Last night’s federal budget announced $273 million over five years for eastern ferry services, which in P.E.I. includes the Wood Islands service as well as a crossing from Souris to Magdalen Islands.
The initiative was the first pointed out by Cardigan MP and federal minister of agriculture and agri-food Lawrence MacAulay as having a big benefit for Islanders.
“No matter who was in power, I’ve been hammering at this issue,” said MacAulay, who has been a long-time advocate of the ferry. “The Wood Islands service will have stable funding for five years.”
MacAulay had introduced a motion almost two years ago to ensure future ferry contracts would be five years, however it was defeated.
The last five-year ferry contract expired in 2010. Since then, there have been short contracts ranging from one to three years in length.
There was uncertainty surrounding the Wood Islands service last year, which only had one ferry operating instead of its usual two-ferry service.
The funding outlined in Wednesday’s budget will allow for the full two-ferry service.
The announcement was also welcomed by the province.
Finance minister Allen Roach said the commitment was important to government, which established a task force last fall to advocate for the service.
However, he said the province will “remain diligent”.
“We’re certainly pleased with the outcome,” said Roach. “At the same time, we’re going to continue our efforts, including the work that’s being done by our task force.”
According to the province, the Wood Islands ferry contributes an estimated $27 million to P.E.I.’s economy each year while carrying about 475,000 passengers and 18,000 commercial trucks annually.
The service also provides seasonal employment for more than 200 employees.