Nfld. & Labrador

Tories, MHA bear brunt of Bell Island ferry frustrations

The MHA who represents Bell Island says the ferry service is in a "crisis," although residents tell a forum they've known that for years.

Some residents call for fixed link to replace long-struggling service

A frustrated Bell Island resident makes a point during a public forum held on Wednesday night. (CBC)

The MHA who represents Bell Island in the house of assembly told a public forum the island's ferry service is in a "crisis," although residents said they've known that for years.

More than 100 people turned out Wednesday night for a meeting on the ferry service, which is down from two vessels to one because other ferries in the provincial system are out of service.

Progressive Conservative David Brazil told residents he appreciates their frustrations, but said light is on the horizon. He said the government is looking to purchase a new swing vessel, and that Bell Island can expect a new ferry in the coming years.

"We will move the problems that we have right now out of the way and you'll see some good solutions to where we are when it comes to the ferry service," Brazil said.

"So hang in there. I know we have some challenges."

Residents said they are concerned about what will happen over the next two weeks because the MV Flanders will continue to be the only ship on the run to Portugal Cove. No swing vessels are available should something go wrong with their ferry.

Anger boiled to the surface as some speakers said ferry service for Bell Island has long been a problem.

"Things were going to change [but] things never changed. Things got worse, and you and your team done it," one man said, adding that workers have often been stranded on either side because of breakdowns.

"It's time for a change and the people of Bell Island got to wake up, and get rid of you," said the man, pointing his finger at Brazil.

Wabana Mayor Gary Gosine suggested it was inevitable that strong emotions would surface.

"This is why we're here tonight. It's called frustration," Gosine said.

Teresita McCarthy, a member of the island's ferry users committee, said residents have put up with too much for too long.

"We need to stop thinking that we don't deserve anything any better than an almost 30-year-old ferry that, as the lady who spoke before me said, could break down tonight," she said.

Some residents said the best way to get rid of ferry problems is to get rid of the ferries altogether. Some of them called on government to look into building a fixed link between the island and Portugal Cove.