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‘We’re still very hopeful’: province not yet waving white flag on CAT season

The Yarmouth ferry hasn’t made a trip to its new port of call at Bar Harbor, Maine yet this summer, but even with September just days away, the province’s transportation minister continues to stay hopeful a run will be made.

“Well the goal was to get the ferry running,” Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Lloyd Hines said to reporters in Halifax Thursday. “We’re still very hopeful that that will occur.”

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READ MORE: Nova Scotia may seek to extend CAT ferry’s sailing season

Construction of the new terminal as well as issues concerning U.S. customs are cited as the reasons why the season didn’t begin as originally planned.

Now with the summer months in the rearview mirror, Hines says they continue to be committed to restoring the service and if any runs are possible this year, they fully intend to make them happen.

“When we’re going to give up? Probably in January,” said Hines.

In recent months, opposition MLAs have urged the government to release the management fee Nova Scotia pays to Bay Ferries.

Now they continue those calls, but are adding to them with a plea for more transparency surrounding the progress, or lack-thereof, at Bar Harbor.

“What a terrible answer to give to the people of Yarmouth County,” Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill said. “To say on the 29th of August, ‘well we’re still hoping that there might be a bit of a season.’ When you are in the week before Labour Day you are for all intents and purposes at the end of the show.”

READ MORE: Few answers even as Bay Ferries move to Bar Harbor steams ahead

Hines came under fire early in the year for what many called a less than adequate knowledge of the file. Business Minister Geoff MacLellan later began taking media questions concerning the ferry.

Reporters balked at the switch, bringing Hines back to the table in recent scrums.

But those in opposition say not much has changed.

“I find the minister’s answers on this question throughout the summer increasingly ridiculous,” Burrill said.

“It’s like a skit out of Monty Python in terms of the response from the government,” said PC MLA Tim Halman. “Real businesses are suffering as a result of the government’s inability to clearly communicate what the plan is moving forward.”

One thing Hines noted several times was that despite there being no current plans to renew the contract of former Ambassador David Wilkins, hired to help facilitate the Bar Harbor move, the summer has been a productive one even if ultimately no sailings take place.

“We were able to get a great understanding of what the implications are and a much better understanding of what the imperatives of the US customs and border protection role,” he explained. “I think it went a long way to improving the relationship to help us to where we are now.”

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