Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

[BRIEF NOTE] The Souris-Port Hood ferry: Why?

Via Facebook, I've discovered that there's a small movement afoot in the Maritime provinces of Canada to create a new ferry route between Souris, a fishing village in eastern Prince Edward Island, and Port Hood, Souris' analogue on the west coast of the Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island.

Interest in establishing a ferry link between Souris and Cape Breton has surfaced once again with renewed vigour on both sides of the Northumberland Strait.

On the Cape Breton side, residents believe a ferry between the two localities would inject millions of dollars into the local economy to create jobs, and stem some of the out-migration of local families and young people to Alberta.

"It has been said that one of the stumbling blocks has been the lack of infrastructure in place on the Cape Breton side to carry out such a project, but why not turn this perceived negative into a positive and use that as a catalyst to start the whole project?" said Glace Bay resident Kevin MacDonald.

In Souris, Mayor Joanne Reid is very interested in such a project. Reid said the idea of communication and transportation between Souris and Port Hood has always appealed to her.

"The composition of both areas is very similar in terms of people, industry, history and culture. And we are both in areas where water transportation is easy and land transportation is not," she said.

"Given the fact that Souris already has a ferry terminal and a great port, another ferry into our realm would work wonders for our economy and add to the service we already have."

Another article in The Guardian of Charlottetown reports that advocates of this new ferry route have taken their campaign to Facebook, incidentally emphasizing the economic incentives.

"Growing up in Cape Breton and having had to move away like most people I know, it is hard to see the island suffering a slow and painful death. This includes the exodus of most of our young people, along with the fisheries and many businesses that are either closed or hanging on by a thread," said [Cape Breton ferry advocate Michael McDaniel.

He believes that the new ferry link could be a start to getting Cape Breton back on its feet.

"I am quite sure I could say the same for our neighbours in P.E.I. which seem to suffer from a lot of the same issues," he said.

I'd be more than willing to make the case that eastern Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton Island are among the more relatively deprived areas of Canada. As this ACOA report (PDF format) outlines, Souris and all of Eastern Prince Edward Island constitute a region marked by lagging growth, as the old agrarian and fishing sectors decline with no replacements in sight and out-migration of the young increases. Cape Breton is in rather worse stead, with the slow collapse of the primary sectors being accompanied by post-industrial decay thanks to the structural lack of competitiveness of the coal and steel industries at the heart of the Industrial Cape Breton conurbation's economy.

So why not create a ferry route to help bring two relatively deprived regions together and hopefully create some sort of positive synergy? The main reason that I can think of is that there is already a ferry route linking Prince Edward Island with Nova Scotia, a seasonal route that runs from Wood Islands in eastern Prince Edward Island to Caribou in north-central Nova Scotia no more than a couple of hours from Cape Breton. (There was once another ferry route to the mainland, connecting western Prince Edward Island with southeastern New Brunswick, but that was replaced by the Confederation Bridge.) Creating a ferry link to connect two relatively underpopulated and absolutely declining regions with relatively little to exchange, especially in the context of an existing ferry link that already provides most of the services wished for by the proponents of a Souris-Port Hood link, would be economic nonsense. If eastern Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton Island are to pull out of their nasty declines, some other route--intensified tourism, maybe? aquaculture?--has to be taken.
Tags: cape breton, facebook, islands, prince edward island, regionalism
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