PEI

Magdalen Islands committee fearful of ferry revamp

A committee that represents communities on the Magdalen Islands is worried what it will mean if the Coopérative de Transport Maritime et Aérien (CTMA) ferry loses out in the current federal ferry bidding process.

Community wants to keep current operator of ferry

'We are concerned because of the jobs here on the Island and all the [economic] impact that would have on the Island,' says Rose Elmonde Clarke, mayor of Grosse-Île, Que. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

A committee that represents communities on the Magdalen Islands is worried what it will mean if the Coopérative de Transport Maritime et Aérien (CTMA) ferry loses out in the new federal ferry process. 

Rose Elmonde Clarke is the mayor of Grosse-Île, Que. — a community on the northern edge of the Magdalen Island archipelago.

Her committee wants CTMA removed from federal discussions. It's worried the service may be replaced, or have its operations handed over to another private company.

"The Magdalen Island community is rallying to preserve the CTMA as an operator of the island ferry service and asking to be excluded from the bidding process," Clarke said.

In May, the federal government announced it would like to replace four aging ships in Eastern Canada, including the one on the Magdalen Island run within three years. 

Ottawa is exploring signing long-term contracts with companies willing to run their own ferries, instead of Ottawa leasing the ships to operators as it does now.

Ferry service 'very important'

The five-hour ferry crossing from P.E.I. to the Magdalen Islands carries more than 100,000 passengers cross every year, according to the CTMA Ferry website.

Rose Elmonde Clarke is asking the federal government to remove CTMA from the bidding process. (Submitted)

"We are concerned because of the jobs here on the Island and all the [economic] impact that would have on the Island," Clarke said.

She said Magdalen Islanders consider CTMA an essential service. The head office employs about 500 people and is a major shipper of fisheries products.

"If there's a problem or anything we don't have to call a 1-800 number and wait on the line," she said. "We have a direct phone here to the office on the Magdalen Islands which is very important."

Letter to Transport Canada

The committee is sending a letter to Marc Garneau, the minister of Transport Canada, asking to be removed from the process.

If there's a problem or anything we don't have to call a 1-800 number and wait on the line.—Rose Elmonde Clarke

"We already have a local co-operative that [does] great work and have been doing great work," she said.

"Why destroy that with something else, when you have something that's working?"

CMTA did not want to comment.

17 companies responded

In an emailed response, Transport Canada said it's committed to continuing to support a ferry service to the Magdalens. 

The department says 17 companies have responded to the request for information for the three ferry runs. It said it is not a call for a tender or a request for proposals. Transport Canada said no agreement or contract will be entered based on this information.

The information is being analysed and next steps will be established once that is complete. 

With files from Laura Chapin

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