Wondering where your would-be, could-be, provincial elected official of choice falls on the big issues? How their potential win could affect you? Since Nova Scotia’s political structure means many changes at a city level require a provincial sign-off, the impact of an MLA can be significant. As the August 17 election day approaches, we asked HRM city councillors what they think the province should step in and help Halifax with. Recurring topics include affordable housing, reduced speed limits, and action on protecting local bodies of water and green spaces.
Mayor Mike Savage would like to see the new provincial government implement the provincial Housing Commission recommendations (which suggests, in part, that the province “implement a number of quick-start investments that include a $25 million commitment to support between 600 and 900 households in housing need in the very near term”). He also thinks Nova Scotia should provide ongoing support for public transit, including capital to buy new vehicles. He rounds out his wish list by adding he’d like the province to review community services assistance rates, approve legislative amendments to allow permanent residents to vote in Halifax Regional Municipality, as well as add general revisions to the HRM Charter to provide more autonomy— meaning Savage and his co-workers at city hall would be able to do more things without a sign-off from the province. Continued progress on all fronts for climate change mitigation and adaptation, and legislative changes to give HRM and other municipalities more control in making streets safer, are also on his list.
District 1 councillor Cathy Deagle-Gammon says that for rural Waverly, Fall River and Musquodoboit Valley, issues include “internet, transit and road transfer from the province,” as well as general issues like “protecting our environment, affordable housing, traffic safety act revisions and cost sharing on issues important to healthy communities”—think things like “water/recreation/green spaces et cetera.”
For Preston, Chezzetcook and the Eastern Shore, improved roads and infrastructure are a priority, District 2 councillor David Hendsbee says. Specifically, “the province needs to expropriate the proposed C&D processing facility in Lake Echo and relocate it to an industrial park.” He also says that provincial candidates should emphasize making dependable, fast internet accessible for rural areas, in addition to cost sharing rural transit and infrastructure services. In regards to compensation for the proposed NSDOT Road Transfer to HRM, Hendsbee says “the roads and bridges are not in great shape” and that the “HRM will inherit dilapidated assets that will cost us a lot to repair.” He would also like to see the provincial government work with local contractors and organizations to create affordable housing options, as well as create a Preston Township Park from the crown land in Lake Eagle.
District 3 councillor Becky Kent would like the next provincial government to “work more collaboratively with the HRM,” which to her would look like adding more regulatory authority for creating safer streets through the Transportation Safety Act. She also would like candidates to be proactive on lake health. Kent also emphasizes affordable housing, asking for better regulation and tenant protection against escalating rental rates and evictions, which she believes is a “contributing factor to rising homelessness in the HRM and must be addressed.”
“Create a strategy and execute it. Show leadership and take responsibility by addressing the housing crisis across the province,” says Kent. “The HRM is carrying the load on this and the province is letting this happen.”
Despite her short time on council, District 4 councillor Trish Purdy—representing Cole Harbour, Westphal, Lake Loon and Cherry Brook—believes that the best thing a premier can do for the city’s needs is respond in a timely manner. “Some of the issues that directly affect the wellbeing of our residents like health care, affordable/supportive/transitional housing and social services are in the power of the province,” she says.
Sam AustinDartmouth Centre councillor Sam Austin says the hot-button issues for this provincial election are “climate change and housing. The twin crises of our time.” According to Austin, HRM already asks the province for a lot concerning heritage, climate change and transportation. Like Hendsbee and Savage, Austin thinks “what’s really needed is a new attitude in provincial-municipal relations,” as well as “more autonomy.” Constantly asking for Charter amendments “stifles creativity and makes it harder to respond to issues raised by the citizens,” he explains.
Tony ManciniDistrict 6 Councillor Tony Mancini (Harbourview, Burnside and Dartmouth East) would like the new provincial government to establish a strategy to protect our lakes, as well as prioritize the deactivation of the front end processing and disposal facility at Otter Lake. Beyond that, he believes that it is important for the province to complete the Transportation Safety Act ASAP and implement extended producer responsibility. On the affordable housing front, he believes that the municipality should be given the authority to implement inclusionary zoning (this means affordable housing would be baked into the process of land-use planning, rather than dealing with the issue on a case-by-case basis).
Waye Mason“The housing crisis continues to deepen, and the recommendations in the Affordable Housing Commission report already seem to be too little to address the task,” says District 7—that’s Halifax South Downtown—councillor Waye Mason, addressing the provincial candidates. “What will your government do in the first 30 days of office to ensure that there is adequate housing and supportive housing with wrap-around services for those that need it for all of the 500 people experiencing housing precarity in Halifax?”
Lindell SmithWhile District 8 councillor Lindell Smith (Halifax Peninsula North) was unavailable for comment, in the past he has been an advocate for affordable housing, speed limit adjustments and action within the justice system to protect marginalized communities.
Shawn ClearyDistrict 9 councillor Shawn Cleary—representative of Halifax West Armdale—asks provincial candidates to consider providing more authority to Halifax under the MVA/TSA so “we can make our streets safer with lower speed limits and reduce noise from vehicles,” as well as “continue providing support for transit and sustainable transportation infrastructure.” He would also like the new provincial government to “partner with the city and invest in building affordable housing, and provide power to the city for inclusionary zoning.”
District 10 councillor Kathryn Morse (Halifax Bedford Basin West) believes that the HRM has an urgent need for emergency housing and affordable housing, like many on this list. She would like the provincial government “to lead partnerships to build new emergency shelters, as well as build a significant number of affordable and accessible housing units designed for young people, families, and seniors.” Beyond that, she would like “the province to build new schools and have a transparent process for site-ing the new schools.” On safety, she would like the provincial candidates to consider “allowing the HRM to reduce speed limits on residential streets,” which would “help make streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.”
District 11’s Patty Cuttell (Spryfeild Sambro Loop Prospect Road) believes the main things the province needs to address are housing, renewable energy, passing the Coastal Action Plan and traffic calming. “To me it is about safe, walkable communities for all ages and abilities. We need to strengthen and align policy and programming around traffic calming, as well as enable HRM to do things like set our own speed limits,” Cuttell says. While municipally owned roads can qualify for HRM’s traffic calming program, provincially owned roads do not. “This would be one small, low-hanging action that can save HRM a lot of time, money and frustration.”
“We are in a housing crisis. Population growth and a hot housing market have created a perfect storm,” says Cuttell. “We need investment across the housing spectrum—from shelters and supported housing, to units geared toward 30 percent of people's income and simply more supply. Housing is a basic necessity, and it concerns me every day to see the number of people living in precarious housing situations.”
District 12 councillor Iona Stoddard agrees with her colleagues concerning the issues of provincial autonomy and affordable housing, as well as other issues local to Timberlea, Beechville, Clayton Park and Wedgewood. In the past, she has advocated for lake preservation and province-wise inclusivity.
District 13 councillor Pamela Lovelace—representing Hammonds Plains-St. Margarets—would like provincial candidates to prioritize giving local government “the legal authority to set tax rates, including a small business tax,” as well as providing “appropriate investments in addictions, mental health and housing in rural HRM.” Beyond the election, she believes that the province needs to “stop downloading responsibilities to HRM without new revenue streams (i.e. rural road transfer),” and “enact important legislation and regulations (i.e. Coastal Protection Act).” Councillor Lovelace would also like the provincial government to not be afraid to “admit when they’ve made mistakes (i.e. Owls Head), work more collaboratively with the HRM and act like they know we’re the largest urban centre in Atlantic Canada!”
District 14 councillor Lisa Blackburn (Middle/Upper Sackville, Beaverbank, Lucasville) would like to see the next provincial government provide “emergency housing relief to address homeless issues in HRM (urban AND rural) and a plan on how the province is going to address the issue going forward,” as well as “updates to Residential Tenancies to better address the unique issues in land lease communities (trailer parks).” In addition to faster action on rural internet, Blackburn would like “a loosening up of the provincial leash on municipalities!”
“When we get a request to reduce a speed limit on a residential street, it’s ridiculous that HRM has to submit a list of roads to the province for permission,” Blackburn says. “Just one example of how we often have our hands tied when trying to address our resident's issues.”
District 15 councillor Paul Russell would like the province to do maintenance on its own infrastructure. “We can’t have major potholes for years, street lights that are somewhat working for years and bridge structures that are in a bad state of repair,” says Russell, pointing out that the province has had a yellow light out in one of its intersections in his district in Lower Sackville for ages. “They need to own funding for education. By leaving the HRM to take care of some of it, and with us having more resources than other municipalities, it creates a very definite two-tier education system,” Russell says. “We are doing it because they aren’t.”
In addition to infrastructure, he would also like to see the premier “do more for long-term care, so that some of our residents don’t have to live in hospitals because there is nowhere else,” as well as address the provincial housing crisis. “Everything that we are doing because the province doesn’t, means that tax dollars are being diverted away from things that we should be doing.” says Russell. “Our roads are suffering and our development (although good) isn’t keeping pace with immigration because we are spending funds on social programs that are the provincial responsibility.”
District 16 councillor and deputy mayor Tim Outhit (Bedford Wentworth) has also asked the province for more inclusionary zoning for affordable housing. To improve local traffic, he would like the right to reduce speed limits in residential areas to 40km per hour, approval to change crosswalk signs to reflective green to help improve visibility and financial support to implement bus rapid transit and additional ferry service in the HRM. “The province needs to complete the regulations and then proclaim their new Traffic Safety Act,” says Outhit. “When it is finally in place, it will allow municipalities to implement photo radar and red light cameras, and to regulate muffler noise.”