Halifax regional council finds common ground after voicing their priorities
A focus on the environment was well received, but councillors point to other areas in need of attention
November 11, 2020, 3:52 pm ASTLast Updated: November 12, 2020, 11:15 am
This story contains a correction
Halifax regional council was presented with four priority recommendations at Tuesday’s meeting, but councillors aligned on several others.
During the first meeting of the new council, Wendy Lines, the corporate manager for Halifax Regional Municipality, presented four recommended council priority areas: prosperous economy, integrated mobility, communities, and environment.
While many councillors were happy with the emphasis on the environment, they also gave their own input on where the focus should lie for the next four years.
Three of the most common priorities among councillors were affordable housing, transportation and safety, and the economic recovery from COVID-19.
Coun. Waye Mason (Halifax South Downtown) said both new and old councillors agree that affordable housing “needs to be a priority,” and while housing falls under the province’s responsibility there’s still a role for the municipality to play.
“I’m not willing to just raise taxes by 50 or 100 million bucks and just start doing their job,” Mason said.
“We can provide leadership and we can be really pushy and demanding about what the province should do and they’re not doing.”
Coun. Becky Kent (Dartmouth South-Eastern Passage) agreed.
“We have a crisis right now. We have people sleeping in tents in our communities. We have people approaching me in the winter with eviction notices,” Kent said.
Transportation and safety
Coun. Tim Outhit (Bedford-Wentworth) expressed his concern about roads and pointed to a growing list of streets waiting for traffic calming.
“We’ve got a list of over 300 and it’s growing, and that doesn’t include the 180 that haven’t been evaluated yet,” Outhit said.
“My own street is 97th on the list. I will not be on this council and maybe not on the planet by the time we get to number 97.”
Coun. Patty Cuttell (Spryfield-Sambro Loop-Prospect Road) said that the waitlist for sidewalk improvements is in the 20 to 30-year range.
“It doesn’t inspire an engaged and involved citizenship, it disengages people,” Cuttell said.
A number of councillors took issue with a lack of specific reference to COVID-19 in the administration priorities or priority outcomes, noting the recovery would take multiple years.
“We need to acknowledge recovery from COVID. Certainly that’s going to be a frame for not just this year but the next number of years,” Mason said.
Coun. Kathryn Morse (Halifax-Bedford Basin West) shared those concerns as well.
“I think COVID may have more economic impacts than we can yet imagine and I’m wondering if we can have scenarios — best, worst, neutral scenarios — as part of the economic forecast to help us with budget planning,” Morse said.
The priorities of the council will be taken into consideration and a revised version will be discussed on Dec. 1.
Correction: Nov. 12, 2020: An earlier version misconstrued Coun. Tim Outhit’s concerns about roads.
Have a story idea? Let us know