Newfoundland and Labrador's transportation minister says he has questions following a recent auditor general's report on the procurement of the MV Veteran and MV Legionnaire in 2013, but he can't answer for a past government's mistakes.
Elvis Loveless said he was greatly concerned by the report released at the end of September, which highlighted numerous issues related to the Department of Transportation's purchase of the ferries — like a lack of training and oversight during construction.
According to the report, the lack of oversight likely contributed to a combined 607 days out of service in the first three years the vessels serviced Bell Island and Fogo Island.
Residents of the island communities have called on government to be accountable for the report's findings and to be transparent in working toward bettering the service. However, Loveless said it's "hard to answer" for the Progressive Conservative government that was in power when the ferries were purchased.
"I was not around the table, and I can't justify their decision at that time … [But] concerning around the project management of the construction of these two vessels, I said at the beginning it was very concerning," Loveless told CBC Radio's On The Go Friday.
"I can look back at the report and point out many things. 'This should have been, why was this not happening?' So if anything, I'm taking from that and learning from that. And if I was to be a part of commissioning construction of a ferry today, October 2021, things would be different."
When asked if anyone within government would be held accountable for the decisions made, Loveless said the decision makers of the time are no longer in his department — and that he's not interested in looking backward.
"Without leaning too much toward the past, I'm focusing on what we can do tomorrow," he said.
"In terms of accountability, I'm here today. I'll be accountable for the decisions I make.… But I'm not overly interested in pointing fingers."
'We will do better'
Although Loveless said there are no plans under a Liberal government to construct a new ferry, he said he hopes to move forward with the AG report in mind to make sure the events of 2013 don't repeat themselves.
That, according to Loveless, comes with conversations happening within the department, as well as more closely following the province's Procurement Act and reflecting more of the risk management of future projects to taxpayers.
LISTEN | Elvis Loveless speaks with the CBC's Ted Blades:
"The oversight, there should have been more from reading the report.… There has to be to checks and balances," he said. "All I can say is that moving forward we will do better."
"We're listening to those concerns, and moving forward I'm confident that things will be better … but in the same breath it's still challenging."