New ferry service 'far from perfect' for Black Tickle, Cartwright
Cartwright will lose regular service when new ferry begins its run
Cartwright will no longer be a stop on the regular Labrador coast ferry schedule when the new boat starts its operations, and that exclusion is causing concern in the isolated island community of Black Tickle.
"It's far from a perfect setup," said Joe Keefe, the head of the local service district for Black Tickle.
The changes were not included in the provincial government's Sept. 7 announcement of the $326 million deal with the Woodward Group. That deal will see, in part, one modern ferry take over operations on the Labrador coast from the two current aging vessels. The switch is tentatively scheduled for March 2019.
"I don't think that people really realized that Cartwright wasn't going to be a part of it until the last day or so," said Keefe.
When the new vessel begins operating, it will run in and out of Black Tickle from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, sailing right past Cartwright.
Keefe said this was of particular concern to people from his community who work at the fish plant in Cartwright who will now have to drive five hours from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to their jobs. Additionally, he said, everyone will have to pay more for that longer ferry ride.
Currently, an adult one-way fare between Black Tickle and Cartwright is $28.75, while a ticket between Black Tickle and Goose Bay is $103.50
"It's not only an inconvenience, it's extra expenses," Keefe told CBC News.
'Give and take,' says MHA
"With progress, sometimes there comes change," said Lisa Dempster, the MHA for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair.
While Cartwright will lose service altogether, she said, other northern communities will also see the new ferry less often as a result of keeping Black Tickle on the run.
"There's been a bit of give and take, when you have two boats going down to one."
Dempster said during initial discussions for the new ferry, Black Tickle was left off the schedule entirely and set to be serviced by Twin Otter airplane. But she said after "many, many, many" meetings it was clear air service alone would not work.
"Just days before the announcement we were able to come to an agreement, where Black Tickle is going to continue with a weekly ferry service. I was absolutely elated about that," she told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.
Keefe acknowledged those efforts, saying "it's good that we didn't lose it, that's one good thing ... but the ferry service is far from perfect."
As awareness of the ferry change grows, so does the need to let the government know it's not good enough, Keefe said.
Do I wish that the status quo could've been maintained? Absolutely.- Lisa Dempster
"I think not only Black Tickle, but Cartwright has to get in on it and see if there's some way that we can change this, because we definitely need a connection with Cartwright," he said.
Dempster sympathized with the changes, but said people need to come to terms with the hard facts of the province's financial situation as well as a declining population.
"Do I wish that the status quo could've been maintained? Absolutely. But we have changing demographics, we see the numbers in Black Tickle — 45 people less there now then when I started representing, just five years ago," she said.
"I will continue to advocate for them to have the best service that's within my power to help them get. But at the end of the day sometimes there's changes, and we have to adjust to them."
With files from Labrador Morning