All but two members of St. John's city council voted Monday evening against an information session on a controversial plan to seal off a high-profile section of the city's harbourfront.

The St. John's Port Authority plans to erect a permanent security fence along Harbour Drive, covering several piers that are currently open to public access.


Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff reminded councillors that the harbour belongs to the people, not the port corporation. (CBC)

Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff introduced a motion for the port authority to hold a public information session on the issue.

But Duff's motion was defeated in a 9-2 vote. Coun. Sheilagh O'Leary was the only other councillor that supported the move.

Revelations that the fence would include a permanent block to public access for a lengthy stretch of the harbourfront ignited a sharp reaction, including from Republic of Doyle star Allan Hawco, who used social media to draw attention to the fence and city council's decision to pay for half of it.

"I think we all understand that that perhaps was a failure in the process that we did not have, or the port authority did not have any level of public engagement when this decision was made," Duff said.

Duff reminded councillors that the harbour belongs to the people and not the port authority, a federal Crown corporation.

A similar attempt was cut short during a council meeting in December following outbursts from demonstrators in the public gallery.

Meanwhile, O'Leary tabled a petition also calling for more consultations. She said there were more than 2,600 names on it.

The St. John's Port Authority has said the fence is necessary to provide extra security for shipping, including in the offshore oil industry, and has said it needs to meet federal requirements. However, Transport Canada has said it is satisfied with the current security arrangement.