More than a ferry needed

Belle Hatfield
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Premier Darrell Dexter. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

By Belle Hatfield

The Yarmouth Vanguard


Premier Darrell Dexter was on offence on Thursday as he clarified comments he made regarding the economic impact on Yarmouth of the loss of the ferry service to Maine. The ferry issue was raised Wednesday, Jan. 2, during a broad-ranging interview on CBC radio's Information Morning about his government's last three years in office, much of which focussed on the problems besetting rural Nova Scotia. 

His use of the word "mythology" to describe people's perceptions of the impact the loss of the ferry has had on the local economy had people posting on Facebook and local politicians reacting with outrage.

During an interview the next day he wasn't backing away from his comments, but seeking to expand upon them.

"I said what I meant and I meant what I said," he told the Vanguard. "There is a mythology that has grown up around the ferry service, which is that this is a panacea for the economic challenges facing south west Nova Scotia. It is not and it was not."

The premier said the ferry issue has been used by opposition members as a political tool that has diverted attention away from the structural decline in the area's economy due to factors not related to the ferry.

 "And that becomes an extraordinary obstacle to progress in that part of the province, because it is all anybody hears," he said.

Dexter points out that tourism was in decline before the ferry service was cancelled.

"I was in Yarmouth in 2007-2008 [while in opposition] when motel owners were literally bulldozing over their properties because of a decline in ferry traffic," he continued. 

The premier pointed to the purchase of Bowater’s forest resources and investment in the Shelburne boatyard as examples of the government's efforts to support the region's struggling economy.

"One of the reasons we’re doing the things that we are doing in south west Nova Scotia is to deal exactly with the economic challenges that we see. We could not find a silver bullet. We need a lot of different things happening in a lot of different ways, I call it silver buckshot. That is the only way that you broaden the base of the economy in order to allow for sustainable long-term growth," he said.

And while Dexter agrees that it is beneficial to the province to be linked by water with the New England states, he says the federal government has a critical role to play.

"Right up into the mid-1990s that service was a federally supported service. That was when the federal government withdrew that support and privatized the service," he said. "So if you are going to continue to have that kind of an international service, in my view it cannot be left to a small province, with one of the most fragile economies ... to load that growing problem onto the shoulders of a small province is not fair."

 The premier says he remains committed to supporting any service that has a chance of long-term sustainability, but says of the Cat service, "there was no chance that that service was ever going to be economically viable and there was no proposal that came forward at that time for any alternative kind of service."

-- a story about The Vanguard's interview with Premier Dexter will appear in our next print edition.

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Recent comments

  • Kevin Coldwell
    Kevin Coldwell
    January 05, 2013 - 11:52

    Since Tourism obviously benifits all of Nova scotians, regarding increasing revenue I would suggest the ferry service be eventually; be partially paid by all in the tourism industry in the form of a tax. That not being such a popular statement I would also suggest that an information directory be directly set upon the ferry service of all available tourism attractions in Nova scotia and be available for free to all Tourism based buisnesses in Nova Scotia. Also to all critics of this idea, I think it only fair if we take from something we should also give back to it which is where the small tax comes into play.

  • Darlene at TIANS
    January 04, 2013 - 10:21

    The announcement by the NS government to invest in a new ferry service between Nova Scotia and the United States is great news for tourism and trade. Transportation and access are major issues that need to be addressed for business growth throughout the province. A ferry link to one of the world’s most lucrative markets will benefit businesses right across Nova Scotia. We need to view this route as an extension of our highway system and invest accordingly for tourism and trade to flourish.

  • Ray McLennan
    January 03, 2013 - 18:54

    Mr. Dexter is so out of touch with reality and neither he or his advisers understand econimic impact. No the ferry is not the panacea, but when a patient is in the hospital and on the critical list much as the Yarmouth area was, you don;t withdraw treatment and watch the patient die! Which he did but killing the Ferry service. By cutting off the ferry you took away ALL traffic and did irreparable damage to the tourism industry for that region. 2007-2008 the world financial collapse stopped everyone in their tracks Or does Mr. Dexter not remember 2008 financial disaster in the US, which effected everyone but US travelers especially. So he won an election and kill the ferry and removed literally all traffic through the whole southwest. Then he hiked the HST which made travel to Nova Scotia even less attractive to all travelers foreign and domestic. Mr Dexter corporate welfare and throwing tax money at pipe dream and smoke and mirror acts of the corporate world has cost the taxpayers of Nova Scotia millions we didn't have to spend. The Mythology Mr.Dexter is that you actually believe your own BS and think other should. Well on election day you will go down as one of the most inept and dispised politicians next to Brian Mulroney!