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Here's what happened at Halifax Regional Council this week

Plus the budget committee and the committee of the whole.

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Not a nocturne exhibit. - THE COAST
  • The Coast
  • Not a nocturne exhibit.
Halifax's standing committee, budget committee and regional council met this week. All three entities are made up of the same people: 16 councillors and the mayor. But each is tasked with different objectives within HRM.

You can follow along with everything that happened at the meeting here:

The meeting began with the committee of the whole finishing up a discussion that started in November, looking at a long list of requests for staff reports and making the decision whether to keep it on the table in HRM, or let it go.

The point of this exercise, which happens every four years with each new council, is to ensure HRM staff are working away at things that are still relevant to the current council and HRM.

Councillors suggested items from this list of outstanding staff reports they thought HRM could kill, which was compiled into this list. Council yesterday debated and discussed the narrowed down list, removing some items but keeping the majority on the table.  Council removed: a 2015 motion from Waye Mason about a parks and recreation framework—other planning docs made it redundant; a proposal for redevelopment of the former Memorial Library building with analysis of a P3 (AKA Public-Private Partnerships); a staff report about approval of the proposed football stadium; and a motion for temporary bike lanes—removed in favour of staff focusing on permanent bike lanes among a couple of others.

Staying on the list but put forward for removal was a motion from Lindell Smith about looking into sobering centres—a "far more humane" alternative to drunk tanks. Paul Russell originally asked it be considered for removal. In February 2020, when Smith first brought the idea forward, Russell said that "The first drink when someone is sober is always intentional and they know what they’re doing,” taking the stance that addiction and living with substance use are moral failings and not medical conditions worthy of empathetic treatment and harm-reduction approaches. At the recent meeting, Russell said he had changed his mind, so the staff report lived to see another day.

Then it was time for a budget meeting, which had a list of capital projects that staff were ready enough to move forward with they released them early–intent on giving businesses a heads up on potential projects and hoping to remove some of the lag that comes when the money for the projects is finally freed up after (and if) approved by council, which won't happen until April.

CAO Jacques Dubé then gave a presentation to council with the strategic framework for the municipality. It was pretty high level, laying out four strategic priority areas (prosperous economy, communities, integrated mobility and environment), and then councillors spent a good hour talking about how traffic is the thing they hear the most complaints about.

Then it was on to regional council, with no big-name agenda items and an attended-by-no-members-of-the-public public hearing. Of note: A staff report for by-laws around blasting rock in residential areas was requested; trail-adjacent groups are now eligible for both relevant grant programs, not just one of them; council approved some housekeeping updates to the transit rules, confirming that transit is free for kids 12 and under and will look into discount rates for bulk buys of tickets to help out non-profits and promotional events; and soon, you'll be able to donate to United Way after you've paid for parking at a new meter in Halifax.

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