The controversial fast ferry was the elephant in the room during the extensive transit debate held in Halifax City Hall yesterday, as councillors pushed off making finite decisions on the funding and timeline for the project.
Despite Council’s move to make a new satellite transit garage the No. 1 priority, Mayor Peter Kelly says his hope of having a high-speed ferry in the near future has “absolutely not” been dashed.
Kelly says the inclusion on the Harbour Link — which Council had approved in principle twice before — in the five-year transit strategy endorsed yesterday is a signal that the majority of councillors are on side.
The proposal suggests planning be completed and construction commence on the project during this fiscal year.
“So far it’s been here three times, and three times it’s been endorsed by council,” he said.
He drew fire from some last month when he announced an in-camera decision to use $13 million in federal transit funding for the fast ferry, and promised it would be operational as early as 2010. But city staff said yesterday that the money does not have to go to the Harbour Link.
Coun. Sue Uteck (Northwest Arm-South End) says the move to put the garage in front of the ferry yesterday is an affirmation that the mayor spoke too soon.
“Council has clearly gone in another direction, and it’s going to be up to the mayor or council to inform the public that in fact (he) misspoke,” she said.
While Uteck says she supports putting the fast ferry in the long-term plan, she maintains she has yet to see the business case to make it a priority.
“The biggest thing I don’t want is for the people of Bedford to be sold a bag of lemons,” she said.