Top News

Bay Ferries: Baillie creating uncertainty about ferry service not good for attracting business

Letters have been exchanged between Bay Ferries president Mark MacDonald and PC Party leader Jamie Baillie.
Letters have been exchanged between Bay Ferries president Mark MacDonald and PC Party leader Jamie Baillie.

YARMOUTH – The president of Bay Ferries and the province's opposition leader are at odds when it comes to release of passenger counts.

Mark MacDonald, the president and CEO of Bay Ferries says the company is focused on making ferry service between Maine and Nova Scotia a success, adding its decision not to release monthly passenger numbers is not because it is uncertain about the upcoming season, as the province’s opposition leader Jamie Baillie has suggested.

“Our view is, for this ferry service to stand any chance of success, we kind of have to get it out of the media,” says MacDonald. He says it’s not that there shouldn’t be legitimate interest in the service, “but there’s been a lot of political talk, all of which serves to introduce uncertainty and is horrible for business.”

In recent days there has been an exchange of letters between MacDonald and Baillie.

Baillie has called on Premier Stephen McNeil to require Bay Ferries to release monthly passenger counts. Baillie has asked Bay Ferries to do the same.

“Respectfully we ask that you will instate a monthly reporting mechanism similar to Nova Star that allows government, media and the general public to examine, scrutinize and assess how public funds are being used,” Baillie wrote in a May 31 letter to MacDonald. “I believe such monthly reporting would be in the best interest of all involved.”

In a May 31 media release Baillie said he worried that not releasing the numbers signals the company’s lack of confidence in the run. He said this is information taxpayers deserve to have, considering the amount of government money being invested. The government has committed $32.7 million towards the first two years of the service.

“Premier McNeil should demand better

accountability from Bay Ferries,” Baillie said. “We deserve to know exactly how this company is performing.”

In his response letter, MacDonald said the opposition party leader has fundamentally misrepresented the company’s position concerning its accountability.

“We accept, and always have, our obligation to be fully accountable to all governments with which we do business,” MacDonald wrote. “This is our group of companies’ 75th year in the ferry business. We are a local company which is accustomed to being accountable to governments and taxpayers.”

MacDonald wrote “there is a distinction between financial accountability and providing detailed daily, weekly, or monthly reporting to the public of ferry service activities. The latter, while great for political discussion, is terrible for the business.”

MacDonald pointed out that negative comments and portrayals of the service are not good when you’re trying to attract business. He wrote that Baillie has used terms as “fiasco,” and said that Bay Ferries has “hosed” the government, when talking about the service. “Do you think that’s good for the business?” MacDonald asks.

DIFFERENT FROM NOVA STAR

Unlike Nova Star Cruises, which last season had to release monthly passenger counts, there is no clause in the agreement that Bay Ferries has with the province stating it must do the same. Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Geoff MacLellan says the reason Nova Star had to do this was because it chewed through money set aside for seven years in the first season of operation.

The province is more confident in Bay Ferries’ ability to operate the service and says it will be important to look at the season as a whole, rather than in increments.

“Any numbers you give in terms of passenger counts is really a snapshot in time and they can be affected by a number of factors, both negatively and positively, from the currency, to the tourism market in the northeastern United States, of course the weather,” MacLellan said in a June 2 interview. “So it’s hard to give a number at any point in the season and have that accurately reflect the performance.”

The province is hoping for a baseline of 60,000 passengers this season and has based its levels of subsidy around this figure.

“We’ve got to give this an opportunity,” MacLellan said. “It’s time for performance and we’ll see at the end of the season what the overall performance has been. We just have to try and keep some positive momentum and do everything we can to get Americans on this boat.”

MacLellan said the passenger count total will be shared at the end of the season.

Mark MacDonald, the president and CEO of Bay Ferries says the company is focused on making ferry service between Maine and Nova Scotia a success, adding its decision not to release monthly passenger numbers is not because it is uncertain about the upcoming season, as the province’s opposition leader Jamie Baillie has suggested.

“Our view is, for this ferry service to stand any chance of success, we kind of have to get it out of the media,” says MacDonald. He says it’s not that there shouldn’t be legitimate interest in the service, “but there’s been a lot of political talk, all of which serves to introduce uncertainty and is horrible for business.”

In recent days there has been an exchange of letters between MacDonald and Baillie.

Baillie has called on Premier Stephen McNeil to require Bay Ferries to release monthly passenger counts. Baillie has asked Bay Ferries to do the same.

“Respectfully we ask that you will instate a monthly reporting mechanism similar to Nova Star that allows government, media and the general public to examine, scrutinize and assess how public funds are being used,” Baillie wrote in a May 31 letter to MacDonald. “I believe such monthly reporting would be in the best interest of all involved.”

In a May 31 media release Baillie said he worried that not releasing the numbers signals the company’s lack of confidence in the run. He said this is information taxpayers deserve to have, considering the amount of government money being invested. The government has committed $32.7 million towards the first two years of the service.

“Premier McNeil should demand better

accountability from Bay Ferries,” Baillie said. “We deserve to know exactly how this company is performing.”

In his response letter, MacDonald said the opposition party leader has fundamentally misrepresented the company’s position concerning its accountability.

“We accept, and always have, our obligation to be fully accountable to all governments with which we do business,” MacDonald wrote. “This is our group of companies’ 75th year in the ferry business. We are a local company which is accustomed to being accountable to governments and taxpayers.”

MacDonald wrote “there is a distinction between financial accountability and providing detailed daily, weekly, or monthly reporting to the public of ferry service activities. The latter, while great for political discussion, is terrible for the business.”

MacDonald pointed out that negative comments and portrayals of the service are not good when you’re trying to attract business. He wrote that Baillie has used terms as “fiasco,” and said that Bay Ferries has “hosed” the government, when talking about the service. “Do you think that’s good for the business?” MacDonald asks.

DIFFERENT FROM NOVA STAR

Unlike Nova Star Cruises, which last season had to release monthly passenger counts, there is no clause in the agreement that Bay Ferries has with the province stating it must do the same. Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Geoff MacLellan says the reason Nova Star had to do this was because it chewed through money set aside for seven years in the first season of operation.

The province is more confident in Bay Ferries’ ability to operate the service and says it will be important to look at the season as a whole, rather than in increments.

“Any numbers you give in terms of passenger counts is really a snapshot in time and they can be affected by a number of factors, both negatively and positively, from the currency, to the tourism market in the northeastern United States, of course the weather,” MacLellan said in a June 2 interview. “So it’s hard to give a number at any point in the season and have that accurately reflect the performance.”

The province is hoping for a baseline of 60,000 passengers this season and has based its levels of subsidy around this figure.

“We’ve got to give this an opportunity,” MacLellan said. “It’s time for performance and we’ll see at the end of the season what the overall performance has been. We just have to try and keep some positive momentum and do everything we can to get Americans on this boat.”

MacLellan said the passenger count total will be shared at the end of the season.

Recent Stories