PORT AUX BASQUES – Mayor John Spencer held a live stream information session on Wednesday evening, Nov. 25 to examine the effects of Marine Atlantic’s federally mandated cost recovery charges, which he says impacts all residents and businesses of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Originally the information session, entitled Cost Recovery: Death Knoll to a Dream of Fairness and Equality Within Confederation, was slated to accommodate 15 guests with proper social distancing at the Bruce II Sport Centre. Spencer and Town Council decided instead to close the event to the public in the wake of increased reports of COVID-19 within the province.
The live stream, hosted by Wreckhouse Weekly, is available for viewing in its entirety on the newspaper’s Facebook page.
During the session, Spencer covered multiple facets of cost recovery, and cited examples of the effects that can be seen in the daily lives of all residents on the Southwest Coast and beyond.
One of his key talking points surrounded increased costs for consumers on almost everything, such as having to pay $8 for a container of strawberries.
“In 2015 the Retail Council of Canada stated the people of Newfoundland and Labrador pay anywhere from 5 per cent to 25 per cent more for perishables due to transportation challenges that currently exist,” stated the mayor.
The province currently imports 90 per cent of its fruits and vegetables and 99 per cent of its beef. The ferry service transports nearly 80 per cent of all commercial traffic to and from the island, meaning markups on pharmaceuticals, lumber, propane, vehicles and everyday household items are routine.
In another example, Spencer showed receipts the Town of Port aux Basques paid for one shipment from a large freight company.
In addition to the cost of the freight, one receipt shows that Port aux Basques paid a cost recovery ferry surcharge of $119.44 and a fuel surcharge of $563.52 over and above the freight it was shipping.
Spencer says it’s not merely the freight that increases costs to provincial taxpayers, but also personal travel.
During his presentation, the mayor showed his own ticket stub for a personal trip he took across the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Spencer was charged $11.70 for a fuel surcharge, then another $18.19 fuel surcharge for his vehicle.
Cost recovery policies were a campaign target of Justin Trudeau when he first ran for Prime Minister.
At a 2017 Town Hall Meeting in Peterborough, Ontario, Trudeau committed to, “Look at what can be done to make sure that people are able to travel freely, travel efficiently and openly across this country at modest cost.”
But in a Privy Council report last year, that promise was omitted from Trudeau’s mandated priorities sent to each cabinet minister.
Marine Atlantic has a mandated cost recovery of 65 to 100 per cent on some items or services, which means that everything within the province is subjected to a substantial surcharge before consumers even see it in stores. This allows transportation companies to offset the enormous surcharge costs they pay when using Marine Atlantic to deliver freight.
And while Prince Edward Island has a guarantee in place that does not allow for tolls to increase at a higher rate than the cost of living index, Newfoundland has no such guarantee. So while Confederation Bridge tolls have risen 35 per cent over 22 years, Newfoundland ferry rates have more than doubled within that time.
“Cost recovery has to end,” concluded Spencer.