Grand Manan ferry cuts face wave of opposition

The Alward government is coming under fire over plans to reduce the Grand Manan ferry service by one run daily.

Islanders rely on service, will draft list of other ideas to save money

The Alward government is coming under fire over plans to reduce the Grand Manan ferry service by one run daily.

Transportation Minister Claude Williams announced in the legislature on Thursday a review of the Grand Manan Adventure's daily runs found the 85-car ferry is operating at only 40 per cent of capacity.

As a result, the number of round trips between the island and the mainland during the summer months will be cut to six from the current seven, he said. The winter schedule will drop to three round trips instead of four.

Green Leader David Coon told Transportation Minister Claude Williams the cuts are disrespectful to Grand Mananers. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

The department is also looking at increasing the crossing time between Blacks Harbour and Grand Manan to two hours from an hour-and-a-half, Williams said.

"We're going to do the right thing. We're going to be responsible in our approach and we will be responsible in managing the affairs and the finances of the province," he said.

Green party Leader David Coon confronted Williams about the cuts outside the legislature.

"That's disrespectful to people on Grand Manan," Coon said. "They can't be second-class citizens. It's their road to the mainland."

"You're entitled to your opinion," Williams replied.

Cuts will disrupt lives

The Grand Manan Adventure's winter schedule is being cut to three round trips, while the summer schedule is being reduced to six. (CBC)

Grand Manan Mayor Dennis Greene says people on the island are worried. They rely on the existing schedule and the cuts will disrupt a lot of lives, he said.

"When we come down to a three trip a day-schedule, what we will have is people will not be able to travel when they want to. They'll have to go on a different trip so that is dictated to them by the province of New Brunswick," said Greene.

He doesn't understand the government's logic in making the cuts, he said.

"When traffic on the Trans Canada drops to 40 per cent, do they shut it down? …That fourth trip is a big thing for economic development," Greene said.

"Everywhere we go, everything we seem to try, the government is sticking up a road block to us."

Charlotte-The Isles Liberal MLA Rick Doucet contends the cuts are a contradiction and a slap in the face to tourism on Grand Manan. The island is on the cover of the latest New Brunswick Tourism guide, but its ferry service is being slashed.

The Village plans to draft a list of other options to save money on the ferry, which it plans to share with the transportation minister at a meeting next week, Greene said.