Cat will cost $3 million even though it won't sail
It was revealed this week that even with The Cat not running this tourism season, the high-speed ferry will still cost taxpayers $3 million.
On Thursday, Economic Development Minister Percy Paris said there had been an agreement struck with Bay Ferries Ltd by the previous government that included a $3-million transition payment if the service shut down.
He said six monthly payouts of $500,000 begin on April 1, unless the ferry is sold.
The payments, it was reported, were a clause in the $12-million deal the Tory government announced last January to keep the Cat running.
Before Christmas the NDP government decided not to provide further funding to The Cat. Without that funding, Bay Ferries said it could not afford to continuing operating and announced there will be no Cat service this year.
In speaking to reporters Thursday, Paris said he couldn't understand why the province would agree to give a company money for not providing a service. "It puzzled me," he said.
But the opposition says that the government should have known about the agreement when it was making decisions about the future of the ferry. And on Thursday the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative caucus was calling for the resignation of Paris following the comments he made on a transition clause in an existing service agreement between the province and Bay Ferries' CAT service without appropriate knowledge of the contract. Argyle MLA Chris d'Entremont said it was hard enough for Cat employees and Yarmouth County residents to accept that it had lost a vital link to the U.S. that contributed about $175 million to the province's tourism industry annually. But comments made indicating that the minister lacked essential knowledge of the contract before his government discontinued the subsidy program and caused the ferry service to end are unacceptable, he said. "Based on what he is saying, it is obvious the minister did not have appropriate knowledge of what I would categorize as a fairly standard agreement between the province and a transportation service provider with many employees to consider, should that service come to an end," d'Entremont said Thursday. D’Entremont charged that the minister is only discussing the contract now as a means of distracting the public from the real issue: the fact that he chose to end a subsidy that effectively ended the ferry service in Yarmouth.