There are less than three months before the Yarmouth ferry is supposed to set sail and yet the company hasn’t yet secured a ferry for the route.
Bay Ferries was originally supposed to find a ferry for the Yarmouth-to-Maine route in mid-December. At the time Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan said he was “confident” a ship would be found on time, and since then he’s stuck to the same line.
“I’m still feeling confident,” MacLellan said Thursday.
READ MORE: No ferry? No problem for Yarmouth-to-Portland service, says MacLellan
Without the ferry the province says it can’t pin down the total subsidy the company will receive from the government. It also means Bay Ferries can’t publicly market the route or sell tickets, and it also can’t confirm route timing or the days the ferry will operate for people hoping to plan vacations.
Despite the drawbacks, MacLellan says Bay Ferries is still in a “good place” for the coming season.
“There is no concern and cause for panic at this point,” MacLellan said.
The key time for ticket sales starts in April, MacLellan says, adding that Bay Ferries chairman and CEO Mark MacDonald isn’t saying it’s too late to save the season. However, the company says it isn’t commenting on the issue until it secures a boat for the route.
The April timeline for ticket sales is raising eyebrows with other people.
NSCC marketing and business professor Ed McHugh says the company has already lost a “chunk of ticket sales.”
READ MORE: No Yarmouth ferry forces bus tour company to cancel planned Nova Scotia trips
“Start selling tickets in April, you’re too late,” he said.
Opposition Leader Jamie Baillie says he’s concerned the delay selling tickets will hurt ridership levels which could in turn affect how much money taxpayers will have to put towards the ferry.
“There is no doubt in my mind that we’re all going to be paying a lot more because they are dragging their feet into March about a service that’s supposed to start in June.”
Nova Star Cruises operated the ferry route in 2014 and 2015. Low ridership in 2014 was a contributing factor to the government paying $21 million dollars for the first sailing season. Ultimately the government spent almost $40 million on the ferry in it’s first two years of operation.
READ MORE: Bay Ferries Limited to take over operation of Yarmouth Ferry
In October, the government ditched Nova Star Cruises for Bay Ferries. At the time MacLellan said Bay Ferries was “the right partner” for the government.
Whether taxpayers will be liable for lower than expected ticket sales in the 2016 sailing season won’t be known until a boat is secured and a final contract is signed between Bay Ferries and the government.