A plan to build a new ferry terminal in Halifax’s waterfront has stalled amid delays in a federal approval process.
The Nova Scotia government has said the province will pay $1.3 billion for the ferry terminal, but officials have said they’re looking at a new location for the terminal.
Halifax’s mayor says the city won’t move forward with the plan unless there’s a new funding source.
Premier Mike Harris has repeatedly said he wants to move the ferry to Halifax and the provincial government has offered the option of paying for it with taxes or a new terminal, which could help ease the fiscal pinch on the city.
But he’s not convinced that would be enough to meet the city’s $6.5 billion request.
“I don’t know if we can get the money for that, but we can do it,” Harris said Monday, adding he hopes to have a plan for financing by the end of the year.
The federal Transportation Infrastructure Canada (TIC) is expected to approve the $1 billion in financing by mid-December.
It’s expected to be split between the province and Nova Scotia, with the federal government contributing the majority of the money.
The province has said it’s willing to help cover the cost of the terminal, and Harris says it’s a no-brainer.
“The Nova Scotia Government will take a share of the cost,” he said Monday.
“If the federal Government is going to provide the funding, we’ll make a commitment.”
Harris said he’s been in contact with federal officials in recent weeks and is hopeful the deal can be reached by the start of the next financial year.
“There are other opportunities to get this project underway,” he added.
“We’re hopeful we’ll get this done in the middle of the financial year.”
The new ferry Terminal at Harbourview Park will replace the Halifax International Terminal, which closed in March after more than 30 years in service.
The former terminal was slated to be closed to the public starting in July and then open for business every two weeks through 2019.
Harris said that hasn’t happened.
He said the new terminal is the only one of its kind in Canada and will provide “greater accessibility and convenience” to Nova Scotia commuters.
But with the closure of the old terminal, Harris said the port had a “significant backlog” of cargo that couldn’t be moved through.
“So it was a very challenging situation,” he told reporters.
“You need to have all the infrastructure in place.”
The Port of Halifax is hoping to have the terminal ready for service by the beginning of the new fiscal year.
Halifax Mayor Geoff Meggs said Monday that he thinks the province is “still very much open to the idea of funding the terminal.”
“I’m hopeful that’s going to happen, but I think that’s not the solution,” he tweeted.
The provincial government had hoped to have another terminal built in the Port of Montreal and hoped to get approval from the federal TIC for a new facility by the spring.
Meggis also said Monday he doesn’t believe the federal decision to give up on the terminal in Ottawa is the reason why the federal minister has decided not to give the province more money.
“That’s not necessarily the reason,” he pointed out.
“Maybe it’s just a little bit of an oddity, but that’s certainly something that we’re looking into.”
Meggers said he hasn’t spoken to federal Transport Minister Denis Lebel yet about the federal deal.
“He’s not really involved with the process,” he explained.
“But I’m hopeful he’ll be more than open to having discussions.”
The federal government has been looking to make changes to the way the federal budget works.
It was initially proposed to replace the current system of annual payments to Nova Scotians with a single federal payment to Nova Canadians.
That system would have cost taxpayers $10.3 million a year in 2019, according to the government’s fiscal forecast.
In October, the federal NDP promised to introduce a new system of federal payments to the province.
The Liberals also promised to change the way Nova Scotia pays for its share of ferry costs.
But the plan has yet to receive a final budget.
The Conservative government has also been looking at ways to ease the financial pinch the city faces, but has yet, to decide on a plan.
Halifax has a long history of ferry service, dating back to the 1800s.
The city has a fleet of six ferries, and the last one, a refurbished ship, was taken down in 2003.
The ship was on a five-year tour of the world, and a few years later, the ship’s captain and crew died in a ferry accident off the coast of Germany.