October 15, 2001
Province continues to pressure federal government to
Justice Minister and Attorney General Kelvin Parsons today called on the federal government to honor its obligation to provide a constitutionally guaranteed uninterrupted ferry service between North Sydney and Port aux Basques.
Minister Parsons released a letter sent to federal Transport Minister David Collenette on October 12 reiterating the province�s demand that Ottawa fulfill the requirements of Term 32(1) to ensure the continuous service of Marine Atlantic.
"Under Term 32(1), the federal government committed to �maintain in accordance with the traffic offering a freight and passenger steamship service between North Sydney and Port aux Basques, which, on completion of a motor highway between Corner Brook and Port aux Basques, will include suitable provision for the carriage of motor vehicles�," said the minister.
"The threat of a Marine Atlantic strike has again brought home how vital this service is," said Minister Parsons. "Despite countless representations to the Government of Canada to ensure the avoidance of strikes, no action has been taken that satisfies our concerns. This is unacceptable. Newfoundland and Labrador depends on the delivery of essential goods to the province via the Gulf ferry service. In addition, the service is integral to the future growth of our tourism industry. We cannot accept or tolerate any interruption in that service."
Minister Parsons also announced that the province would not be intervening in Canada Industrial Relations Board hearings being held this week in Nova Scotia to determine essential status for Marine Atlantic employees in the event of job action.
"We don�t believe the federal government�s referral of the potential job action to the board to be adequate given their strict definition of essential service," said the minister. "The board defines an essential service as having an immediate and serious danger to the safety or health of the public, should it be withdrawn. The province does not believe it would be useful or appropriate to engage in arguments on a definition such as this, which is more limited than Term 32(1). In addition, this is also a labour relations hearing involving a federal government employer and its employees and the province does not believe it should intervene in this forum."
Minister Parsons said: "I have discussed this matter with my colleagues in the Departments of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, Works, Services and Transportation and Intergovernmental Affairs and we all agree that the federal government must honor its responsibilities under the Terms of Union of Newfoundland with Canada."
The minister noted that unless this matter is addressed at the constitutional level, the province�s economic well-being and confidence in travel would be an ongoing concern.
"The province is demanding that immediate steps be taken to ensure that an uninterrupted ferry service will continue to be delivered, as is our constitutional right, providing the essential link from our island to the rest of Canada," said Minister Parsons.
Media contact: Edwina Bateman, Communications, (709) 687-4975.
Following is the text of the October 12 letter to David Collenette:
Dear Minister Collenette:
Re: Potential Ferry Strike - Marine Atlantic
We are deeply concerned that this Province is again placed in the position of facing a potential ferry strike at Marine Atlantic Inc. On 1 August 2001, my colleague, the Honourable Percy Barrett, wrote to you pointing out the threat of a strike carries a devastating impact for the people and the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador (a copy of this letter is attached). The gravity of a cessation of ferry service to this Province goes without saying. Notwithstanding the countless representations which we have made to the federal government to ensure the avoidance of strikes and/or the threat of strikes, no action has been taken.
When this Province joined Confederation in 1949, Term 32(1) of the Terms of Union of Newfoundland with Canada 1 secured a constitutionally guaranteed ferry service between North Sydney and Port aux Basques. This mainland link to the Province represented a critical component of the union with Canada. Having constitutional status, Canada�s obligation to provide this service on a continuous basis is paramount. Neither a labour strike, nor a labour adjudication which does not ensure a continuous service " in accordance with the traffic offering", as required by Term 32(1), can relieve the federal government of its legal commitment to Newfoundland and Labrador 2. A decision of the Canada Industrial Relations Board on the level of "essential" service within its legislation is not decisive of Canada�s constitutional obligation.
My purpose in writing to you at this time is to seek your assurance that steps are in place to fulfill the requirements of Term 32(1) should strike action occur, or the Board reduce the current level of service. Accordingly, we trust that the federal government has a plan in place at this time to ensure that the ferry service will be maintained and operated in accordance with the Terms of Union, whatever the result of the labour impasse between Marine Atlantic Inc.and its employees. Given that the threat of a strike also has a serious impact on this Province, we also trust and seek assurance that immediate steps will be taken to allay the concerns of the business and traveling public by informing them that an uninterrupted ferry service will continue to be delivered, providing the essential link from our Island to the mainland.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours very truly,
Kelvin Parsons, Q.C.
cc.: Premier Roger Grimes
The Hon. Claudette Bradshaw
The Hon. Brian Tobin, M.P.
Mr. Bill Matthews, M.P.
The Hon. Tom Lush
The Hon. Kevin Aylward
The Hon. Percy Barrett
1 32(1) Canada will maintain in accordance with the traffic offering a freight and passenger steamship service between North Sydney and Port aux Basques, which, on completion of a motor highway between Corner Brook and Port aux Basques, will include suitable provision for the carriage of motor vehicles, Terms of Union of Newfoundland with Canada, Schedule to the Newfoundland Act, RSC 1985, Appendix II, No. 32.
2 Canada v Prince Edward Island,  1 F.C. 533 (C.A.)
2001 10 15 9:00 a.m.