PORT HOOD: Council wants to examine the finances of Strait Area Transit before deciding how much to contribute to the public transit service.

District 6 Councillor John MacLennan said during a recent meeting of the Strait Area Transit board, he asked why Inverness and Richmond counties contributed $100,000 each annually, but Port Hawkesbury provides in-kind funding.

“There’s no money in-kind,” he told council. “When I asked that question, the two councillors from Port Hawkesbury kind of dropped their heads and another person said, ‘you don’t want to lose Strait Area Transit.’” I think, in my opinion, Port Hawkesbury have no intentions of giving money.”

Warden Laurie Cranton said he raised the issue with Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton, noting ridership from the town was pegged at 37, with the highest ridership in Richmond County, which is more than double the numbers from Inverness County.

“The new bus that they just acquired – which is fully accessible; it will take two or three wheelchairs, I believe, plus a number of passengers – that’s mainly going to serve Inverness County,” Cranton said.

He also noted that COVID-19 has also been a challenge for SAT.

The warden said another challenge for SAT is service within Port Hawkesbury, which doesn’t work for those with disabilities who cannot fit into taxis.

“They are not allowed to provide the service in the town where there’s taxi services; they’re not allowed to impede on the taxi service within town,” he noted. “Maybe they have to sit down with the taxi operators and come up with a memorandum of understanding.”

For some reason, MacLennan said Port Hawkesbury residents can use SAT to travel outside the town.

“I think that needs to be looked at, put a clause around the regulations. That really concerned me,” Cranton noted.

District 1 Councillor Alfred Poirier and Deputy Warden Bonny MacIsaac pointed out that SAT vehicles are taking users to the town where they spend money at Port Hawkesbury businesses, which benefits the town.

“We’re bringing the money to them, and it comes from Inverness County, from the Margarees, all around,” Poirier stated.

MacLennan agreed with the warden that since the municipality is already supporting a public transit service in Chéticamp, their contribution should be fair.

“I want to see exactly how much each municipality and the town put in, the exact ridership over the past year, and compare apples to apples and see how fair that is. If Port Hawkesbury is putting an in-kind service in, then there’s a value to that service,” Cranton added.

Council agreed to take a deep dive into this expenditure, and others like the Eastern Counties Regional Library during budget deliberations.