Justin Trudeau and his Liberals made a campaign promise for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and St. John’s Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary didn’t forget that promise, and after hearing at length the trials and tribulations of people in the tourism industry recently, she wants the federal government to fulfil its promise to reduce the cost recovery for Marine Atlantic, a number that currently sits at 65 per cent.
She made a motion at council’s regular session Monday to write to Marine Atlantic, the federal minister of transportation, Premier Dwight Ball and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to seek a reduction in cost recovery by the Crown corporation.
“It was trains, highways and continued into the marine route to this province. The Liberals promised to reduce this cost and my letter will be asking they do just that,’’ O’Leary said.
“This was one of the terms of Confederation.’’
The cost recovery program started under the Stephen Harper government and has gotten to a point where it is affecting economic development and tourism because of the added costs of people getting here and getting products and goods to Newfoundland and Labrador, she said.
O’Leary said she and Coun. Debbie Hanlon attended the Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador conference in Gander recently, where they both discovered that gaining access to the province is a big issue.
The cost of getting here is prohibitive for commercial passengers loading onto the ferry in North Sydney, she said.
“In our terms of union back in 1949, the crossing was treated as a bridge. Recovery was 45 per cent in the late 1990s, when it was increased by 20 per cent by Transport Canada to its current rate,’’ O’Leary said.
“Just recently, the prime minister said the ferry service is an extension of the Trans-Canada Highway, no different than the Confederation Bridge to P.E.I. We compared the prices. We are not being treated equally, despite the fact they are both extensions of the highway.’’
As an example, she said a fuel surcharge — which Marine Atlantic charges its passengers — doesn’t apply to the Confederation Bridge.
O’Leary said she would be in favour of eliminating the recovery fees completely, and hopes government will make that change.