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Halifax regional councillor says ‘failure is not an option’ on climate action

Municipal staff building next budget around 3 per cent climate tax

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caption Climate activists Eva Jennegren and Jude Sampson bust some moves at a school strike for climate held at Peace and Friendship Park in downtown Halifax on Oct. 22, 2021.
Akrit Michael

A three-per-cent tax increase is a small price to pay to address a climate emergency, say environmental advocates.

Halifax regional council voted on Friday to draft the preliminary 2022-23 budget to include a three-per-cent tax hike to the average tax bill. It’s to pay for projects included in HalifACT 2050, the city’s climate change plan.

The tax hike, which isn’t final, is combined with a general increase of 2.9 per cent, for a planned total of 5.9 per cent.

“The Ecology Action Centre is in favour of any mechanism to ensure that the climate actions outlined in the HalifACT plan will be implemented,” said Kelsey Lane, the Ecology Action Centre’s senior climate policy co-ordinator.

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“We do need to make sure that there is appropriate allocation for climate action and for actions that are related.”

Coun. Sam Austin said during council’s budget committee meeting on Friday that “failure is not an option” when it comes to acting on climate change.

“Low taxes will be very little comfort on a dead planet,” Austin said. “History and our kids will judge us harshly.”

Coun. Lisa Blackburn is also in favour of the tax hike for climate action.

“HalifACT is our opportunity to say what we’re going to do and do what we’re going to say,” she said.

Coun. Tim Outhit said the tax increase is too much of a burden to put on future generations, when combined with the provincial debt.

“So in addition to inheriting a world on fire, they’ll also have a provincial economy on fire,” he said. “There’s a big difference though in my mind between two or three per cent and 5.9 per cent.”

Coun. Trish Purdy also expressed concerns over the cost of the increase, especially the impact on seniors.

“I’m concerned about our people with this budget. I’m concerned about our seniors with this budget,” she said.

Councillors voted 10-6 in favour of building the budget around the three-per-cent tax increase for climate. Councillors Cathy Deagle Gammon, David Hendsbee, Becky Kent, Trish Purdy, Paul Russell and Tim Outhit voted against the motion.

Budget committee meetings will continue until April, when council finalizes any tax increase.

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