Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia withholds Yarmouth Cat ferry passenger numbers

Nova Scotia's Liberal government is standing by a promise not to reveal how many people are using the Yarmouth-to-Maine ferry, despite the City of Portland's plan to release the numbers.

City of Portland promises to release Cat passenger numbers next week

The Nova Scotia government won't say how many people have used the Yarmouth Cat so far, despite the City of Portland's promise to release the numbers. (Bay Ferries Ltd.)

Nova Scotia's Liberal government is standing by an earlier promise and refusing to reveal how many people are using the Yarmouth-to-Maine ferry, now in operation more than two weeks.

The transportation minister said Thursday he has no interest in early numbers.

"Until we know what the season looks like at the end, really we're speculating on what the performance is," Geoff MacLellan said.

The Liberal government previously made a commitment to Bay Ferries not to share any numbers on ridership with the public until the end of the season.

Portland to release numbers

Regardless of that reluctance to share the numbers, the secret may not be kept much longer.

Bay Ferries submits monthly documentation, including passenger numbers, to city staff in Portland, Maine. Numbers to date will be released next week, a spokesperson for Portland said.

The ferry has a capacity of 282 cars and 866 passengers.

'Laughable' to withhold

The worry is if the numbers are bad, as they were last year under the previous ferry operator, Nova Star Cruises, the service will seem less attractive to travellers.

That strategy is "laughable," Progressive Conservative Party Leader Jamie Baillie said.

"There is not a family in Connecticut thinking about coming to Nova Scotia that's going to decide not to based on debate in the Nova Scotia legislature or here in the media," Baillie said.

Nova Star Cruises filed for bankruptcy after its ship saw around 110,000 passengers, short of its 180,000 goal.

PC reporting passenger count

Progressive Conservative finance critic Tim Houston has been routinely tweeting numbers of passengers who are coming off the ferry in Yarmouth.

But when pressed by reporters, Baillie would not confirm who was doing the counting.

"We are reporting what we're hearing, because no one else is reporting what's going on," he said. "I don't personally know the name of the people who are counting, but I can tell you people are counting at both ends."

Too early, says minister

MacLellan insisted the only numbers that matter are the totals compiled at the end of the season.

"August is going to be critical for us. September is going to be even bigger. That's really going to tell the tale for the season," MacLellan said.

"It's still early in the season. We got to let Bay Ferries do this."


Preston Mulligan has been a reporter in the Maritimes for more than 20 years. Along with his reporting gig, he also hosts CBC Radio's Sunday phone-in show, Maritime Connection.