Here's what happened at HRM council's regular meeting on September 13, 2022.

Everything you need to know about council's September 13 meeting

Featuring the citizen survey, a new City Hall podcast, market gardens, the JUNO Awards and things more important than money.

Bit of a short meeting of Halifax Regional Council today. Not much on the agenda, and the stuff that was on the agenda largely passed with only minor debate. For a recap of the meeting, as well as notable debates and the latest councillor ratings, please read on. The rest of this space will be used to make two announcements.

The first is that The Coast’s City Hall coverage is expanding to include a podcast. The first episode should be dropping this week, so be sure to read The Coast Daily newsletter for details on that as they become available (and be sure to subscribe to the newsletter here if you haven't already).

Second, the city’s annual citizen survey is happening. Let council know what you think (click to get the survey). The survey is a bit laggy in periods of high volume, but the results are live and in real-time!

Things that passed September 13

A public hearing was the final step in 2287 Brunswick Street becoming a heritage building today. This building is historically significant because it demarks the start of the mid-1800s gentrification of Brunswick Street, and was owned by the Sisters of Charity which staffed the Shubenacadie residential school from 1930 to 1967. It’s also a rare brick construction of a Victorian home in Halifax.

Stephanie Salloum, Laura Walsh and James Coons were all appointed as Development Officers. BZ to the three of them on their promotions and newfound legally mandated land use bylaw administrative powers.

Council accepted a new public participation guidebook. But, like any planning document, it requires legislative backing to become a reality. Today council directed the chief administrative officer to craft the bylaws to make the guidebook enforceable on municipal planning processes. Exciting stuff.

Council is starting the process of selling some vacant land near the North Preston Community Centre to the North Preston Medical Society. The land is valued at $8,000 and is being sold to the society for $10. It will be used to expand existing daycare facilities.

The Oval’s naming rights were up for grabs. Nova Scotia Power’s parent company Emera was budgeted to pay the city $460,000 this year (line C471) for “positive brand recognition for the Sponsor.” The city gets this money from Emera to run The Oval on the Halifax Common and, in exchange, we have fun memories with our loved ones skating. Emera hopes these positive memories counteract the negative ones it generates by jacking the rates up on power for profit. Just kidding! We actually don’t know why Emera wants to continue this sponsorship; its reasons are in a private and confidential report that can only be shared with council in camera.

Council has decided to participate in a survey for the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities. The relevant charter information you need is that occasionally cities in Canada renegotiate their continued existence with their ruling province, and potentially redistribute legislative power. In an effort to help cities in these negotiations, the NSFM is putting together a dataset about what councils across Nova Scotia think about their current divisions of power. Council decided to send its answers, which start on page 13.

Food is getting more expensive, so councillor Pam Lovelace is trying to give us the power to break up Galen Weston’s monopoly using our own backyards. Market Garden legislation continues its journey to becoming the law of the land, and a public hearing will be scheduled.

The city is adopting naturalization (not mowing grass, cultivating proper functional meadows) on more pieces of public land following a successful pilot. Healthier pieces of land in the HRM will cost $150,000 in new spending.

Saint Mary’s is hosting the U Sports cross country national championships and will get $15,000 of help from the city to do so.

Halifax is making a bid to host the Canadian music industry's 2024 JUNO Awards. If Halifax wins, we’ll be on the hook for $750,000. If not, we pay nothing.

Councillor Cathy Deagle Gammon wants the CAO to consider Canal Kays Drive in Wellington during the regional plan review.

Halifax is getting some money for “public safety.” Councillor David Hensdbee wanted that money spent on cameras in Preston due to community feedback. The feds won’t let public money be spent on state-sponsored surveillance of its own people, so that’s not allowed.

Two notices of motion. Councillor Patty Cuttell will try and make it easier for the city to help people fix gravel roads. And councillor Waye Mason will try and make it easier to regulate business hours in residential areas.

Notable debates

Councillors made sure city staff were aware of the issues with public participation in the debate about the public participation criterion. Councillor Iona Stoddard wants to ensure there is accountability for notifications sent to the public. She says there are examples from her district where no one received public notifications that they should have. Councillor Kathryn Morse wants staff to be aware that, currently, public participation happens primarily at the very end of the development process, far too late for any feedback to be incorporated. And Hendsbee wants to ensure the HRM’s public participation process has geographic equity. Essentially, if people in Sheet Harbour need to come to City Hall for public feedback, they either need to take a vacation day for their hours of driving, or else not participate.

In council’s debate about the city’s naturalization plan (AKA the plan to make monocultured grass patches into productive patches of land for bees and other pollinators), councillor Trish Purdy expressed her concern over the project’s price tag. She was worried this small measure to help save the planet and make the city more resilient to climate change will cost too much at $150,000 due to the “labour shortages we are all facing” and the impacts this $150,000 will have on the city’s $1.1-billion budget. Cuttell shot back against Purdy, saying some things are more important than money.

And finally, during the market garden debate, councillor Paul Russell reminded everyone that capitalism rules the day. He took issue with the phrasing in the report, which reads “to permit anyone to use land for the growing of food.” His issue was that there were “no parameters around the ownership of that land.” Russell says he doesn’t want his neighbour growing tomatoes on his lawn. He says that if someone gardens and takes care of the land, then they feel ownership over it. City staff assured Russell that people will not be “allowed to use land that isn’t theirs as a garden.” This meeting, like all council meetings, started with an acknowledgment that the land the HRM exerts its authority on is stolen land. Russell and city staff did not acknowledge the intrinsic irony of their conversation.

Councillor power rankings

POWER RANKING SCALE

For their performance at each meeting, every councillor gets a score from 0-10 as evaluated using the qualitative scale below. Hint: More points is better.

10 – Councillor of the year, even compared to others nationally.

9 – Outstanding council meeting.

8 – An excellent council meeting season.

7 – A solid council meeting.

6 – Decent performances; more up than down.

5 – Decidedly average.

4 – Must do better next meeting.

3 – A poor meeting, all considered.

2 – A problem that needs resolution.

1 – Let’s not go there.

0 - Absent

Scored out of 10 according to the scale at right. Ratings were not given for council's last meeting, on August 23.

Mayor Mike Savage
Score this meeting: 0 - Absent

District 1 - Cathy Deagle Gammon
Score this meeting: 6
Solid short meeting, not much to evaluate.

District 2 - David Hendsbee
Score this meeting: 8
Excellent performance this meeting. Played to his strengths (fighting the geographic inequity built into the HRM) and avoided his pitfalls.

District 3 - Becky Kent
Score this meeting: 0 - Absent

District 4 - Trish Purdy
Score this meeting: 4
It’s okay for people not to understand the nuance of the economics of the labour market. It is slightly worrying when elected officials don’t understand it. It’s truly terrifying when elected officials shoehorn unconnected talking points about “the labour shortage” into a debate to try and kill $150,000 of funding for climate change mitigation.

District 5 - Sam Austin
Score this meeting: 6
Solid short meeting, not much to evaluate.

District 6 - Tony Mancini
Score this meeting: 6
Solid short meeting, not much to evaluate.

District 7 - Waye Mason
Score this meeting: 6
Solid short meeting, not much to evaluate.

District 8 - Lindell Smith
Score this meeting: 6
Solid short meeting, not much to evaluate.

District 9 - Shawn Cleary
Score this meeting: 7
Solid short meeting, got an extra mark for not needlessly interjecting to prolong it. CAO Jaques Dubé on the other hand, would get a 2.

District 10 - Kathryn Morse
Score this meeting: 6
Solid short meeting, not much to evaluate.

District 11 - Patty Cuttell
Score this meeting: 7
Pulled things off the consent agenda to ensure staff were more informed for their report writing process. Although it lengthened the meeting, it was a good use of pulling things off the consent agenda.

District 12 - Iona Stoddard
Score this meeting: 7
Stoddard broke her routine of quiet meetings to ask poignant questions about her community and constituents.

District 13 - Pam Lovelace
Score this meeting: 0 - Absent

District 14 - Lisa Blackburn
Score this meeting: 6
Solid short meeting, not much to evaluate.

District 15 - Paul Russell
Score this meeting: 5
Pretty average performance from Russell.

District 16 - Tim Outhit
Score this meeting: 7
Ran the meeting in the mayor and deputy mayor’s absence. Solid performance.

About The Author

Matt Stickland

Matt spent 10 years in the Navy where he deployed to Libya with HMCS Charlottetown and then became a submariner until ‘retiring’ in 2018. In 2019 he completed his Bachelor of Journalism from the University of King’s College. Matt is an almost award winning opinion writer.

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