PORT AUX BASQUES, NL – Port aux Basques Mayor John Spencer says the Federal Court of Canada’s dismissal of a claim for judicial review on Marine Atlantic subsidies is “a victory for Newfoundland.”
Oceanex, which along with Marine Atlantic brings in the vast majority of all commercial freight in Newfoundland, was arguing the terms of union between Newfoundland and Canada only specifies the federal government must operate a ferry service between the island and Cape Breton, but does not say Ottawa must subsidize it.
Lawyers for the company argued Oceanex’s competitive position should have been considered when setting freight rates.
News of the dismissal broke last week with a tweet from Justice and Public Safety Minister Andrew Parsons.
With the Oceanex challenge put to bed, Spencer says it’s time to focus on Transport Canada’s fixation that Marine Atlantic recover 65 per cent of its operational costs.
“This draconian measure sucks the lifeblood out of the spirit of Newfoundland's Terms of Union with Canada,” he wrote in an email to the Gulf News.
“It forced fares, and freight rates, up. The negative fallout results in a damaged Newfoundland economy.”
Spencer said operational cost recovery was not the deal envisioned when Newfoundland entered Confederation, and the cost-recovery ratio has been steadily rising over the last 20 years.
Likewise, the Port aux Basques and Area Chamber of Commerce was also pleased with the court decision.
In a statement, the chamber said it has a great relationship with Marine Atlantic and hopes it will stay that way into the future.
Chamber vice president Todd Strickland called the decision a positive outcome for the town, area and province. Marine Atlantic can now put focus back on the service and its priorities, he said.
“Of course, this is great news,” he wrote via email.