Wayne Bennett believes Marine Atlantic is unable to deal the problems he sees in the service and the only way to fix it may be to take it to the private sector.
In recent weeks the service has been off schedule a number of times and it is facing a lot of criticism from those in the trucking industry who say the new reservation system is hurting business. The system has been protested and there is talk of another protest in the works.
Bennett, the leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador First Party, says a recent trip across the Gulf only served to further convince him the ferry service needs to be operated by a private company.
Of chief concern for him is the Crown Corporation’s apparent lack of communication with ferry travellers or its own staff, especially when things go wrong.
“Somebody in the organization knows there’s something wrong, but it’s not being communicated to the people on the front lines,” Bennett said.
He said the information is not being made available to passengers, either. Bennett believes there’s got to be a way to inform passengers of what’s happening during delays, or when the schedule is running smoothly and there are more ways to communicate the message than using a loudspeaker.
“We’re all going around with cellphones, BlackBerrys or iPods,” he said. “You can send us a message, you can send us a tweet. There’s all kinds of ways.”
He said the people supervising the toll gates and parking lots are hearing the complaints, but management isn’t visible to the travelling public.
“I say privatize it because it’s a government organization and it smacks of being government-run,” he said. “I think a lot of the problems they’re having sometimes deal with unions. ... Maybe a private operator will come in, get rid of the unions and get things back on an even keel. I think it’s a drastic step, but sometimes drastic measures are what’s needed.”
If that doesn’t work, he thinks both levels of government should look at some sort of fixed link. Then, he says, there won’t be the worry of being limited by the ferry system.
The Western Star