News / Halifax

Halifax regional council approves conditional funding for downtown 'road train'

The CEO of of Ambassatours, which also owns Murphy’s On the Water, pitched the idea to Halifax regional council, asking for $120,000 over three years.

The "road train" as seen in downtown Halifax.

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The "road train" as seen in downtown Halifax.

Despite a staff recommendation against it, regional council has voted to provide funding for the “road train” in downtown Halifax – though the approval comes with a number of conditions.

Dennis Campbell of Ambassatours, which also owns Murphy’s On the Water, approached council earlier this year with a proposal for the road train, designed to make it easier for tourists to navigate the construction on the waterfront. It’s been up and running since June, driving circuit along a few downtown streets and part of the boardwalk.

Campbell asked for $120,000 in municipal funding for the vehicle – $50,000 this year, $40,000 next year, and $30,000 the year after.

In a report before council’s meeting on Tuesday, HRM staff said no to the funding request.

The municipality can’t give money to for-profit businesses like Ambassatours, but Campbell told HRM that the company is setting up a not-for-profit to handle the road train.

Not-for-profits are eligible for municipal money through grants, though not grants to the tune of $50,000, let alone $120,000.

And staff had further concerns based on an auditor general’s report from 2011 which looked at the municipality’s contribution to the Seaport Farmers’ Market.

That report “raised some concerns with the practice of providing funding to a not-for-profit society which is attached to a private sector entity."

“Therefore, if any municipal funding is provided to support this proposal, such funding would have to be contingent on receiving further information on the society operating the service.”

Late Tuesday night after the in camera portion of its meeting, regional council voted unanimously in favour of the alternative to that effect laid out in the staff report.

The report will now be forwarded to council’s audit and finance committee to find the money in this year’s budget for the first $50,000 in funding, and then staff is directed to come to an agreement with Ambassatours on a number of conditions.

Those conditions are: “proof of incorporation of the not-for-profit society established to operate the Train; a detailed budget that includes expected contributions of confirmed partners; a detailed Service Plan, hours of operation, number of daily trips and passenger capacity; and a requirement for detailed data collection and reporting to HRM.”

After the first year, staff will report back to council with an evaluation to determine whether the next two years of funding will go ahead.

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