New Brunswick MP reaching out to Premier’s Office over Gagetown ferry

Fighting for the Gagetown Ferry
Residents of Gagetown and members of the "Save the Gagetown Ferry Committee" protest at the legislature in hopes of getting the government to fund repairs to their old ferry. Adrienne South/Global News

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.

READ MORE: Gagetown residents express mixed emotions over province’s new ferry, continue fight for their own

Committee member Wilf Hiscock said the ferry is extremely important to the community and said it’s something residents won’t stop fighting for.

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“The reason we’re here is to get the support of the federal government on this issue that is now 2.5 years old that we have basically very little response from the province, “Hiscock said. “The premier [has] failed to meet with us, and Mrs. Ludwig, our Member of Parliament, says she will talk to the province and… our main game here was for her to open some doors in Ottawa and champion our cause that we need this ferry and we want it back.”

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.

READ MORE: N.B. announces Belleisle Bay as location for new ferry

“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.

READ MORE: Village of Gagetown residents continue to fight for ferry, meet with Opposition leader

Hiscock told Global News on Tuesday afternoon he wasn’t getting his hopes up about the meeting with Ludwig.

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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.

READ MORE: Residents fighting to bring back the Gagetown ferry

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.

“The problem we’ve got is getting the provincial government on-board and one of the points that I had made to [Ludwig] on behalf of the Chamber is everything we have seen from the provincial government [indicates they’re] not willing to talk to us at all. We have made overtures, we’ve suggested different things we could do, we have approached them for many many reasons and times… they just won’t even listen,” White said.

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.”

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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.

READ MORE: Ottawa and New Brunswick sign funding agreement worth more than $673M

“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.”

READ MORE: Future of Gagetown ferry unknown

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.

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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.