Transport Canada considers redeploying Digby-Saint John ferry to P.E.I. next spring

MV Fundy Rose could temporarily service P.E.I.-Magdalen Islands route

Members of Nova Scotia’s trucking industry and provincial and municipal politicians say they’re concerned the ferry currently running between Digby, N.S., and Saint John could be redeployed to another route for part of next year.

A spokesperson for Transport Canada confirmed to CBC News on Tuesday that the department is considering using MV Fundy Rose to service the route between Souris, P.E.I., and Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Que., when MV Madeleine II goes into mandatory drydocking next spring.

“No decision has been made at this time,” Hicham Ayoun said in an email.

Jordan LeBlanc, who owns Chebogue Fisheries in Yarmouth, said the ferry from Digby to Saint John is a vital route for the seafood industry to get its product to Boston.

“The only other option is going around by road,” he said.

Brian Reynolds, owner of B Reynolds Trucking in Port La Tour, said losing the crossing for any period of time would have a significant impact on his business. His company ships seafood for Clearwater Seafood and Mersey Seafoods to the New England market.

‘It would hurt us quite bad’

“That would make a very difficult situation for us,” he said. “It would hurt us quite bad.”

Reynolds said that if trucks have to drive around to New England it would mean having to add an extra driver, a move that would increase shipping costs, or be subject to a mandatory 10-hour rest period when they reach Bangor, Maine.

Such interruptions would affect the ability of trucking companies to offer same-day delivery of seafood and risk its freshness, he said.

Digby Mayor Ben Cleveland said people in his community were aware of the possibility of the ferry service being interrupted, although he had no concrete details from government officials.

“It’s a big concern to us,” he said.

‘Ottawa needs to leave ferries alone’

“Ottawa needs to leave ferries alone. They’re highways. Just leave them alone.”

In an interview with Maritime Noon on Wednesday, Kevin Ellis, the president of the Digby and Area Board of Trade, said the ferry connection with Saint John is vital.

“We’ve had the ferry connection with Saint John and Brunswick since 1784, there’s been a ferry service between our two communities. The service has been crucial to Digby’s trade, economy and tourism and will continue to do so.”

It’s the speculation is cause for concern, Ellis said, adding the lobster fishery would be greatly impacted by the loss of service.

Andrew Beckett, the interim CEO of Envision Saint John, an economic development agency for the greater Saint John area, told Maritime Noon that the ferry has been “actively promoted as a transportation link” for tourism. 

“A temporary disruption in that service can be a thin end of the wedge to a more permanent disruption of that service, which would be a significant loss for both provinces,” he said.

In an interview at Province House on Tuesday, Nova Scotia Public Works Minister Kim Masland said she’s hearing from business operators along the South Shore who are concerned about the potential interruption of the ferry service. She plans to share those concerns with the federal government.

‘This service should not be halted at all’

“In my opinion, this service should not be halted at all. We know how important this is to this end of the province, especially with the fishing industry. We know how much value goes across on that ferry. This service should not be disrupted at all.”

A spokesperson for Bay Ferries, the company that operates Fundy Rose, said deployment questions are the responsibility of the federal government.

In his statement, Ayoun, the Transport Canada spokesperson, said department officials understand that any interruption of ferry service in the Atlantic region “is a significant challenge for local communities, and all impacts will be carefully considered before a decision is taken.