Residents in the Village of Gagetown, N.B., were given a glimmer of hope regarding their ferry service, following a meeting with their Member of Parliament on Tuesday night.
New Brunswick Southwest MP Karen Ludwig hosted a town hall at the Gagetown Legion and met with members of the “Save the Gagetown-Jemseg Ferry” committee prior to the public meeting.
Members of the committee said they have met with Ludwig before, but are seeking her help to try and open the door for communication with the provincial government.
Committee member Wilf Hiscock said the ferry is extremely important to the community and said it’s something residents won’t stop fighting for.
Ludwig said she has met with the committee several times in the past and said they are a “very passionate group of New Brunswickers who want to see their ferry returned.” She said she will reach out to the province in the next week to try and help residents get the dialogue going with the provincial government.
“I’ve definitely made that commitment that I’m going to be reaching out to the Premier’s Office to see if we can get another meeting going with them,” Ludwig said.
Hiscock told Global News on Tuesday afternoon he wasn’t getting his hopes up about the meeting with Ludwig.
In speaking with Hiscock after the committee meeting, he said he was feeling “a little more optimistic,” and said Ludwig was receptive to their ideas.
“I think today, we gained a little ground,” Hiscock said.
Gagetown and Area Chamber of Commerce president Carolyn White said the committee has never doubted Ludwig’s interest and commitment to getting the ferry back.
She said the community’s goodwill is starting to fray and said they have been offering up “all kinds of suggestions” on how they can work with the province.
“As far as I’m concerned, provincially, we have got a bit of a mean, manipulative and petty government that just isn’t willing to talk to us,” White said. “I don’t really know why.”
White said it’s especially frustrating since the province just signed a $673-million bilateral agreement with the federal government on March 15 that’s supposed to support transportation in rural communities.
“The fact that they won’t even open the door to us, you’ve got to wonder what’s going on. For some reason, they’ve got a hate on for Queens County, we don’t know why,” White said.
“Why would you not even consider reopening this, when there’s money coming? They killed it saying, ‘It’s going to cost too much, we can’t afford it.’ Well now there’s money coming from the federal government, they’re doing a whole big infrastructure thing in the whole province, our ferry is a massive piece of infrastructure here.”
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Ludwig said there needs to be buy-in from all levels of government and said she will reach out to the Premier’s Office this week and get back to the ferry committee on what the province says.
“Certainly, if the file crosses my desk, if it has received support from the municipality or the village as well as the province, it’s something we would give strong consideration to,” Ludwig said.
Referencing St. Stephen as an example, she said it’s also important for Gagetown to work on rebuilding infrastructure for business development.
“I look at Gagetown as a great example of a waterfront location along the Saint John River — it’s beautiful, the boating opportunities — we need to get more people coming here and also the business development here and certainly, that would drive a business need for a ferry,” Ludwig said.