A Utility and Review Board hearing got underway at the Rodd Grand Hotel on Wednesday morning, Jan. 29, to hear an application for a sightseeing tour business and charter application. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
By Tina Comeau
With a new ferry service on the horizon a former Yarmouth County business is looking to reestablish a passenger sight-seeing tour operation that existed prior to the demise of the Cat ferry.
But it’s not all smooth sailing with the application, which is the subject of a Jan. 29 hearing before the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) in Yarmouth as two local companies are opposing the application.
The Wednesday hearing got underway at 8:30 a.m. at the Rodd Grand Hotel.
A Day by the Sea Tour Limited of Lower West Pubnico has applied for a motor carrier license to operate two 24 to 36 passenger vehicles, which, it says, is virtually the same services, routes and areas that were covered before when it operated a tour business.
The company would like to provide a bilingual sightseeing service for ferry passengers that would take them on tours within Yarmouth, Shelburne and Digby counties.
In an opening statement lawyer Real Boudreau, speaking for the applicant, says this will be a unique business that doesn't currently exist.
The application before the UARB is also asking to allow the company to offer a year-round charter service, which would involve the transportation of any organized group, including school groups, from any point in the tri-counties to any point within Nova Scotia. It also would like to be allowed to transport cruise ship passengers from any port in Nova Scotia to any point in Nova Scotia on sightseeing tours.
The UARB application by A Day by the Sea Tour Limited is being opposed by two businesses in Yarmouth – Huts Transit and Tri-Star Charters Inc.
It the case of Tri-Star Charters Inc., it already offers a charter service using the 58-seat bus used by the Yarmouth Mariners hockey club. In papers filed with the UARB it says it has seen a 55 per cent increase in sales over the last year. It argues that the local market, as it is today, cannot support another charter carrier.
However, with the reestablishment of ferry service it does foresee an increase in demand for smaller vehicles than its 58-passenger bus.
“It is our expectation that a number of our existing clients would likely book these smaller buses simply because of the reduced cost,” the company includes in papers filed with the UARB. Therefore, it is seeking approval to add up to two 24 to 36 passenger vehicles to its motor carrier license.
The company isn’t necessarily looking to operate sight-seeing tours, but the buses could be available to someone who is.
Louis d'Entremont, a lawyer representing a Day by the Sea tour made a preliminary motion at the hearing asking the board to strike Tri-Star's opposition to the application. Given that Tri-Star has made an application to also offer a service involving two 24 to 36-passenger buses d'Entremont argues that Tri-Star Charters wants to offer the very thing it is opposing.
"Logically it doesn't stand," d'Entremont said.
Andrew Nickerson, the lawyer for Tri-Star Charters notes any motor carrier is allowed to object to an application.
The chair of the UARB, Dawna Ring, agrees it is odd for Tri-Star Charters to be opposing something that it is also proposing. But she is not going to dismiss Tri-Star Charters' application of opposition.
In giving evidence, Calvin d'Entremont, who used to run a Day by the Sea Tour Ltd. prior to the demise of ferry service in Yarmouth, wants to offer a variety of tours, including an Acadian cultural tour, a Yarmouth tour, a seafood tour (in partnership with some local businesses who would charter bus) and a Tusket Island tour (in partnership with a local fisherman who would charter bus.) He says the bulk of his business would be tours, which he doesn't think competes with either Tri-Star Charters or Huts Transit, given the smaller and larger sizes of their vehicles in comparison to what he is proposing.
Nickerson, the lawer for Tri-Star Charters Ltd., suggested that a Day by the Sea Tour Ltd., wouldn't be able to sustain a summer tour operation without also having a charter licence to bring in revenue. When asked by Nickerson whether a Day by the Sea Tours Ltd. could still offer its tours using other motor carriers that already exist, Calvin d'Entremont said, "I could, but I don't want to."
UARB chair Dawna Ring questioned d'Entremont if it goes even further than that, asking if it's not a case that he wouldn't want to use other motor coaches but really a matter that he cannot since there are currently no 24 to 36 buses available locally for his tour business. D'Entremont confirmed this was the case.
To bring in another motor coach would require him having to pay dead-head kilometres just to bring a bus into the area, which would increase the cost of the charter, possibily by an extra $1,000 or more.
Speaking about the charter application, Nickerson said with Huts Transit being able to accomodate groups up to 15 people, and with a Day by the Sea Tour proposing to have two 24-26 seat buses, it would only leave the 37-58 passenger charter market for Tri-Star Charters. He asked d'Entremont if he felt he would be taking business away from Tri-Star d'Entremont said that would depend on the availability of his buses.
He also noted that the jr. A Mariners have priority when it comes to the bus operated by Tri-Star Charters, therefore when the team is on the road Tri-Star isn't in a positon to be able to offer charters to any groups.
Gary Hudson of Huts Transit says because he has two vehicles that he could use on a charter, he has the ability to transport more than 14 people because he could use two vehicles. Hudson thinks a charter licence to a Day by the Sea Tour would adversely affect his business.
Originally the UARB hearing was scheduled for Jan. 22 in Yarmouth, but it was postponed due to last Wednesday’s blizzard.
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