Marine Atlantic’s customer satisfaction rates increased to 77 per cent during the 12-month period ending March 31, 2017, and on-time performance rates improved to 91 per cent. The vessel reliability rate stood at 99 per cent, and the Newfoundland ferry service recorded its second consecutive year of growth, the first back-to-back passenger increases in almost two decades.
There was quite a bit of good news to report as the Crown corporation held its annual public meeting in St. John’s on November 6. However, there was one very sobering statistic presented by board chair Kris Parsons and CEO Paul Griffin. During the last fiscal year, Marine Atlantic achieved a record 70 per cent cost recovery, “falling within the targeted range as directed by the Government of Canada.” It generated $111.7 million in revenue, while the service cost $209.4 million to operate. The federal subsidy for the year was $94 million.
The cost recovery ratio has risen steadily over the past two decades, climbing from approximately 45 per cent in the late 1990s. During that period, user rates have soared at triple the national inflation rate – in sharp contrast to tolls on PEI’s Confederation Bridge, which are tied to the cost-of-living index.
During the last federal election campaign, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau publicly lambasted the Harper Tories for their fixation on cost recovery for the ferry service, and promised that a Liberal government would address the issue. They haven’t: Since the election there have been two rate increases at Marine Atlantic – both well in excess of the cost-of-living index. A third is anticipated for 2018, although it had not been announced as of this writing.
– Ted Bartlett