Halifax council rejects reducing the number of councillors

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Halifax council Tuesday rejected a Chamber of Commerce-led attempt to reduce the number of councillors, and opted instead to concentrate on governance issues related to the role of community councils.

The council is required by provincial law to every few years examine the size and boundaries of council districts, and to put forward a proposal that redraws boundaries so that the districts have roughly the same population. At the behest of business groups, some councillors wanted to at the same time reduce the number of councillors, and a recommendation from the Boundary Review Committee called for three fewer councillors, for a total of 20. Other councillors, however, argued that reducing council size would create a system with less representation for marginalized and less-connected citizens.

"I believe in democracy and democracy occurs when people have different opinions and represent different points of view," said usually subdued councillor Jackie Barkhouse. "Dictatorship, on the other hand, occurs when people are represented without adequate debate or different opinions. And in this case, debate is being portrayed as a bad thing and something that creates process and inefficiency. "Residents are being ill advised and are being misinformed," she continued. "I'm going to tell you right now, and I want it to be on the record, this is not about me trying to save any job that I have, because I'll have a job whether I'm here or not. This is about democracy."

Councillors Karsten, Hum, McCluskey, Sloane and Mosher spoke most forcefully against the reduction, while councillors Outhit, Uteck and Rankin were most strongly in favour. Uteck and Rankin left the meeting before a crucial vote, and so a deadlock was broken, allowing a positive vote to keep the present 23 councillors to pass. Afterwards, council agreed that community councils should strengthened, giving them increased control of local bylaw and zoning issues.

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