The $40-million Pelee Islander II dwarfs a curious pleasure boat as it steams into the Kingsville Dock on June 15, 2018.
Dan Janisse / Windsor Star
Essex MPP Taras Natyshak is demanding “accountability” from Ontario’s transportation minister in the wake of revelations that the long-awaited Pelee Islander II has been plagued by a series of mechanical issues before ferrying a single passenger.The NDP member sent a letter to Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek on Monday seeking answers and assurances that the long-delayed launch of the $40-million ferry will happen this spring.“It’s frustrating to the extent that we’ve been told one thing and now we’re learning it’s a whole list of other things that have plagued the eventual launch of this vessel,” Natyshak told the Star.“Be upfront with us. Let taxpayers know there have been some technical issues and they’re being worked on and we’re going to ensure it’s ship ready and sea worthy. Instead of telling us that there’s just regulatory loopholes or regulatory issues that have to be dealt with in terms of compliance, tell us exactly what’s going on.”The MPP sent his letter after a Windsor Star investigation last week revealed a list of issues on the new ferry, including problems with the engine, heating and electrical systems.A cache of government emails, obtained by the Star through Freedom of Information requests, appear to contradict the province’s public assertions that the only thing delaying the ferry from operating were federal Transport Canada regulations.The previous explanation was that Transport Canada was rewording the “safe manning certification” and Pelee Islander II got caught up in that process.
The Pelee Islander II is seen docked in Leamington in this Oct. 16, 2018.
Dax Melmer /
Natyshak said the Star story “highlighted some inconsistencies.”“Here we are today with a vessel that has a list of deficiencies that are critical to the safe operation of the vessel, and we want assurances that those things have been dealt with and that they have redundant systems on them so that if things break down the ship can still operate safely,” he said.The Ministry of Transportation did not immediately respond Monday afternoon to the Star’s request for comment.But a spokesperson for the provincial ministry told the Star on Thursday that the Owen Sound Transportation Company, which will operate the new ferry for the province, secured regulatory and safety approvals from Transport Canada in December 2018.The ferry is now scheduled to start operations in April, nearly a year after it arrived from Chile where it was built, and eight months after it was originally scheduled to begin operations in September 2018.“The residents in my riding of Essex are growing increasingly frustrated with the delays in the operational status of the Pelee Islander II,” Natyshak wrote in his letter to Yurek. “As you are aware, this vessel was sourced from a ship builder in Chile even though we had a local ship building company ready and willing to take this project on.”In his letter, Natyshak called for “a full accounting of all outstanding technical and mechanical issues that would prevent the safe operation of the vessel.” He wanted to know who is responsible for the “deficiencies” and the expected timeline for remedying the issues.Related Natyshak also inquired if the shipbuilder has been fully paid, and asked for the total amount spent to date on the Pelee Islander II by the Owen Sound Transportation Company and the province.He also wanted guarantees that were there will be “safe and reliable ferry service to Pelee Island” when the season starts.“We need some transparency and accountability, not only to be accountable to the public and taxpayers, but also to ensure the safety of passengers on that vessel,” Natyshak told the Star.email@example.com/WinStarWilhelm
Crowds flocked to the shoreline on June 15, 2018, to witness the arrival from Chile of the $40-million Pelee Islander II as it pulled into the Kingsville Dock.
Dan Janisse /