Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Constitutional cattle cars

“I love Newfoundland and would spend more time there if the ferry wasn’t so awful to deal with. But the prospect of sitting in line waiting to be loaded and having to run upstairs to get a seat where people will be walking by you all trip, having to step over bodies trying to sleep anywhere they can, eating cafeteria-type food which costs an arm and a leg is just so depressing that it takes me a long time to build myself up to it.

— Jane Sodero, Visitor, Nova Scotia, via e-mail, as published in the 1999 NL government report, On Deck and Below, a report on the Gulf Ferry Forum.

•••

By all accounts the Gulf ferry link isn’t as bad today as it was a decade or so ago, when Chuck Furey, then-Liberal Tourism minister, described the ferries as constitutional cattle cars.


NLers being the constitutional cattle.


The cattle no longer have to sprawl on the floor for a night’s rest, which I’ve witnessed first-hand as a newspaper reporter.


At the risk of sounding sensational, the worst spot for sprawling back then was by the kitchen garbage, because of the flies.


The constitutional cattle of today have a hard time getting aboard the boats.


Truckers, local ones in particular, have problems as of late with the new reservation system.


They say they can’t get on when they need to, and are losing money as a result.


Why is it that the cattle are always restless?

•••

There’s a great letter in today's Telegram (Ferry solution exists), one that puts Marine Atlantic in its place.


The letter writer sounds credible: Captain Joe Prim, who spent 40 years at sea, including 30 as a ship’s master with “coastal and Newfoundland Gulf service.”


His observations:


1) The ferry service was more efficient 20 or 30 years ago, but the Crown corp. gutted the workforce.


2) The ferries are too large (and getting larger) to dock at the small harbour of Port aux Basques in bad weather, the ships “are like huge sales holding a lot of wind.”


Which raises the question whether a larger port — Corner Brook perhaps? — would be a more appropriate port of entry?


The question led to a public spat recently between west coast MPs Gerry Byrne and Judy Foote.


Can you say Liberal catfight?


3) Captain Prim says the most appropriate ferries for docking and maneuvering at Port aux Basques would be smaller — and faster — than the current fleet.


Able to turn cross the Gulf in 4 hours and turn around in 2.


With enough thruster power to dock in any wind conditions, eliminating the need for a reservation system.


4) Newfoundland is only a turn-around point for the Marine Atlantic ferries, the captain pointed out.


Halifax gets the real benefits from servicing the fleet (a large terminal to maintain and supply the vessels, as well as dry docking).


5) Finally, the captain wrote that Marine Atlantic and the Ottawa bureaucrats are cut from the same cloth as their brothers who manage the fishery.


Grossly incompetent, in other words.


Ouch.


But then the Gulf truth hurts.



1 comment:

Dave said...

You make a great point about looking at Port Aux Basques as the point of entry. Once again, doing the right thing is pushed aside in favor of politics.