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Uffish Thoughts: Tourism Cuts Reconsidered in Nova Scotia November 25, 2012

Posted by klondykewriter in Uffish Thoughts.
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Uffish Thoughts: Tourism Cuts Reconsidered in Nova Scotia

By Dan Davidson

September 17, 2012

– 726 words –

(Lower Cornwall, N.S.) After the tenth or eleventh “I don’t suppose you’re coming home this year” from my octogenarian aunts and uncles, we decided we had better check out our Aeroplan points and see what we could do. So here I am, writing from Nova Scotia, where it seems that it’s not only the federal government that can make really stupid policy decisions when it comes to promoting tourism.

I’ve written here before of the Ship Hector, a magnificent reconstruction of the 18th century vessel that brought 189 displaced Highlanders to a spot near present day Pictou, Nova Scotia, in 1773. In the 1980s and 90s a replica of the Hector was constructed and established on the Pictou Waterfront, which is quite pleasant when the effluent from the pulp mill across the bay isn’t blowing that way. There’s a commemorative museum, the Hector Heritage Quay, which is as good a site as anything comparable that I’ve seen, and a tourist store to go with it.

We’ve visited the site several times and were shocked, two years ago, to discover that people could no longer tour the actual ship. The Town of Pictou, faced with a hard choice of building a sewage treatment plant, had cut its funding as the quickest means to meeting its other obligations.

It’s open again now. After a year of this, a local non-profit group purchased the site from the town for $9 and took over the running of it. They are heavily in debt and running mostly on volunteer labour, but they are determined that the town’s main tourist attraction should not have a padlock on its gangplank.

Ironically, the town still advertises the Hector in a major way on its own website (http://www.townofpictou.ca/hector_heritage_quay.html) and attempts to bask in its reflected glory, but the real credit goes to the Hector Quay Society (www. shiphector.com) for taking the project out of the hands of people who lacked vision.

I’m not suggesting that a similar plan might salvage the damage done to tourism in Whitehorse, Haines Junction and Dawson City by the cuts to Parks Canada operations in all three communities, but it does inspire one to seek solutions outside the box.

Leaving Pictou we motored to Yarmouth, where a motel just north of town bore the following sign: “No ferry. No visitors. No business. 50 wasted years.”

The short version of this story is that the ferry from Yarmouth to the USA was cancelled by the current government (NDP) in 2009 and tourism from the USA has fallen off quite dramatically since then. Apparently the traditional route was to land at Yarmouth, drive around the Maritimes, and then head home by road via New Brunswick – or the other way around. Either way there was a loop.

An older, aging ferry was replaced by one that really wasn’t suited to the route. The passenger load dropped and instead of addressing the problem the province cancelled the subsidy that kept it running and the ferry service shut down.

Now someone seems to have realized that this was a mistake and there is talk of getting the service running again. A feasibility study, which should probably have been done three years ago before the service was scrapped, has concluded that with a revamped business model and a ship better suited to the type of traffic it needs to haul, the service could be successful.

Of course, even if it isn’t, it could be the sort of loss leader that actually creates hundreds or thousands of other economic opportunities from Yarmouth down to Pictou and beyond as a result of its existence.

The math is interesting. The province has saved $6 million a year since the ferry service ended, but it’s going to cost them an investment of at least $21 million to get it underway again, not to mention the cost of the study. In the end, was there an actual saving? It doesn’t seem so.

Like so many cost cutting initiatives, by so many levels of government, these ones seem to have been ill considered, less effective than intended, and freighted with lots of apparently unforeseen collateral damage.

 

-30-

 

Photo:

* Hector Quay – The Hector Heritage Quay and the Hector are the centerpiece of Pictou’s waterfront.

 

 

 

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