An outsider weighs in on ferry boat fiasco

To the Expositor:

As an outsider looking in at the recent “ferry boat fiasco,” I am so thankful that I am no longer a summer resident of Manitoulin. I would think it’s safe to say that the writing is on the wall, and in BIG CAPITAL letters at that.

Why would I suggest this? Well let’s look at some indicators for a minute.

Earlier this year we heard that the Chi-cheemaun has only five years to turn itself around, after the drastic decline of 27 percent business compared to 2005.

As Mr. Rick Crouch indicated in his recent letter (‘Longtime ferry service critic calls for management change,’ May 8, page 4), any other CEO would have been shown the door long by now with such atrocious loss in revenues, but not OSTC.

This makes me ask a very simple question. If you were unable to grow and improve the business in the previous years, just what magic formula are you planning to do differently now that an ultimatum has been imposed?

The Great Lakes have been on a steady decline of the water level for quite a few years now as we all know. Little of anything has been done to change this trend, and now it is affecting not only waterfront properties, but is the root cause for the recent disruption of the ferry service.

In analysis of this root cause, the problem it created with the docking fenders was imminent last fall and apparently reported to the owner of the docks, the federal government, but no action was taken by them to correct the issue. I would think this is a reflection of a total lack of interest in the wellbeing of the Island, its residents and their livelihoods. Thank goodness the provincial government came to the rescue, albeit a little too late to save the season for many people.

I am led to believe there have been concerns about the under keel clearance (UKC) of the Chi-cheemaun on approach to South Baymouth in recent years with the continued drop of late summer water level. I ask, is it possible that in future, unless the approach channel is deepened, the ferry may have to restrict the amount of cargo, or even simply not run?

The Chi-cheemaun has undergone several expensive refits in the past few years, but looking at the big picture you have to ask just how much money is justifiable to pour into a ship that is near forty years old, and has been given a five year “stay of execution.”

The recent recession has taken its toll on the Island and with the Canadian dollar hovering around par, coupled with the US requirement that all US citizens traveling out of the USA must have a valid passport, the attraction to vacation and/own property on the Island has diminished immensely by our friends across the border.

The introduction of windmills to the Island is in complete contrast with anybody’s idea of a place of recreation. These horrible looking monstrosities are the final straw to the ruination of a placid unspoiled piece of Ontario. Manitoulin Island.

Collectively, I would be willing to bet that the outcome from all of the issues I mention here are having and will continue to have devastating effects on the residents of Manitoulin. I wish my outlook was cheerier but the evidence speaks for itself. Perhaps eventually the penny will drop, but then again there are no pennies now, and the way things are going, there may also be no ferry service by the look of things.

Mike Robertson, former Manitoulin property owner
Woodstock