If Haligonians were told six acres of Halifax Common was set aside for a bus terminal, how would they react? Could it happen in Halifax? Unlikely. Here's how it happened in Dartmouth.
In November 2008 the legislature passed the 160-page Bill 179. Slipped into the bill in Section 66 (5) they gave six acres of the Dartmouth Common to Metro Transit. We gave the province jurisdiction over our Common to protect it against encroachment. Ironically, when they gave it back they sliced off six more acres.
In the March 11 issue, I was quoted saying, "This is a fait accompli." I don't think it is! Metro Transit told us it was a fait accompli when they introduced the plans. At public meetings, distraught citizens lined up to protest. We want our transit system improved, but taking the Common from its citizens without consultation is poor governance. It's an unfair position to put them in. We want to discuss alternative locations and plans.
The most common argument is "Look at the Wilderness Park. It's a dangerous blight. You don't take care of it." I agree, it isn't taken care of, and maybe it is unsustainable in its current state. Downtown woods are rare and problematic. But what could six acres of park land between the Sportsplex and high school be? How about a sports field, a track, a skate park, a community garden, a playground, a picnic area or an outdoor classroom---all with a view of our city's harbour?
It wasn't public consultation that changed the terminal's orientation. It was an engineering decision. To say it's a result of consultation, is like saying the people of Africville were consulted, and they prefer to be relocated downtown rather than out to the suburbs. It's misleading, and so are the Dartmouth Common Master Plans of 1977, 1990 and 2010. They are public appeasement strategies, they are a master scam and they cost taxpayers thousands in consultation fees.
This moment in time is an important juncture for downtown Dartmouth. Dartmouth High is being renovated, the Sportsplex is expanding, the waterfront is developing and a new terminal is being built. Maybe one day, people from Halifax will catch the bus over to Dartmouth to visit our Common and we'll discuss new issues that challenge our city together, overlooking our harbour.
But we need the help of Haligonians now! Dartmouth's identity is at stake and we love Dartmouth (and we love Metro Transit too). —Mike Cosgrove, Dartmouth