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Ferry border crossing at Yarmouth and Bar Harbor remains stalled due to pandemic

This will be the third season in a row without ferry service connecting Nova Scotia to the U.S.

3 min read
caption The Canada-U.S. border remains under tight restrictions due to the pandemic.
Antonia Whelan

The ferry service between Yarmouth, N.S., and Bar Harbor, Maine, has been suspended for a third season. It has not operated since 2018.

The Nova Scotia government announced Monday that the 2021 season, which normally runs from May to October, is cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as it was last year.

“It is a disappointing decision to have to make, but given the ongoing uncertainty, it is really the only choice we have. We must keep Nova Scotians safe,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Lloyd Hines in a news release.

Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood said she wasn’t directly involved in the decision-making process, but believes “it’s the right decision to make.”

caption Pam Mood has been the mayor of Yarmouth, N.S., since 2012.
Pam Mood

“It’s a bittersweet decision of course … but it’s not a surprise,” she said in an interview. “The health and safety of all of our citizens is first and foremost the most important thing.”

Town as a transportation hub

Mood said citizens of Yarmouth support the move to keep everyone in the town feeling safe.

“I usually ask how people are feeling about the boat coming … and usually get the same answer every time,” she said. “And that’s ‘not yet.’”

Yarmouth has a population of about 6,518 inhabitants who are more than familiar with the tourism industry and the role the ferry plays in that.

“It’s part of our tourism infrastructure,” Mood said, “so we see tens of thousands of people going back and forth.”

On average, visitors who used the Yarmouth ferry contributed $2,200 in tourism revenues each, according to the province.

Job cuts due to the pandemic

While there were jobs lost in all sectors due to the pandemic, Mood said it’s still hard to see jobs lost from the ferry. These include “everything from cafeteria staff to folks at the terminal.”

Ferry service was also suspended in 2019 due to construction issues.

Mood hopes that the ferry is back in service as soon as it is deemed safe.

“It was a different feeling this summer … without the ferry and all the visitors coming through town,” she said.

Nova Scotia currently has 10 active cases of COVID-19.

Monday’s announcement to suspend ferry service comes after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last week there would be tighter restrictions for international travellers entering Canada. This includes a mandatory hotel quarantine and COVID-19 test at the expense of the traveller.

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About the author

Antonia Whelan

Antonia (she/her) is a journalism student and classical pianist based in St. John's, NL.

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