Halifax Regional Municipality’s budget committee has voted to defer approval of the 2024-25 regional police and RCMP budgets until more community safety funding opportunities are identified.
At a budget committee meeting on Friday, Coun. Waye Mason (District 7) proposed the amendment to a motion to approve next year’s police budget. Mason said a deferral was needed after hearing community feedback on the proposed budget Wednesday.
“We heard from about 35 people who had a lot of concerns that I think will be answered in the community safety budget presentation,” said Mason. “I can’t vote ‘yes’ to the police funding until I know that that’s done.”
Friday’s budget committee meeting was a continuation of a meeting held on Feb. 7, when the committee was to vote on the Halifax Regional Police and RCMP budgets, as well as an estimated increase of $1.15 million to fund six new RCMP positions. The meeting was cut short due to time constraints and the budget had yet to be voted on.
The proposed budget includes a $5.8-million increase for police and a $5-million increase for RCMP. At the Feb. 7 meeting, a number of people voiced opinions on the budget proposal, with a majority urging council to vote against it.
Saint Mary’s University criminology professor Jamie Livingston joined Friday’s meeting via Zoom to express his opposition to the proposed budget increases. He said increased police spending has little little correlation to a decrease in crime.
Additionally, Livingston said the proposed budget did not fall in line with the needs and values of the Halifax community.
Halifax resident Nancy Hunter also spoke during the public participation portion of the meeting, recalling the Nov. 22 board of police commissioners meeting, at which she said she was cut off from speaking.
After the meeting, Hunter said the incident as “anti-democratic” and could discourage people from speaking at public consultations.
“This is already a very uncomfortable forum for some people,” said Hunter. “It really casts a bad shadow on public engagement in our city.”
During Friday’s meeting, many speakers shared negative experiences with members of Halifax regional police. Halifax resident Kay MacDonald said they have long-term effects resulting from injuries they received during the August 2021 protest against removal of city homeless shelters.
A larger police budget would create more potential for “harm” in many communities, MacDonald said.
Councillors did not set a new date to reopen discussion and vote on the budget.
About the author
Kaitlyn MacNeill is a fourth-year journalism student at the University of King's College living in Halifax, Nova Scotia.