Here's what happened at HRM council on August 23.

Everything you need to know about Halifax Regional Council’s August 23rd meeting

Abortion, cooling centers, park lighting plans and more!

There will be no notable debates or council ratings this week. This Tuesday, instead of watching council, I was attending the funeral of a friend. Kathleen Jones, you will be missed. There’s always latent anger with funerals. Especially ones for people who were “supposed” to die after the people who attended their funeral. So if a notable debate section were to be written today, it would be through the lens of that anger. It would be cathartic, no doubt, but it would be self-serving and unfairly mean.

And so, for more details on how the debates played out, check out Zane Woodford’s coverage over at the Examiner since that will be lacking from this piece.

And to be quite frank, there are only a few municipal reporters in this city. Zane is prolific, but there is also Jen Taplin. And occasionally others like Rebecca Lau and whoever will replace Pam Berman at the CBC. We all pick up on different details of these meetings. You should be reading all of our work regularly so you have a more complete picture of what decisions people (AKA council) are making on your behalf.

Everything council passed on August 23rd

Cases H00516 and H00536 passed after their public hearings. So 144 Pleasant Street and 18 Wilfred Jackson Way are now heritage buildings.

Councillor Pam Lovelace brought information on public boat launch rules and sign requirements to council. She did so to make a motion requesting staff write a report to modernize signs at public wharves. For the nerds in the audience, there was a point of order because councillor Shawn Cleary believed that this motion required a notice of motion. Even though the rules of order clearly state information items are for presentations and motions arising from a presentation do not need a notice of motion. Because obviously, the rules of order governing council meetings are common knowledge that we all have at the front of our minds. Lovelace’s motion passed.

Dundas Street is getting an expansion. The planned extension of Dundas Street will see the road extend to Dartmouth Cove. The cost of the extension will be split between the city (50%) and the landowners of Dundas Street, and has an initial price tag of $11,000,000. The landowners affected include the provincial government, which owns 20.39% of the land. Public money will pay for 70.39% of this development or $7,742,900. It will, inevitably, cost more.

Even though education is a provincial responsibility and municipalities have very limited taxation powers (they are perpetually broke), the city sends ~$14 million a year to the two regional school boards. This practice was started in 1995 by Liberal premier and father of our current mayor, John Savage, and justified in 2004 by Conservative premier John Hamm’s government in a press release that reads in part, “the province could collect this tax directly, but that would create unnecessary duplication.” Sure thing, 2004 press release, sure thing. It surely has nothing to do with downloading millions of dollars to municipalities, which makes the provincial budget numbers sexier. Anyway, council got a report on that.

A 2015 cost-benefit analysis of doing repairs on St. Mary’s Boat Club came back to council. Apparently, the cost of the project is worth the benefit of spending the money. So, naturally, council is creating a plan to figure out how to do repairs. Repairs will be done Soon.

Soon is a meme that started in the early 2000s in World of Warcraft forums. It has spread like wildfire in the gaming community as developers frequently promise updates “soon.” Soon is defined on World of Warcraft’s Wikipedia as: "’Soon’ does not imply any particular date, time, decade, century, or millennia in the past, present, and certainly not the future. ‘Soon’ shall make no contract or warranty between Blizzard Entertainment and the end user. ’Soon’ will arrive someday, Blizzard does guarantee that ‘soon’ will be here before the end of time. Maybe. Do not make plans based on ‘soon’ as Blizzard will not be liable for any misuse, use, or even casual glancing at ‘soon.’”

Semantic satiation is a psychological phenomenon in which repetition causes a word or phrase to temporarily lose meaning for the reader, who then perceives the text as repeated, meaningless letters.

A bunch of streets are being renamed. The only notable street name change is that Forest Hills Extension is now officially Highway 107.

The Alderney Gate Phase 2 design process will cost $16,028.76 more. The Phase 2 design was supposed to cost $63,832, but so far, $140,830 has been spent. $854,719 remains of the city’s budgeted amount for the project.

It will now be easier for the city to maintain private roads that no one seems to own.

In 2021, councillor Sam Austin tasked city staff with creating a park lighting strategy. In researching the report, city staff realized that other cities were light years (ha!) ahead of Halifax in thinking about this. So a new staff report was requested today, informed by what staff learned from the last one. The net result should be better park lighting. Soon.

Lovelace put forward a motion to get a staff report on the rooming house legislation that just passed. Tactics like putting forward a motion to gather evidence to support a policy that was just democratically defeated is often referred to as policy-based evidence-making. Since this motion passed in 18 months, someone will find out how crows taste, be it Lovelace or her critics.

The city is selling a bunch of lands. Seven of those pieces of land were to be designated as affordable. Meaning they can only be bought by non-profits that will build affordable housing. Could the city just build affordable housing there instead? It seems like they’re legally allowed to. They’d have to want to try it, though. Anyway, a handful of lands got removed by councillors. More to follow on this when the city starts doing stuff on these lands. Soon.

Picking up all the garbage from city facilities will cost $2,264,169 over five years. $452,833.80 AAV for all you hockey finance nerds who only understand big numbers in that way.

Council is allowing some bonus zoning agreement dark magic to happen. If you didn’t read that jargon-heavy report, the developer of 1138-1140 Barrington is paying the city $1 (instead of $75,074.39) because there’s an issue with floor space. But because they’re saving a historic facade, they’re doing public good. And because it’s expensive ($93,500) to save a historic building, the city should only charge them $1. It’s notable that in a housing crisis, a public good is “building looks old” instead of “building is affordable.” Ah, bylaws. Gotta love ‘em.

Western Common Wilderness Common is getting a new plan for trail maintenance. The city is hoping that trails are both wild and accessible to all.

Kearney Lake and Little Kearney Lake are getting a management plan. This is an effort to make the lakes more resilient to the damage they will and are suffering in the ongoing climate emergency.

An African Nova Scotian advisory committee will likely be struck in the near future. It was deferred today, but it will come back. For those who don’t know, unlike standing committees which have (minimal) legislated power, advisory committees only have as much power as council gives them. This council seems to listen to advisory committees and often takes action on their recommendations. Just worth remembering when future city council hopefuls are asking for your vote.

United Gulf Developments is trying to continue its development of the Bedford Highway. This application is also asking to not have to use the new public participation strategy the city is in the process of implementing. The developer wants to make a bunch of sweeping changes to the land use bylaws and municipal planning strategy to make the development how it wants. This requires an extensive public consultation process. Should United Gulf Developments have done its due diligence or planned for what the land use allows? Yes. Did it? No, because why would it? Councillor Tim Outhit got this motion killed and proposed another one that would force the project into the ongoing suburban planning that is already happening for the area. Outhit’s new motion passed.

Noise bylaws changed. Construction noise has to end at 8pm Monday to Friday. Cleary tried to bullshit his way to stop this with some back-of-napkin math about productivity. He argued that making 14-hour days 12 hours would cost 12.5% in labour productivity. What that means is unclear. Outhit called out Cleary’s 💩 saying council is exhausted “sitting on our asses” for 12 hours in a day. Mayor Mike Savage and councillors David Hendsbee, Trish Purdy, Cleary and Paul Russell voted against construction workers’ standard of living (and against their constituents’ quality of life), but this motion passed 12-5.

Austin wants to turn 71 Shore Road into a park. That’s getting a staff report to figure out how to do that.

Council is trying to get rid of Yellow Floating Hearts in Little Albro Lake. If the city’s application is successful, the herbicide ProcellaCOR will be used to try and give those floaters some heart attacks. If it is approved, the herbicide will be monitored as part of a pilot study of the herbicide.

Council voted to send a letter to the minister of health opposing any bill or motion that is intended to restrict abortion access in Canada. Russell asked for this to be debated in council so he could oppose it. He’s against municipal politicians using their power to lobby federal politicians on behalf of their constituents. Russell claims this has nothing to do with abortion, but this principled stand was absent in the ancient past of three weeks ago on August 9, when he voted to send a letter to the federal government which did all the things he claimed in this meeting he was against. In case he’s wondering why people think this is about abortion, in spite of his claims to the contrary. Purdy also voted against this.

Year-end and fourth quarter financial reports came to council. If you’re an accountant, here’s the report. If you’re not an accountant, the books are fine.

Crosswalk flags are going to be better regulated.

Councillor Tony Mancini wants a staff report on fire services to make sure Port Wallace can actually be serviced by HRM fire services. That report will come back to council.

City staff are going to come back to council with a report on cooling centres for the HRM.

And finally, heritage hearings will be public hearings like developer public hearings, Soon.

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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