June 17, 2016 3:46 pm
Updated: June 17, 2016 3:59 pm

Yarmouth ferry passenger numbers available in Portland but not N.S.

The CAT, a high-speed passenger ferry, departs Yarmouth, N.S. heading to Portland, Maine on its first scheduled trip on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.

Andrew Vaughan/ The Canadian Press
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Bay Ferries and the Nova Scotia government won’t be making ferry passenger numbers available to Nova Scotians, but those same numbers will be available to the people of Portland, Maine’s.

Director of Communications for Portland, Jessica Grondin, confirmed Friday that its contract with Bay Ferries includes the company providing monthly reports on passenger numbers for the Yarmouth to Portland ferry.

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Those reports are available to the public and will be provided on request, Grondin said.

READ MORE: The CAT leaves Yarmouth port for inaugural sail of 2016 season

In May, Global News revealed that Bay Ferries wouldn’t be making ticket sales or passenger numbers for the service publicly available, despite the fact that Nova Scotians will be paying millions for the company over the 10-year contract.

Asked Wednesday why the passenger numbers won’t be released, Bay Ferries chairman and CEO Mark MacDonald said it was “counter productive” because with such a short sailing season the focus should be on good marketing to make sure the ferry is as successful as possible.

Including start-up costs, the province says it will pay $23.3 million for the ferry this year. That subsidy is expected to drop by more than half for its second operating season.

READ MORE: Ferry deal best one for taxpayers: Bay Ferries responds to critics

Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan directly linked passenger numbers to the ferry subsidy, saying it was based on the ferry transporting 60,000 passengers.

If the number of passengers goes above 60,000 the subsidy could be lower, but it the reverse happens its possible the company will need a more.

MacDonald said his company has never set a passenger target for the ferry because of the level of “uncertainty” in the market.

“We don’t know what that’s going to amount to numerically but we want to give people a great experience and get them to Nova Scotia,” MacDonald said.

The province’s Progressive Conservatives flagged the discrepancy between Portland releasing the passenger numbers while Nova Scotia won’t. In an emailed statement, party leader Jamie Baillie said the government’s agreement to keep the numbers private shows the Liberals are “gullible” and unable to negotiate.

Department of Transportation spokesperson Brian Taylor said that the government would provide a full update to Nova Scotians at the end of the season when they have “the full picture of progress.”

“Maine and Portland can certainly release whatever information they feel is public,” Taylor said in an emailed statement.

“The province’s responsibility to taxpayers is to provide updates if there are any changes in the investment of funds, which we do not feel can be accurately inferred one way or another from snapshots of passenger numbers.”

He added that the province has always been upfront with taxpayers about the costs of the service and will continue to do so.

At time of publishing, Bay Ferries did not provide comments for this story.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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