Halifax city council starts the process of police reform | City | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
Halifax Regional Police headquarters on Gottingen Street.
Halifax Regional Police headquarters on Gottingen Street.

Halifax city council starts the process of police reform

Board of Police Commissioners dropped the ball, again

At Friday’s Budget Committee meeting, which was an extension of Wednesday’s Budget Committee meeting, city council decided to make a minor administrative change that will set the city up to successfully reform its police services, thanks to a motion from councillor Waye Mason. Mason argued that since public safety is more than just policing, and since the city made a commitment to public safety that it never funded, new police spending and new public safety spending should be considered at the same time as part of the same budget.

During this debate, Halifax’s chief financial officer Jerry Blackwood explained that the Department of Public Safety was funded this year but not completely. The DPS couldn’t get the whole JustFOOD budget into the budget with council’s current direction, which is why it had to be added to the budget adjustment list on Tuesday’s council meeting. Chief administrative officer Cathie O’Toole explained that next year, Mason’s motion should not be necessary as he is correct and public safety will become one budget, but the city’s bureaucracy couldn’t pull things together time for this budget season.

Anyway, thanks to Mason’s motion, council is going to change course this year and consider all safety-related budgets together. The Department of Public Safety’s budget presentation will be moved up, and the police departments requests for more officers will be delayed until after that presentation. Halifax Transit is the unwitting casualty who will have their meeting knocked down the schedule to better consolidate public safety spending debates. The city aims to complete its public safety budget debates, with the exception of the budget adjustment list items, by the start of March.

Also as part of this debate, Mason pointed out that this type of debate on police budgets should really have been done by the Board of Police Commissioners prior to coming to council. He told he peers that he will be coming to council with a motion to change the police budget process, which is cumbersome and currently allows the Board of Police Commissioners to circumvent municipal processes in ways that waste a lot of council’s time when council has to send the Board-approved budget back to the Board to be aligned with council’s priorities. The hope is that in future, the police board will make its budget line up with the city’s priorities without needing to be called out publicly for failing to do so.

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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