Free bridge could be disastrous for Wood Islands ferry

By Evan Ceretti

Feb. 1, 2016

Scot Annear is responsible for making sure 40 transfer trucks export goods off the Island according to plan.

The end of the Wood Island ferry service would pose a major problem for his company.

The general manager of Morley Anear Ltd, a trucking company based in Montague, depends on the ferry and the bridge to export product in the most cost-effective and sustainable fashion.

Even if the ferry service continues to run, Annear wonders who’s going to pay for the maintenance of the bridge.

“We’re going to pay for it one way or another.”

Island Senator Percy Downe has been pushing for the removal of tolls on the Confederation Bridge. He wants Canada to have consistent rules for tolls.

Downe presented his ideas and research to Holland College’s journalism program on Jan. 25, but he had little to say about the potential impact to the ferry service.

He doesn’t know what the fate of the ferry would be, but the ferry’s continued service is not guaranteed, he said.

The ferry offers a service to Caribou, N.S. Other ferries on P.E.I. travel from Souris to the Magdalen Islands.

“Nobody is talking about that disappearing,” said Downe.


Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay is worried about Downe’s plan.

The Wood Island ferry could succumb to the same fate as the former Borden-Carleton ferries if tolls are removed from the Confederation Bridge, he said.

“If the bridge was suddenly free, you wouldn’t see a car at the Wood Islands or Caribou ferry,” said MacAulay in an interview with the Guardian.

Jim Sentence is a professor in the economics department at UPEI.

He agrees with MacAulay, the Wood Island ferry service could bear the burden of the Island having no bridge tolls.

People might travel via the ferry just for the experience, even if the bridge were a cheaper, easier option, he said.

But, people may decide to travel the extra distance to the bridge in order leave the Island without paying, said Sentance.

Annear wonders what changes he would have to make if there were only one way off P.E.I.

His 40 trucks ship a variety of product such as grains, fish and potatoes. Depending on the destination, the trucks use the bridge or the ferry in order to save time and fuel.

If the ferry closed, he would need more trucks to do the same amount of work, which would result in higher greenhouse emissions.

With longer routes and more vehicles on the road, he doesn’t know if he would be saving more or losing money, despite free crossings, he said.

Sentance said Island companies traditionally had to swallow costs when shipping products on or off the Island. Having no tolls would make import and export a lot cheaper.

Annear said his company likely won’t be exporting more product off-Island regardless of there being no tolls.