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Halifax council not interested in defunding police

During election szn, some councillors said they supported it. Come budget time, they backtracked.

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This week Halfiax’s budget committee voted on the police budget, but talks about how HRM spends its money on policing have been buzzing for more than a year–since El Jones’s presentation on defunding the police to the Board of Police Commissioners in January 2020, to a global movement demanding the police and prison industrial complexes are dismantled. 

Back in October, when citizens of Halifax were deciding who to vote for in the municipal election, The Coast asked every candidate a long list of yes or no questions. On the subject of defunding the police, here’s how the eventual winners–now our elected representatives–voted.

Should Halifax defund the police? 

District 1 - Cathe Deagle-Gammon - Yes 

District 2 - David Hendsbee - No 

District 3 - Becky Kent - No 

District 4 - Trish Purdy - Didn’t answer survey

District 5 - Sam Austin - Yes 

District 6 - Tony Mancini - No 

District 7 - Waye Mason - No 

District 8 - Lindell Smith - Yes 

District 9 - Shawn Cleary - Yes 

District 10 - Kathryn Morse - No 

District 11 - Patty Cuttell - Didn’t answer survey 

District 12 - Iona Stoddard - No 

District 13 - Pam Lovelace - No 

District 14 - Lisa Blackburn - Yes 

District 15 - Paul Russell - Didn’t answer survey 

District 16 - Tim Outhit - No 

Mayor - Mike Savage - No 

Then on Wednesday, after a staff presentation and two presentations from the public (both of which argued against increases to the budget) here’s now Halifax’s budget committee actually voted on a $2.3 million increase to Halifax Regional Police’s budget: 

District 1 - Cathe Deagle-Gammon - Yes 

District 2 - David Hendsbee - Yes 

District 3 - Becky Kent - Yes 

District 4 - Trish Purdy - Yes

District 5 - Sam Austin - Yes 

District 6 - Tony Mancini - Yes 

District 7 - Waye Mason - Yes

District 8 - Lindell Smith - Yes 

District 9 - Shawn Cleary - Yes 

District 10 - Kathryn Morse - Yes 

District 11 - Patty Cuttell - Yes 

District 12 - Iona Stoddard -Yes 

District 13 - Pam Lovelace - Absent

District 14 - Lisa Blackburn - Absent

District 15 - Paul Russell - Yes

District 16 - Tim Outhit - Yes 

Mayor - Mike Savage - Yes 

Yeah, NOBODY voted against increasing the HRP budget. And when it came to increasing the RCMP’s budget by $1.5 million, only one councillor voted against: 

District 1 - Cathe Deagle-Gammon - Yes 

Distric 2 - David Hendsbee - Yes 

District 3 - Becky Kent - Yes 

District 4 - Trish Purdy - Yes

District 5 - Sam Austin - Yes 

District 6 - Tony Mancini - Yes 

District 7 - Waye Mason - Yes

District 8 - Lindell Smith - Yes 

District 9 - Shawn Cleary - No

District 10 - Kathryn Morse - Yes 

District 11 - Patty Cuttell - Yes 

District 12 - Iona Stoddard -Yes 

District 13 - Pam Lovelace - Absent

District 14 - Lisa Blackburn - Absent

District 15 - Paul Russell - Yes

District 16 - Tim Outhit - Yes 

Mayor - Mike Savage - Yes 

That means councillors Deagle-Gammon, Austin, Smith and Cleary changed their minds on police defunding in the days between election season and now–and we don’t know if Blackburn, who during the campaign said the city should defund the police, would have flipped her vote, because she was absent from the meeting. Cleary does get avery teeny tiny consolation prize for voting against an increase to the RCMP budget. 

Both police organizations the city funds stated the budget increases are the result of union contracts and necessary spending. But an increase is an increase, and it sends a significant message from council considering more people reached out to councillors about the issue of police reform this summer than any other topic, according to one councillor.

At this stage in the budget process, councillors are going through each business unit, hearing their needs and fielding requests for money that goes above what HRM finance has allowed as an increase. Those requests get pushed onto a Budget Adjustment List, more often called the “parking lot.” The budget committee voted Wednesday to move three of HRM’s four extra requests to the parking lot: A 12-month contract for a body-worn camera project coordinator, that’d cost $85,000; $60,000 for Journey to Change training, which Kinsella has said is needed to implement some of the Wortley report recommendations; and $85,00 for a court dispositions clerk. The $100,000 ask for an online training technician was abandoned, along with the RCMP’s extra request for a new officer position–though this vote was a close one. 

Those three items will be voted on later in the budget process, during a more nuts-and-bolts conversation about how they’ll actually be paid for–whether that’s increasing the tax rates, taking on more debt or cutting funding for something else. 

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