I write as a resident of the Town of Channel-Port aux Basques, and in response to the column in the May 3rd edition of the Nor’Wester entitled, ”Marine Atlantic: The Weakest Link”.
As you know, Marine Atlantic’s main port for this province is located in Port aux Basques, in the district of Burgeo-LaPolie, and as such, I have vested interested in the company, given that it is the largest employer for the area, and due to its vital importance for the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador.
I have, on occasion, had concerns regarding Marine Atlantic and the ferry service it provides, as have most people that are directly affected by the Crown Corporation and the provision of its service. I have discussed these issues directly with Marine Atlantic management and employees. However, I must address some of the points raised in the article, and my disagreement with them.
Quite simply, I believe that some of the facts and figures that the author relied on in the article are either misused, or simply out of date. They reference travel statistics for July and August of 2008, which showed a poor record of on-time sailing. However, I think the readers should know that Marine Atlantic’s on-time performance for the 2011 summer season was 91%, and overall from April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012 was 84%. The fact is that Marine Atlantic and their staff has greatly improved the reliability of the service. We all know that weather may play an impact on sailing, but our local weather greatly impacts all forms of travel in this province, which we have recently experienced with fog affecting air travel out of St. John’s International Airport.
It was also mentioned about the recent tariff increase of 4%. This is directly related to the increased cost of materials, labour and supplies. It is unfortunate, but certainly a reality of today’s world.
As for the Auditor General’s report, which is done every five years, I would note that a big change is that Marine Atlantic is now able to compile five year strategic plans, as opposed to the previous policy, which saw strategic plans done on an annual basis. Planning in this way allows for a more strategic and cost-effective service, which benefits both the consumer and the corporation.
The fact is that Marine Atlantic has come a long way in how they provide their service. Do I wish it was less costly? Of course – I am sure we all do. I believe all travel in and out of this province to be quite costly. However, it is a reality of living in this beautiful, but isolated province. But the travel itself is far from the drudgery it has been deemed. The staff is very courteous, and my own recent experiences traveling with my family on both new ferries has been very positive.
I would conclude by saying that Marine Atlantic will always receive its share of negative publicity, which in certain cases may be warranted. Some of it may even come from me. However, I do not believe that it’s fair to criticize when the facts show that their performance has been improving significantly. And I believe articles such as the one published does not convey how far things have come, just in the recent past.
Thank you for the time.
Yours very truly,
Andrew Parsons MHA
District of Burgeo- La Polie