Tuesday night Council convened for a 15-minute General Committee meeting in order to deal with just one item: the Port Robinson Ferry, which had to be dealt with right away in order to meet the March 31 termination of the old contract. There seems to be a bit of confusion out there about just what had been accomplished.

I heard it said downtown this morning that the Seaway is supporting Bridge-It for 11 years, but that’s not how it went down.

The deal that the City of Thorold arrived at with the Seaway contains the following, as per the City’s Report CAO2016-02:

  • Annual rent of $255.00 plus HST Term of 11 years (2016-2027)
  • Provides unrestricted access to the waterway between the east and west sides of Port Robinson.
  • City is responsible for all Insurance requirements (No change as the previous agreement)
  • City is responsible for all environmental issues that arise through the period of the agreement. As such, an environmental assessment was conducted to determine the baseline of contamination)
  • The City will be responsible for any future capital requirements to maintain the service
  • The SLSMC will provide $126,000 to the City of Thorold for the City to update the access ramps on both sides of the canal to AODA requirements (this value was determined by obtaining an estimate for the updates from a local Construction Engineering firm)
  • The SLSMC will provide a One-time contribution of $65,000 for the updating of the current ferry as well as contribution for the purchase of a new ferry when the current ferry is pulled out of service.

The Seaway will be giving the City $126,000 for the ramps and dock (which, according to the contract, must be completed within a year), plus the $65,000 to update and eventually replace the ferry presumably as their ticket free of responsibility for the crossing. As Councillor Charron pointed out, they “tend not to want to do anything unless it’s to their benefit” and “would walk away from it if at all possible.” If they could reasonably have grounded the ferry and kept it from crossing the Canal any more, they would likely have done so.

The deal does not, however, contain any allowance for funding the ferry’s operation. They won’t be paying the City any longer for the service itself. In fact, the City, which has a 50/50 funding deal with the Region for two years, will have to pay the Seaway $255/year rent to maintain unrestricted access to the Canal and both shores.

Since the City’s deal with the Region is for only two years, a source of funding will need to be found in that time. To that end, the two parties will be meeting on April 17 of this year to set up a committee dedicated to that end. They will be soliciting the help of Transport Canada to put pressure on the Seaway Management Corp. to resume helping out when their contract with the Feds expires. Our new MP, Vance Badawey, is being kept informed and is willing to help as well.

So the upshot is that we have an 11-year contract that allows us to keep the Port Robinson Ferry operating. What the contract does not contain, is a way to pay for it. For now, Niagara Region and Thorold are on their own.

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