West Nova MP Greg Kerr in his Yarmouth office Friday, Aug. 16.
ERIC BOURQUE PHOTO
By Eric Bourque
Reiterating the federal government’s approach to the Yarmouth ferry terminal, West Nova MP Greg Kerr says it has been, essentially, the opposite of that famous line from the movie Field of Dreams.
The poor condition of the terminal property had been in the news lately, even before the Aug. 13 announcement by the province that Yarmouth could have a ferry again by next spring.
“One of the things I’ve said over and over … It’s not a case of ‘if we build it, they will come,’” Kerr said, speaking of the terminal property. “People wanted to know why didn’t we go ahead and fix the building up and so on.”
Instead, he said, the approach was to wait until a ferry operator was found, in order to see what kind of vessel would be used and what the operator’s needs would be with regard to the terminal property.
“Obviously, they’re going to need customs support and those types of things and that will be part of the discussions, but, physically, what do we need at this point, I don’t know,” Kerr said. “The focus should be on what do we do together to make sure that it’s ready for spring?”
Interviewed Friday – three days after the announcement by Graham Steele, Nova Scotia’s economic and rural development and tourism minister, that the province would be entering into negotiations with STM Quest for the establishment of a ferry service between Yarmouth and Portland – Kerr said discussions are “moving along” regarding the transfer of ownership of the terminal property to the Yarmouth Area Industrial Commission.
“Our role, in the transition of property, is to make sure we’ve put in the appropriate capital to support their efforts,” he said. “We’re finally at the stage where there’s a real vessel involved, there are real operators involved.
“Beyond that, it’s important that we make sure that those that should be talking to each other are talking to each other. It doesn’t guarantee that everything goes without some snag, but I think everybody involved is in the mindset (of) let’s make this thing happen.”
With regard to the terminal property, while many people tend to focus on the building itself, Kerr says for a ferry operator the important thing is being able to get their ship in and out, having the supports in place to get the service up and running.
It remains to be seen, he said, how much it will cost to do the work that’s deemed necessary. It’s expected the federal government will pay for the bulk of it, he said.
It’s important to consider, Kerr said, that the vessel for the proposed new service may have different needs compared to the ferries Yarmouth used to have.
“That’s a learning curve for everybody,” he said.
As for the potential impact of the new ferry – assuming the proposed service gets off the ground as so many people hope – Kerr said he views it as “an opportunity for a lot of planning to go on in the community.”
A new ferry won’t fix all of the area’s problems, he said, “so what do we have to do? I think it’s sort of an opportunity or wakeup call for all of us to say ‘okay, now what are the next steps? What can we do to take advantage of this?’”