The battle over the use of transit dollars in Halifax City Hall today promises to be fierce, as regional councillors are expected to decide whether the controversial proposal to launch a fast ferry in the imminent future will sink or swim.

“This is definitely going to be the red team versus the blue team,” Coun. Sue Uteck (Northwest Arm-South End) said. “I will be on the red team, saying, ‘Stop. Move the money.’”

The controversy over $13 million in federal transit funding was ignited several weeks ago when Mayor Peter Kelly made public council’s decision to devote the money to the Harbourlink rapid water service.

Several councillors cried foul, arguing that the discussion should never have been held in camera, and had not been formally ratified. The money, they said, should go to more pressing infrastructure and transit concerns.

Kelly could not be reached for comment yesterday, but he has suggested using a portion of the gas tax to address those issues.

Fast-ferry supporter Coun. Linda Mosher (Purcell’s Cove-Armdale) says she is frustrated with what has become a political debate.

“It’s getting a little ridiculous. We asked the federal government for funding. They give us $13 million, and then we say, ‘You know what? We want that for something else.’”

But Coun. Sheila Fougere (Connaught-Quinpool) says there’s “an awful lot of holes” in the cost-benefit analysis and business case, which has been discussed for years.

The Bedford-Halifax Fast Ferry Cultivation Study conducted in 2005 by TDV Global Inc. shows a vessel with a capacity of 350 to be most profitable. The current proposal involves a 260-seat ferry. As well, it warns that with an increase in the cost of fuel, the business case could weaken, as the propensity of people to use the service decreases rapidly as fares rise to compensate.

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