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Letter to the Editor: NL needs Supreme Court to review broken Terms

In 1977, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau established a Federal Commission of Inquiry with a goal to examine existing transportation services in Newfoundland and Labrador to determine whether they meet “generally accepted Canadian norms, and where appropriate, recommend changes to meet current and future needs.”

Recommendation #80 read: In principle, the Gulf crossing should be treated as the equivalent of a road crossing, with rates for basic travel charged accordingly.

The commission reiterated its view that, under the Terms of Union, the Federal government is responsible for assuming all public costs to services, stating as long as there is reasonable traffic offerings. And, as such, this obligation would likely be accepted in reference to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Newfoundland’s nationhood was achieved through toil and sacrifice over generations struggling to carve out a life on the edge of the North Atlantic. Britain recognized this when it bestowed Dominion status after witnessing the heroic action of our young men, the Blue Puttees, at the Battle of Beaumont in 1916. That nationhood was surrendered in 1949 under the Terms of Union with Canada.

Those Terms of Union are now broken.

Ottawa has failed miserably on imposing a high cost recovery formula on goods and services transported on the Gulf ferries, forcing Marine Atlantic Inc., the service providers, to recover 65% of every dollar spent on the service. Because of high travel costs associated with the essential Gulf service, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have lost the right under the Canadian Charter to travel freely and openly across this country without the undue burden of great cost.

Cost recovery on the Gulf run was never the intent under the Terms of Union. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador must challenge this breach in the Supreme Court of Canada.

Candidates for the Premier’s office in this election must include a court challenge as part of the mandate to fix a broken agreement.

In 2001, an adult fare was $22.00. Today, the same fare is $44.78. Cost of Living for same period increased by 47%. Transport Canada’s approved rate increase is at 104%. Ottawa’s bleeding to meet cost-recovery targets must stop.

This past November, the same concern was put to volunteer Chair of Newfoundland Economic Recovery team. To paraphrase: Dame Moya Greene’s answer went something like this….

“It is not unreasonable for us to see things have a cost. There has to be the expectation that someone has to pay.”

Yes. On that we can agree, but by paying through the nose on the backs of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who, by necessity need the essential service, is not the answer.

John Spencer, Mayor

Channel-Port Aux Basques, NL

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