. So, we actually need to have a sense of what this infrastructure is going to look like, and what it is going to cost.”

When asked if a year-round ferry service would still continue to be run by a private operator, Williamson said it is likely, but this is a better question for the Department of Transportation at this time.

“I guess the question would really be is will it be the current operator,” said Williamson. “Right now, the company that runs the ferries between Deer Island, Grand Manan, and Whitehead is a private company that is contracted by the Provincial government to run that service. It’s a different operator running the ferry between Deer Island and Campobello. So, yes, someone will be contracted to run the service.”

Another big question is whether or not there will continue to be a fee to take the ferry to and from Campobello Island. Williamson said this is another issue that the Province is currently working on. He said there is a fee to take the ferry to Grand Manan, but there is no fee to take the ferry to Deer Island or to Whitehead. Whether or not there will be a fee will be decided, if and when, a year-round ferry service is put into place, is something that will be up for discussion with the ferry services.

Williamson said he hopes that members of the House of Commons will look upon the petition favourably. He added that they have been looking at the issue positively, and he is hopeful that they will continue to move forward on this issue.

“When I raised the issue around the mail service last December, the Federal Government, for the first time, opened the door to help the Province put in place a year-round ferry. The indications are there. They’re looking at it positively, and we’ll find out more in 45 days.”

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca