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Houston slams premier, minister over Yarmouth ferry's 'utter failure'

A fishing boat sails past The Cat ferry as it is docked in Yarmouth. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
A fishing boat sails past The Cat ferry as it is docked in Yarmouth. - Tina Comeau

The leader of the opposition couldn’t find out if the Yarmouth to Bar Harbor ferry service would be salvaged with only two weeks left in the sailing season.

So Tory leader Tim Houston went on the attack during question period at Province House on Tuesday, prodding Premier Stephen McNeil and Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines to account for a $20 million dollar investment in a ferry service that has offered no return for residents this year.

But McNeil and Hines offered few direct answers to simple questions from Houston, such as who’s ultimately accountable for the service that was expected to begin in June? Or, the possibility that Bay Ferries, the company the province hired to provide the service, might get an additional management fee?  Or, if and when the government knew that the service wouldn’t be salvaged.  
Both the premier and the minister reiterated their faith in Bay Ferries and attempted to turn the tables on Houston, accusing him of being against the ferry service.

Houston repeatedly accused Hines of mismanaging the file and deliberately keeping residents and local tourism operators in the dark on the progress of the stalled ferry service.  

Hines admitted that he has yet to visit the terminal currently being built in Bar Harbor but that department staff as well as a consultant hired by the province had. Houston repeatedly asked Hines whether the company ever provided him with a detailed project plan during early cancellations in June and July. When Hines eventually said the company had provided that information,

Houston accused the minister of failing to predict the inevitable and failing to manage people’s expectations 

“If the minister asked the correct questions way back in early July when the first postponement was coming, tourism operators might have had a chance,” said Houston. 

Like the premier, Hines accused Houston of being against the ferry service.

“The only thing that’s been constant around this debate over the last couple of years has been the opposition to this service and to the people of Southwest Nova by the party opposite,” said Hines.

After calling the province’s handling of the service an utter failure, Houston asked the premier whether his minister had done an adequate job safeguarding $20 million of tax payers money. 

The premier, who blamed the delays largely on ongoing issues with getting regulatory approval from U.S. Customs and Border Protection,  sidestepped Houston’s question, saying that the leader of the opposition failed to listen to Hines during question period.
 

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