December 23, 2016 11:50 am

Nova Scotia PC Leader Jamie Baillie pledges to ‘rip up’ Yarmouth ferry contract

The opposition parties both say they've done well positioning themselves for the next election, but a longtime political watcher disagrees. Marieke Walsh reports on the state of the opposition.

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Nova Scotia’s leader of the opposition says he will tear up the Yarmouth ferry contract if he’s elected to government.

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In a year-end interview with Global News, Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said the ferry has “destroyed” Premier Stephen McNeil’s credibility. The province contracted out the Yarmouth to Portland, Maine ferry service to Bay Ferries, after the previous ferry operator cost tens of millions of dollars more than expected.

READ MORE: Yarmouth ferry’s passenger count fails to meet target

Since the contract was announced in March, the Tories have widely criticized the deal, and estimated that over the 10 year contract it will cost more than $100 million. The government has not released the long-term cost of the ferry, but start-up and operating costs for the first two years was set at $32.7 million.

“I think I’ve laid this out very, very logically,” Baillie said.

“We will insist on ripping up the deal and making a better one with the current operator,” he said. “They may say ‘no’ and that’s fine, we’re still going to rip it up and then we’ll do a proper tender and find the best business arrangement we can for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.”

Asked if he would cancel the contract no matter the cost, he said he can’t answer the question because the government hasn’t released how much it will cost to cancel.

Baillie said he’s convinced there are “thousands” of deals that are better than the current one.

“All you need to do is to have the courage to go find the right one, that’s affordable.”

Baillie not worried by low polling numbers

Polls consistently show the Liberals well ahead of the NDP and Progressive Conservatives among decided voters, but Baillie said he’s not focused on the numbers.

“I’ll leave it to the political pundits to sort out polls,” he said. “Everyday we come to work showing Nova Scotians that we have some alternative ideas to grow the economy and we hold the McNeil government accountable for the disastrous crises that they seem to bring upon us.”

He said he’s not worried by the numbers because the people he meets around the province are open to the ideas his party puts forward.

Don Mills, chairman and CEO of Corporate Research Associates, said the Tories have struggled to articulate a clear alternative to the Liberals’ agenda for Nova Scotia.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil ‘not embarrassed’ by 2016 reversals

“He has not even won back his core support,” Mills said, adding part of the challenge for the Tories is that the Liberals have taken on typically conservative policies like fiscal restraint.

In 2016, Baillie said his party pivoted from opposing the government to also proposing another way forward for Nova Scotia. He’s put forward plans to increase vocational training in public schools and improve the mental health system. He said he also has a plan to grow the economy through resource development and cutting red tape and taxes.

He said he is proposing a “real plan to create jobs, grow the economy, and have our budget look after itself through growth instead of all cuts, all the time.”

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

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