CAP-AUX-MEULES, QC, Oct. 11, 2017 /CNW Telbec/ - Reacting to Transport Canada's intention to introduce a new ferry management policy for Eastern Canada, the Magdalen Islands community is rallying to preserve the CTMA as operator of the Islands' ferry service and asking to be excluded from a future bidding process.
A coalition of the community's main spokespeople has been created to defend Islanders' interests, which are under threat from a potential Canada-wide bidding process that would see them lose control over their ferry service. The economy, tourism, local governance and the community's island character are all arguments in favour of excluding the Cap-aux-Meules – Souris crossing from the bidding process. It is a question of respecting the expertise developed by the CTMA over the past 46 years in providing ferry service that connects the Magdalen Islands to the mainland. Many community leaders spoke out today on the issue.
"The fact that we live on islands and our status as a maritime community, which has been recognized by the Quebec government, are inextricably tied to our autonomy in the area of maritime transportation. Endangering this autonomy would be an unacceptable step backward for our residents," said Germain Chevarie, MNA for Îles-de-la-Madeleine.
With more than 500 employees, the CTMA has an annual payroll of $19 million and generates $35 million in local economic benefits. This cooperative, which is headquartered on the Magdalen Islands, is owned, operated and managed by Islanders. Over the years, the CTMA has evolved in step with local needs and is an integral part of the community's socioeconomic development.
"In 1944, Magdalen Islanders established a cooperative to provide a local transportation service adapted to their needs. This cooperative is today an essential economic development tool, in terms of jobs, transportation logistics and a buy-local policy. The CTMA has become a true flagship in the Islands' economy. There is no question of it being jeopardized in a bidding process," added Marius Arsenault, president of the local chamber of commerce.
Year after year, the CTMA's is recognized for providing highly reliable and safe services. Opinion polls have shown a very high customer satisfaction rate, and external audits have confirmed the healthy management of the funds administered by the cooperative.
Damien Déraspe, president of the regional tourism association, stressed that tourism is the second most important industry in the Islands' economy. "The ferry service is the gateway to the Islands. The CTMA is a key component in developing local tourism; it ensures an essential balance between transportation for the Islands' residents and tourist traffic," he pointed out.
Jonathan Lapierre, outgoing mayor and mayoral candidate?, insisted on the importance of access to the mainland and local governance. "The proximity and local governance of our maritime transportation service means major benefits for our community. We are not prepared to risk losing these benefits in a bidding process. For example, in a crisis, local decision-making enables us to act swiftly and effectively, which is vital for our isolated community," he added.
The Islands' English-speaking community stressed the important role the CTMA plays in the export of fish products. "Fishing is the cornerstone of our economy. The CTMA provides reliable service that is adapted to our needs: it's our link to the mainland," explained Rose-Elmonde Clarke, outgoing mayor of Grosse-Île.
The Table des organismes communautaires (TOC) des Îles also believes the CTMA should be accredited by the federal government to continue to provide a ferry service that meets Islanders' needs, in terms of schedules, flexibility, safety and reliability. "We have developed a relationship of trust with the CTMA that spans more than 70 years," said Damien Turbide, speaking on behalf of the TOC des Îles.
"We intend to do everything we can to ensure the Magdalen Islands are excluded from the federal bidding process and that the ferry service remains in the hands of Islanders," concluded Mr. Chevarie.
The CTMA has operated the ferry service between Cap-aux-Meules and Souris since 1971. It manages an annual operating budget of more than $25 million. Transporting more than 100,000 passengers every year, this marine link with Prince Edward Island is the main route between the Islands and the mainland.
SOURCE Aile parlementaire du Parti libéral du Québec
For further information: Noémie Déraspe, Attachée politique, Bureau de comté des Îles-de-la-Madeleine, (418) 986-4140