Oceanex boss Sid Hynes says he is not backing down from his recent statements concerning Marine Atlantic’s receipt of subsidies to drive Oceanex’s marine shipping business out of the Port of Corner Brook.
Hynes, a former Marine Atlantic executive, told The Western Star he would not discuss internal issues concerning Oceanex. But he will let stand his assertion those subsidies, which are now at 70 per cent, make it difficult to do any marine freight business, recently calling it “Competing with our own tax dollars.”
Hynes said those subsidies are “Against marine transportation policy” in Canada.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do but we’ll do what we have to,” he said. “At the end of the day we’ll take this to court and let them decide.”
Hynes is referring to Section 5B of the National Transportation Act which states “Regulation and strategic public intervention are used to achieve economic, safety, security, environmental or social outcomes that cannot be achieved satisfactorily by competition and market forces and do not unduly favour, or reduce the inherent advantages of, any particular mode of transportation.”
He added that when he was at the helm of Marine Atlantic, the subsidies were no more than 25 per cent.
Humber-St. Barbe-White Bay MP Gerry Byrne took issue with Hynes’ statements, especially those concerning the national policy.
“I don’t believe for one second that a constitutional guarantee is subservient to an interpretation of a policy. I think the opposite is true,” he said.
“The auditor general of Canada has conducted two special legislative audits on Marine Atlantic and they never indicated there is a problem with the legal authority to receive these subsidies and to charge the freight rates that currently exist.”
Byrne added that it isn’t just this province’s ferry service receiving subsidies; similar marine organizations in other provinces can also count government funds as a source of income.
“He took over at Oceanex knowing full well the economic realities of a constitutionally guaranteed service for which he personally recommended that rates across the board should go down,” said Byrne of a 2005 report recommending a 15 per cent rate reduction and rate increases starting in 2007 commensurate with the Consumer Price Index that has Hynes signature on it.
Byrne said getting rid of subsidies would mean higher prices on groceries and other items, which Hynes called preposterous.
Requests for Oceanex’s lease deal with the Port of Corner Brook were ignored this week, as questions have been raised over what Oceanex’s duties still are to the port. Hynes said the situation is a private matter in a private company and would not discuss the issue further.
The Western Star