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A community votes: Dartmouth Centre residents of all ages choose grant recipients

Music program, canoe club, tennis club among winners of community funds

3 min read
caption Bicentennial School students Helena Senn (left), Lauren Scott and Thomas Scott volunteer at the Bicentennial School Music Program booth at the participatory budget event Tuesday night.
Amy Brierley

Thanks to a $8,500 win in Dartmouth Centre’s participatory budget vote, the Bicentennial School Music Program can look forward to hosting musicals on its own stage.

Bicentennial is a primary to Grade 9 school located near Thistle Street and Victoria Road in Dartmouth. For years, the music program has used the stage at Dartmouth High for its productions. Bicentennial needs upgrades to curtains and lighting to host shows and performances.

Nick Pettipas, a music teacher at Bicentennial, said the funding will open up many possibilities for the school’s music program.

“It’s more of a community feel for us to keep it at home,” he said.

Residents streamed into the Findlay Community Centre Tuesday night to cast their votes to divvy up $50,000 of the district’s capital funds.

caption People fill the gym at the Findlay Community Centre Tuesday to cast their votes for projects vying for a share of $50,000.

Bicentennial will split the money with eight other organizations:

  • Oakwood Terrace Recreation Department ($4,000)
  • Banook Canoe Club ($5,000)
  • Common Roots Farm ($5,000)
  • Maritime Pollinator Society ($1,128)
  • Senobe Aquatic Club ($5,000)
  • Dartmouth Crossing Speed Skating Club ($10,000)
  • St. George’s Tennis Club ($10,000)
  • Mic Mac Amateur Aquatic Club ($1,372-partial award)

Twelve community groups took part in the participatory budgeting process. They lined the sides of the gym, set up much like a science fair, drawing residents in to hear their proposals for funds.

By the end of the night, a total of 423 ballots were cast.

Several Bicentennial students helped out at their school’s booth, singing for the crowd and promoting their music program.

“There has been a ton of people that seem interested in this program, which we are really thankful for, because it’s good that the community gets involved,” said student Lauren Scott.

caption Jamie Proctor Boyce and her daughter, Enid, review the list of projects.

Jamie Proctor Boyce and her young daughter, Enid, attended Tuesday’s event to support the music program but ended up discovering projects in their neighbourhood they didn’t know existed.

“There’s way more projects vying for our attention than I imagined,” she said. “It feels like an interesting representation of our neighbourhood.”

A vote for all ages

The councillor for the district, Sam Austin, has used this participatory budgeting process since 2017.  Two districts on the Halifax peninsula have hosted participatory budgeting events too.

Everyone in the district is eligible to take part in this vote, no matter their age or citizenship.

Communities across Canada are experimenting with this participatory method of distributing funds. Often grant allocation processes happen without public input.

For Austin, seeing a program like the Bicentennial School Music Program win makes this process worth it.

“We pay a lot of lip service in politics to engaging kids and youth but rarely are kids and youth offered any real, substantive decisions,” said Austin.

“The kids from Bicentennial who came and voted will see, by next year, the improvements that were made on the stage. They’ll feel like this was because of them.”

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About the author

Amy Brierley

Amy is a journalism student at the University of King's College. She calls Antigonish N.S.--and more recently, Halifax-- home. She cares a lot...

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