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Mayor's race: on the issues 

Peter Kelly and Sheila Fougere do hold distinct views on a handful of issues.

While differences in policy between mayor Peter Kelly and challenger Shelia Fougere are more nuanced than deep, they do hold distinct views on a handful of issues.

Commonwealth Games

Kelly takes credit for cancelling Halifax's bid to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games, claiming that he "stopped the bleeding" and protected the municipality from a $2.3 billion deficit related to the games. Fougere pointedly criticizes Kelly's actions related to the cancellation of the games, saying the decision was made at a secret council vote orchestrated by Kelly, and that the cancellation led to the loss of a potential $700 million in federal funding for local sports facilities.

Neither view is correct. In actuality, provincial authorities---probably premier Rodney MacDonald himself---pulled the plug on the bid effort after reviewing two auditors' reports that castigated the bid committees' haphazard business plans and poor planning. According to the auditors, the games would have likely ended up costing in excess of $2 billion, far more than the $700 million "right-sized" games initially sold to the public.

But while Kelly guided the council into issuing a statement cancelling the bid effort, the decision was not made by him, nor was it in his hands---without provincial backing, the bid effort was dead in the water no matter what action the city took.

It would perhaps be pertinent to ask why both mayor Kelly and councillor Fougere allowed the bid committee to operate in complete secrecy and with no government control on committee expenditures, but neither candidate has explored that question.

Tax Reform

There are two parts to the tax reform effort, which was initiated by a council vote through a motion introduced by Fougere. The first deals with doing away the deed transfer tax, applied to every sale of property. Opposition to the tax is led by realtors and developers whose businesses are tied to buying and selling real estate.

Kelly opposes scrapping the deed transfer tax, correctly pointing out that it raises some $42 million annually and that lost tax revenue could only be made up through a general increase of about eight percent in other property taxes. Fougere has expressed some reservations about scrapping it, but is noncommittal on the issue.

The second part of tax reform deals with switching to a "service-based" taxation system---theoretically, anyway, property owners would be charged for the services they receive and not based on the assessed value of their homes. In real terms, the tax burden would be shifted off high-end property and onto more modest properties owned by middle-income residents and off the peninsula and onto the suburbs. Neither Fougere nor Kelly opposes this effort.

Fast ferry

Kelly used a secret meeting to get council to endorse naming a $30-million fast-ferry project as a priority for the expenditure of federal transportation funds provided to the city. Although initially slated as a Bedford commuter option, Kelly claims the project is flexible enough to extend service to Purcells Cove, Eastern Passage and other locales. That claim is false---except for about $4 million for the actual boats, nearly all of the $30 million will be spent on hard assets---notably, a new ferry terminal in Bedford---that cannot be moved elsewhere. Any expansion or adjustment in the service would require more money over and above the $30 million.

Fougere wants the ferry project delayed for 10 years and more study of its feasibility. Instead, she'd like to see the $30 million reallocated to the successful LINK bus system and to generally expand Metro Transit's bus system and hours of operation.

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