The Eastern PEI Chamber of Commerce is urging public health officials and Northumberland Ferries to consider the potential of immediately opening the ferry service to commercial and first responder use only.
“We fully understand the public safety issue. However, the ferry plays a vital role in the Island economy at this time of year and we believe a limited service can be safely offered with minimal extra effort,” says Chamber President Russ Compton.
Northumberland Ferries has delayed its traditional May 1st opening to June 1st. The ferry operator’s federal subsidy is calendar based, meaning it would not lose money by opening on a limited basis to commercial truck traffic associated with industries including agriculture, forestry and construction, says Mr Compton.
The chamber points to the CMTA ferry service connecting Souris to the Magdalen Islands that continues to operate weekly crossings but is limited to commercial traffic and essential services.
“This is a common sense solution, while appreciating the importance of the service to the community and economy. In our opinion, Northumberland Ferries is no different,” the president said. “Essential drivers are in short supply and stressed beyond the limit during this pandemic. For drivers transporting essential goods originating or bound to eastern PEI, a rest on the ferry and a few hours less driving would provide a much needed rest and increased highway safety.”
The chamber is urging federal and provincial politicians in both Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, as well as fellow Chambers of Commerce in both provinces, to support the effort.
“We are not promoting anything that would be seen as counter to public health and safety. We are promoting the limited, safe operation of an essential service to the PEI economy, especially at this time of year.”