Government foot-dragging on port repairs for Chi Chemaun threatens tourist season: Hughes

Ottawa – Tourism jobs hang in the balance while the government takes its time to decide if they are going to repair the federal ports that host the Chi Chemaun ferry, according to Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, MP Carol Hughes.

Hughes asked the Minister of Transport about the repairs and dredging needs for the harbor at the South Baymouth terminal in question period. Fears are mounting that the 2013 ferry season will be delayed until the work is done. The government has not indicated it will commence with these jobs despite agreements that place responsibility squarely on its shoulders.

“Federal Port Facilities in Tobermory and South Baymouth need maintenance and the harbour for the Manitoulin terminal needs to be dredged so the Chi Chemaun ferry can carry 36,000 passengers and their cars this May and June,” said Hughes.  “The cost for repairs is less than $300,000. The cost to tourism without a ferry is unimaginable.”

Hughes says the government is dragging its feet while municipalities, businesses,and their employees are left wondering if this critical piece of the tourist economy will have its season delayed, or worse.

“Water levels in Lake Huron are dropping and could take tourism jobs with them,” said Hughes. “When will the government perform this affordable maintenance and protect Great Lakes tourism jobs?”

Hughes says the costs related to the historic low water levels in the Huron/Michigan basin are mounting for municipalities, business, and individuals.  She notes that Michigan is working with effected communities and feels a similar response is needed from the federal government and sees a role for the province to play as well.

“The Minister of Foreign Affairs is going to meet with Simcoe area mayors on the issue next Monday and I urge him to extend that invitation to all Huron municipalities and First Nations who are struggling with the same issues,” said Hughes.  “The problems go well beyond political affiliation and I fully expect them to be treated as such.”