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Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize Mr. Miles Matheson, a lifetime servant of his community, province and country.
Born in 1927 in Forest Hill, PEI, Mr. Matheson served our country overseas, taking part in the liberation of France, Belgium, and Holland.
He was awarded many medals and honours for his service, including the France and Germany Star, the Defence of Britain Medal, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Clasp War Medal, and more recently the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Matheson was recently awarded the highest honour of the country of France: the rank of Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honour for his role in liberating that country.
On behalf of all members of the House of Commons, I offer Miles Matheson our thanks for his many years of service to this great country, and congratulate him on such a distinctive honour.
Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ensure a safe, efficient, and sustainable transportation system for Prince Edward Island by: (a) recognizing the integral economic importance of the ferry service between Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island, and Caribou, Nova Scotia; and (b) committing to stable, long-term, sustainable, and adequate funding, notably by ensuring that all future contracts (i) are for no less than five years, (ii) maintain or exceed current levels of service.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand in this great chamber. This is an issue that I have dealt with over quite a few years, and it is important in my riding. I want to thank the hon. member for Charlottetown for seconding my motion. He is also well aware of how important this service is to Prince Edward Island and Pictou County in Nova Scotia.
Members will also be aware of how important the Wood Islands ferry service is to me and to Prince Edward Island, particularly eastern Prince Edward Island and Pictou County, Nova Scotia. Every year, this ferry takes over 475,000 passengers, 160,000 vehicles, and 18,000 commercial trucks between Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. The ferry has an economic impact of $27 million a year to the island, and it has a good effect on the communities, mostly Charlottetown and eastern Prince Edward Island. The ferry also has an economic impact of over $12 million to Nova Scotia, particularly the Pictou County area.
For background, the ferry service connects the Trans-Canada Highway from Wood Islands in eastern Prince Edward Island to Caribou, Nova Scotia. It is run by Northumberland Ferries Limited, or NFL, with headquarters located in Charlottetown. NFL has operated this ferry service since it was established in 1941 by the Government of Canada.
To go back even further, in 1935, prime minister Mackenzie King brought Saskatchewan politician Charles Dunning back into federal politics to make him the minister of finance after the Great Depression and to help with the country’s finances. Dunning was the minister of finance in 1929, but was defeated in the R.B. Bennett election of 1930. He had a great reputation for hard work and fairness. In the 1930 general election, as I said, he was defeated.
He restarted his business career and earned a great reputation. Mackenzie King regained power in the 1935 general election, and immediately convinced Dunning that he needed him in those tough economic times. Dunning was elected by acclamation as a candidate in the dual riding of Queen’s County and Prince Edward Island, which was one of the four dual ridings across the nation at that time.
One of the biggest local issues at the time for the people of Prince Edward Island, and I am sure for Pictou County in Nova Scotia, was that the establishment of this ferry service was vital to the economy of both areas. Dunning made sure that the interests of the people he represented were looked after and established the ferry terminal at Wood Islands. A new privately owned company, Northumberland Ferries Limited, was established to manage and operate the ferry service, and the government kept ownership of the terminal properties and the vessels.
Charles Dunning left politics in 1939, but the ferry service was nevertheless established in 1941. It has continued to be one of the most important issues for the people of eastern Prince Edward Island to this day. I might add that Mr. Dunning was elected from Regina, and I am pleased to say that the Regina area has a habit of electing very good finance ministers.
It is also important to realize that this was done after the Great Depression. The people had the wisdom at the time of how important this was, and that if we were going to have a good economy, we had to have good transportation links. Mackenzie King, Charles Dunning, and many other people, certainly understood the vital importance of this link.
A major redevelopment of the Wood Islands terminal took place in the early nineties. I happened to be here at the time. One of the things that was done was double deck loading. This meant that the new vessel that came into service was able to load vessels a lot quicker, and it made for more efficiency.
The federal government continues to provide financial assistance to NFL under the terms of a contribution agreement while the company leases two ferry terminals and the vessels from the federal government. Today, it is the only ferry service to the mainland. As an interprovincial ferry service, the route qualifies for federal funding, with the amount of approximately $6 million per year to keep the critical link between Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia operating safely and efficiently.
The way that the government has treated this critical link to the mainland over the past few years is quite concerning. Near the end of the last five-year deal, which was put in place by the Liberal government, there was quite a lot of speculation that the funding would be cut and the service reduced to one vessel or eliminated entirely. Eventually, with the support of the people from Prince Edward Island and Pictou County in Nova Scotia, we convinced the government to back away from that awful idea. Thanks to the government and the people who rallied, they put a three-year deal in place. That was followed by a one-year extension, in 2013. Then last year the government extended the service for two more years.
Short-term contracts are not enough. The operators of the ferries, the people and business people in Prince Edward Island and Pictou Country, Nova Scotia need stability. They need to understand that this critical service will remain in place. They need to have a longer term deal in place for at least five years, and one that maintains or exceeds the current service that is provided.
In fact, a document put together by the four Atlantic provinces called “Charting the Course Atlantic Canada Transportation Strategy 2008-2018” highlights that ferry service is integral to an economy of a region. It lists Wood Islands and Caribou as strategic marine ports and service centres for cargo and passenger movements.
This important document, which I encourage all members to read, also states that federal cuts to ferry services have potentially serious consequences for our entire region. We all know that things have only become worse in the last number of years. The fact is, the government does not do anywhere enough to supply our country’s ferry services, especially in the Atlantic region. I hope that this motion will bring to the attention of the government how vital this is to our region and other regions in Atlantic Canada.
We just have to look at the Marine Atlantic and the government’s recent cut of $108.1 million to the service. This service is also an interprovincial service connecting the Trans-Canada Highway to Newfoundland. Marine Atlantic expected that there would be more money in the budget, but instead it got nothing, and the government thinks that is the way to go.
This is what worries so many people in Atlantic Canada and in my district of Cardigan. The government fails to see the importance of these vital links in our region. In fact, it fails to see the importance of the Atlantic region in general. We are all aware of how much the cutbacks have affected our regions.
I am quite concerned about what will happen, but with the communities, the business leaders, and everyone working together, I am hopeful that we can secure a long-term deal. I hope my motion will be supported by the government and all of the people in the House.
All we want is to have a service provided to us in eastern Prince Edward Island and Pictou County, Nova Scotia. The government may highlight its spending of $13 million on engine upgrades and rehabilitation for infrastructure of the wharves in 2013, which was a good idea, but we have to be careful where that goes.
Most of this work had already begun and was planned and budgeted for by Transport Canada, so it was not actually new money. The work had already begun well before the announcement. It is work that was needed to be done, and I am pleased the work was done, but we have to make sure that the service continues the way it is.
Conservatives on the island after this had happened had great hopes that there would be a long-term investment coming, but we only ended up with a short two-year contract. I can assure this House and the people of Canada that this fight is just beginning
I would like to say I am hopeful that these needed infrastructure upgrades would set the stage for the government to put a new deal in place, but there are a number of things that concern me about it.
The Conservative government likes to hand things over to the private sector. It is in a cost-cutting mode and it has already hit eastern Prince Edward Island especially hard with the closure of the addictions research centre, our national award-winning EI claims processing centre, the devastating changes to the EI program, and a number of other federal government jobs lost in the area.
The federal subsidy is critical for the survival of the Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service. It is also important for the people of Nova Scotia, especially Pictou County and central Nova Scotia. We truly cannot afford to lose this kind of economic activity after having to deal with so many other losses.
We need a long-term contract. We need stability. I hope the government will see fit to support this motion, support this vital ferry service, and ensure future contracts are at least five years in length and maintain or exceed the service levels currently provided. It is vital to the business communities and the people I represent.
I hope the government will take a look at just what took place over the last number of years. We have to go back and see the wisdom that there was in the people who established this. It goes back to Mackenzie King’s government. It goes back to just after the Great Depression. Money was very short, but King and Charles Dunning saw the great need for this ferry service and how important it would be for Prince Edward Island and the Pictou County area of Nova Scotia.
About $6 million is the amount involved, and it generates about $27 million. It is vital to every part of our economy in eastern Prince Edward Island.
When we look at charting the course with the Atlantic Canada transportation strategy, they were able to indicate quite clearly how vital these services are if we are to have an efficient and vibrant economy in the areas where these ferry services are in place.
If there is any concern about whether it is valuable or not, I wish that government members would talk to Tom Carver or Morley Annear. These people own large trucking companies. They understand the cost that is involved. They understand what it would cost in order to take stuff even to a hardware store in eastern Prince Edward Island. They understand the costs that there would be for even fertilizer to come to the province. All of us understand exactly how important it is for the tourism industry.
It is very important that the House understand how vital the Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service is to the economy of eastern Prince Edward Island and Pictou County, Nova Scotia. I urge my colleagues to support this motion and give us a long-term contract.
OTTAWA – Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay’s motion calling on the government to ensure at least five years for all future federal contracts with the Wood Islands ferry service begins debate in the House of Commons Friday.
MacAulay says the Conservatives have only been punting the issue beyond the next election since they came to power and more stability is needed for the Island’s only ferry service to the mainland.
“The Conservative are great at putting one and two year contracts in place that will just barely get them by the next election, but Islanders deserve better”, said MacAulay. “The contract was extended by two years in 2014 and completely ignored in this year’s budget.”
“The fact is this vital transportation link for the province brings in an economic impact of $27 million a year to the Island, much of which benefits the eastern region of the province which has been hit so hard by the Conservatives in Ottawa.”
“I am thankful that working together with the people of Cardigan, we have been able to push this issue in the past and convince the Conservatives how important this ferry service. With this motion being debated in Ottawa, I hope that they come to their senses and put a good five year contract in place maintaining the level of service and providing some stability for the thousands of people who rely on this vital transportation link.”
MacAulay’s Motion, M-591, is up for its first hour of debate in the House of Commons Friday, May 8, 2:30-3:30 PM AST. It will be due for a second hour of debate in approximately one month before being voted on in the House of Commons. Motion M-591 reads:
“That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ensure a safe, efficient, and sustainable transportation system for Prince Edward Island by (a) recognizing the integral economic importance of the ferry service between Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island, and Caribou, Nova Scotia; and (b) committing to stable, long-term, sustainable, and adequate funding, notably by ensuring that all future contracts (i) are for no less than five years, (ii) maintain or exceed current levels of service.”
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