Grand Manan ferry fees continue despite plebiscite vote
Islanders voted in May to ask Alward to live up to 2-year-old promise
Grand Manan residents are still paying to use the island's ferry four months after they voted in a plebiscite to ask the Alward government to live up to its 2010 election promise to scrap them.
Village Mayor Dennis Greene says all he has heard is the fares will be lifted some time during the provincial government's mandate, which has two years remaining.
He doesn't expect any change in the near future, he said, noting Coastal Transport is about to start selling ferry tickets for months down the road.
"They're bringing in a reservation system starting after the Thanksgiving weekend. People can purchase a reservation 90 days in advance," Greene said.
Liberal MLA Rick Doucet, who represents Charlotte-The Isles, said he doesn't expect to see the Grand Manan ferry fares lifted any time soon either.
"They'll probably do it just in time, prior to the election and they'll try to make themselves a bunch of heroes here," he said.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation said a decision on the ferry fares will be made by the provincial government, rather than the department.
Transportation Minister Claude Williams is out of province this week, she said.
The issue of ferry fees has been a controversial one on the island community in the Bay of Fundy.
Premier David Alward campaigned in 2010 on a promise to take the tolls off of the Grand Manan ferry at an estimated cost of $1.7 million.
But prior to the plebiscite vote in May, residents had been divided on whether the fares should be removed.
Some of the estimated 2,377 people living on the island had expressed concerns a free ferry would lead to longer lineups, a change to the way of life, or cuts to service.
Some businesses, such as aquaculture companies that rely on the ferry to move goods, also worried it would paralyze the service, or result in more business going to the mainland.
Meanwhile, some people said they want to see the tolls removed for those on fixed incomes, or to help create an economic boom for the village.
During the plebiscite, held during the municipal election, 556 people said council should ask the Department of Transportation to remove fares on travel to and from the mainland, while 511 people said no.
Voter turnout was 67 per cent.