Houston government won't disclose passenger numbers for the Cat ferry

·2 min read
The Cat ferry can hold 866 passengers and 200 cars. (Brett Ruskin/CBC - image credit)
The Cat ferry can hold 866 passengers and 200 cars. (Brett Ruskin/CBC - image credit)

The Houston government is facing criticism for something it accused the previous government of doing — not disclosing enough information about the Cat ferry.

The ferry provides service between Yarmouth, N.S., and Bar Harbor, Maine.

When asked directly about passenger numbers on Thursday, Minister of Public Works Kim Masland said the province won't report those figures on a monthly basis. Instead, she said operator Bay Ferries will release the number of tickets sold overall. Last week, that number was 15,100 tickets — 65 per cent of which were for July and August.

"It's a very dynamic tourist industry right now. What I would like to focus on myself as the minister is the fact that here we have an opportunity to be really bringing tourists into into our province," Masland said.

When the Progressive Conservatives were the official opposition, the party criticized the then-Liberal government for not disclosing enough information about the ferry, including passenger numbers. The ferry has the capacity for 866 passengers and 200 cars.

Premier Tim Houston, who was the finance critic, tweeted the number of  passengers coming off the ferry in Yarmouth in 2016. The PCs even took the Liberal government to court and won.

Nova Scotia tax payers have spent millions of dollars for the service.

Expensive ferry

The ferry has been docked for the last three seasons, but taxpayers have paid $1.17 million a year for Bay Ferries to operate it with no revenue to offset expenses.

Nova Scotia taxpayers also paid $8.5 million to renovate Bar Harbor's ferry terminal when the port was moved from Portland, Maine. Nova Scotia pays the salaries of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Agents at the Bar Harbor facility.

Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill said the province has the means to report passenger numbers.

"When I was seven and my little brother was five and the boat came in in Yarmouth, we sat on the front steps of our grandparent's house on Main Street and counted every car that came off," he said.

"We could tell you the total, we could tell you the states where all the cars came from. So if the government can't accomplish it, then they should try to engage any five or seven-year-old who would be able to get us the numbers."

The first ferry crossing between Yarmouth and Maine was Jan 4, 1956, when Canadian National (CN) introduced the first regular ferry service on the MV Bluenose.


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