question period — Transport

Ferry Service between Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia

December 15, 2020


Honourable senators, my question is for Senator Gold, the Government Representative.

There are two ferry boats that run from Caribou, Nova Scotia, to Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island. This past winter, both were tied up in Nova Scotia, which caused difficulty for the Islanders working on the boats and getting them ready for the new season, as usual. They had to drive from Prince Edward Island through New Brunswick and to Caribou, Nova Scotia in order to reach the vessels to do their work, but due to COVID, they also had to self-isolate upon their return to the Island. This was a very challenging scenario.

The workers are members of UNIFOR Local 4508, and their union president, Jerry Dias, is calling upon Minister Garneau to direct the company to dock one of the vessels on the Prince Edward Island side of the Northumberland Strait this winter so that once the boat is tied up for the season, Island workers can work on the Island, thereby reducing travel, potential exposure to COVID, self-isolation during time off and the use of testing resources.

Senator Gold, will the government encourage Northumberland Ferries Limited to dock one of the vessels in Wood Islands in order to protect the health and safety of Maritimers?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate)

Senator, thank you for your question. Indeed, I have been advised that the Minister of Transport has received a letter from UNIFOR making the request regarding off-season docking. However, senators, we must keep in mind that the ferry service is provided by a private company, Northumberland Ferries Limited.

The government does encourage UNIFOR and Northumberland Ferries to continue discussions amongst themselves about minimizing the impacts to P.E.I. workers and others as a result of the ongoing pandemic and associated provincial travel measures. The government recognizes the important role and work that these workers play in ensuring reliable and efficient ferry service.

I would add that on a personal note, at least in my capacity as representative of the government, I have come to appreciate Question Period — I know, it’s a surprise. The reason is simple, and it was exemplified by a number of the questions today. It gives senators an opportunity to bring regional interests of great concern to the national Parliament that we would otherwise be unaware of, and to hold the government to account. It is not always fun to get the questions, but it is a legitimate exercise of our power.