Premier David Alward says he will live up to his campaign promise and eliminate fares on the Grand Manan ferry, despite the close vote on the issue during Monday night’s municipal election.
Residents were asked in a plebiscite question whether they wanted to have the new village council ask the Department of Transportation to remove fees on travel to and from the mainland.
Of the 1,169 ballots cast, 556 said council should ask, while 511 people said no.
"I certainly respect the people of Grand Manan and have full intention to respect our commitments," Alward told CBC News.
"I do appreciate the decision that the people have made where they are recommending to government to see the ferry fees removed," he said.
"That is great for the economy of Grand Manan in the long term, and I have full intention to respect their wishes."
Alward campaigned in 2010 on a promise to take the tolls off of the Grand Manan ferry, which would cost an estimated $1.7 million.
But the issue has had the 2,377 people living on the island community in the Bay of Fundy divided.
Some fear a reduction in service, longer lineups and people leaving the island to spend money on the mainland instead.
Others, however, say it would help cut costs for islanders living on fixed incomes and could lure more people, creating an economic boom.
Dennis Greene, who was re-elected as Grand Manan’s mayor Monday, said he supports whatever the people want.
"My thing was, what is it going to cost us to have this? If the fares are removed do we have to pay in some other way?"
Greene said the issue will be discussed at the next council meeting in June and the results will be passed on to the province.
The New Brunswick government is forecasting a $183-million deficit in 2012-13 even after announcing spending cuts, increases to some taxes and civil service reductions.