Pressing for Answers on Extended Ferry Hours

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The Fort Simpson Chamber of Commerce would like to thank Nahendeh MLA Shane Thompson for continuing to press for answers regarding the extension of the hours of service at the MV Laffery.

Thompson made a members statement on the issue at the Legislative Assembly on June 1. He also questioned Minister Wally Schumann on how the Department of Transportation can state that it can’t extend the hours because of fiscal restraints when a fiscal analysis of additional hours of service hasn’t been completed. The Chamber looks forward to reviewing that analysis.

Excerpt Taken From Unedited Hansard transcript for June 1, 2016

 Member’s Statement on Hours of Operation for Fort Simpson Ferry Service

  1. THOMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, Mr. Speaker, I would like to address a number of things regarding our Ferry Services at Fort Simpson. First off, I would like to thank the Department of Transportation Fort Simpson’s staff, both in the office and out in the field, for the great service they provided. They are very much about serving the people of the NWT and I thank them for this. Mr. Speaker, I continue to fully support the Fort Simpson Chamber of Commerce’s efforts to have the M.V. Lafferty’s hours of service extended by two hours every morning. During my election campaign I spoke to a number of business owners and staff of the Department and a number of constituents about this matter.

I have determined that the increase in the hours of service would create a number of benefits including: giving the community an extra two hours of ferry service daily; Opening the ferry at 6:00 a.m. means the community is open for business earlier and allowing businesses and people the opportunity to go to Hay River, High Level and Yellowknife and return home on the same day, helping to save costs; People traveling out of town, whether for business or pleasure, will have two extra hours of travel time; road maintenance staff will be able to get out on the roads quicker and get working on the roads to make them safer for travel for all residents; supplies and services to the highway camps will happen in a more timely manner; safety and emergency services will be extended; the extra hours could potentially require an additional ferry crew, resulting in additional local employment.

Mr. Speaker, I have been speaking with the Minister on this matter and doing everything in my power to promote the extension of the ferry hours in time for the 2016 ferry season. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been successful. I have stressed to the Minister that there is no local support for creating the extension by stopping ferry service for two hours in the afternoon. The community and region want the same service that was offered at the Fort Providence ferry crossing that served the people north of the lake. Mr. Speaker, additionally, I believe the Department of Transportation needs to study the idea of moving the ferry landing further up the Liard River to get away from the low spots at the current location as well as the potential of building a floating bridge or causeway using the islands further up the river.

Mr. Speaker, I hope the Minister and Department will be visionaries and seriously look at these ideas and work with the community’s political leaders, business leaders, and the residents of the Northwest Territories to make it happen. Later today I’ll have questions for the Minister regarding this statement. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

  1. THOMPSON: Mr. Speaker, today you heard my member statement about the ferry service in Fort Simpson. Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transportation did attend a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Fort Simpson regarding this issue on May 12. I thank him for attending that and speaking on behalf of the government. The next day, on May 13, I sent the Minister a question and asked has the department done a cost analysis of operating the ferry service for those extra two hours. The response I received today was: “the Department of Transportation acknowledges a question received from the Chamber of Commerce to extend the operation hours of MV Lafferty ferry. However, due to the current fiscal reality, the department is unable to provide the two hour extension. The Department of Transportation will continue to work with the community to optimize the ferry hours while recognizing the existing fiscal conditions affecting all of the government, GNWT.” Unfortunately, he did not answer my question. Therefore, can the Minister please tell the House if a cost analysis was done on this request, and if it was, when? Thank you.
  2. SPEAKER: Mahsi. Minister of Transportation.

HON. WALLY SCHUMANN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the member for his question on the ferry hours and the opportunity to meet with the Chamber in Fort Simpson. To my knowledge to date we haven’t done a complete cost analysis on the ferry for extending it by two hours for this particular. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

  1. THOMPSON: I thank the Minister for this answer. However, then, how can the Minister come out and say that due to fiscal restraint or fiscal responsibility we can’t do anything without a study being done? Thank you. Can you please explain that?

HON. WALLY SCHUMANN: As the Member alluded to, how can we do a cost analysis? We are presently, I believe, undertaking this under his request. We haven’t totally finished it to date. But the reality of the fiscal situation we are in, if we were to extend the ferry hours for the M.V. Lafferty in Fort Simpson, we would probably have to look at doing this for all other ferry systems within the Northwest Territories. Any solution that we would come towards with the community of Fort Simpson would have to probably be extended to other communities across the Northwest Territories. I must remind the Member that any solution that we work out with the communities needs to be within the fiscal realities and the regular territory framework of the Government of the Northwest Territories.

  1. THOMPSON: I again thank the Minister for his answer. I am a little confused with the responses that I got in my e-mail and today. It is a little bit different. Can the Minister please provide me with a historical cost to operate all the ferries of the NWT for the past three years including any over time?

HON. WALLY SCHUMANN: Yes. We can provide that to the Member.

  1. SPEAKER: Mahsi. Oral question. Member for Nahendeh.
  2. THOMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the Minister for his answer. I look forward to getting that information. Mr. Speaker, will the Minister have his department look into the feasibility of moving the ferry landing further up the yard to get away from the low squats at the current location and alternatives such as a floating bridge or causeway using the island further up the river as part of their strategic plan. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

HON. WALLY SCHUMANN: As the Member knows, we have a 25-year strategic transportation strategy, and we look at all aspects of transportation across the Northwest Territories. I don’t believe that this particular request is in there. But we can certainly have a quick study on it. One thing about moving that would be looking at realigning the highway and other things as such to doing that, which would be a great capital cost to the Government of the Northwest Territories. But I can talk to the department about it and get back to the Member.

 

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