Northern Ontario tourism 'must' stays afloatSunday, May 05, 2013 by: SooToday.com Staff
MICHAEL MANTHA, MPP
NDP: Public campaign keeps ferry afloat
SOUTH BAYMOUTH - Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha delivered good news at a rally for the Chi-Cheemaun ferry this morning: NDP and community efforts to save the ferry have paid off.
The long-standing ferry was threatened by low water levels which prevent it from docking at existing facilities.
Federal and provincial ministries had so far failed to take action to address the situation, despite significant advance warning.
“We have been working flat out to get immediate action to ensure local economies and businesses were not further threatened. I was pleased to hear that the provincial government has listened to our concerns and has stated they will cover the repair costs,” said Mantha. “I spoke with Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle this morning. He indicated the Ministry was prepared to commit $292,000 to cover repair costs in order to minimize disruptions to this service. I appreciated Minister Gravelle’s attentiveness to this issue and his swift action.”
The Chi-Cheemaun, which runs between Tobermory and Manitoulin Island, is an important economic driver in the region.
It contributes $25 million a year to local economies and transports over 200,000 passengers.
Loss of this service would devastate the region.
Mantha’s federal colleagues have called on the federal government to stop wasting time in legal squabbles and get the ferry moving.
“While they fight Ontario over who should pay the $300,000 for updates, hard-working entrepreneurs are caught in the middle. Why won’t the government spend a few bucks to protect jobs and businesses instead of wasting it on lawyers?” asked NDP Transportation Critic Olivia Chow.
Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes has been advocating for her constituents as well.
“I am glad that this is moving past brinksmanship, but the government still has to show it is committed to getting the ferry running quickly,” said Hughes. “I call on the government to quickly facilitate the work orders, permits and whatever bureaucratic formalities are needed so that we can just get the work done.”
The Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario, and the Owen Sound Transportation company have agreements to ensure the public service is maintained.
Transport Canada has taken the position that the repairs are not their responsibility, contrary to the Province’s and OSTC’s interpretation of the agreements.
While Ontario’s Ministry of Northern Development and Mines has agreed to foot the bill and recover costs from Transport Canada later, they still need confirmation and approval from Transport Canada to go forward with these repairs.