Passenger boarding the 2 p.m. ferry crossing at Wood Islands on Friday had plenty to say about the changes Ottawa is proposing, including use of newer boats and new operators.
“Long as the boats are efficient and fast, I have no problem with that,” said Ken Davies as he sat in his car in the line waiting to return to Nova Scotia.
“I think it’s great,” said Kim MacPhee of Souris, in the car behind. “These ferries are getting fairly old. As long as there’s something to secure the cost of travelling.”
Northumberland Ferries issued a statement Friday supporting the proposal.
“We are pleased, for our customers, our employees, and the communities we serve, that the Government of Canada is making a strong and long-term commitment to the Wood Island/Caribou and Saint John/Digby ferry services,” the statement reads in part.
Traffic volumes on the SaintJohn/Digby service increased approximately 30 per cent over the past two years of operation, according to the company. The statement made no mention of traffic volumes at Wood Islands.
Other business leaders told CBC the proposed 20-year funding commitment from Ottawa is what the ferry service needs.
“Before we had a five-year commitment always up for renegotiation up to the last minute each year,” said potato grower Ray Keenan, co-owner of Rollo Bay Holdings. “It was never determined where it was going to go. That’s why we’ve had such turbulent service over the last five years.”
The owner of a garden centre in Wood Islands said land prices could go up as a result of Friday’s announcement. Long-term stability could help his sales to the mainland.