Committee of the Whole, Jan. 12, 2021
Meeting recap (the important stuff):
Committee of the Whole met yesterday to decide which reports requested by previous council staff should keep working on. Of the over one hundred reports staff is working on for council, they debated keeping or removing a handful.
City staff will no longer be working on a report for the stadium since the stadium proposal is dead. The report on redeveloping Cogswell was axed since anything the report recommended would be out of step with the ongoing development plans for the area. Council also decided to nix a report about ‘tactical bike lanes,’ aka temporary bike lanes, since that was a response to COVID and in the future council wants staff to focus on permanent bike infrastructure.
They also voted to not get a report on disaster relief. After the Beirut explosion, the city of Halifax collectively felt it was the right thing to do to send help since Beiruit took the unfortunate title from Halifax as home of the largest man-made non-nuclear explosion. But councillors felt that foreign aid isn’t the job of a city, and a formalized process wasn’t necessary, so they shouldn’t spend time and money coming up with a policy framework to do it.
Councillors kept reports on quiet fireworks, pest control, preventing bull riding.
Councillor Russell was the primary objector to two reports, one for a report on sobering centres, and one to increase the city’s towing capacity. For the sobering centres, he changed his mind and supported it. This decision was lauded by Councillor Blackburn as it’s important to the work she and the others on the Board of Police Commissioners are doing.
However, Russell maintained his opposition to the city looking at towing saying he didn’t believe the government should be doing things that private companies can do.
Both of those reports are staying.
Who said what (paraphrased):
Savage: Welcome, we’re going to have a Committee of the Whole meeting, a Budget meeting, and then the regular council meeting.
*Roll call and pleasantries*
Savage: First, review of report requests. Which was deferred from Nov. 10, 2020. Can I get an update from staff on this?
CAO (Jacques Dubé): When a new council gets elected we ask the new council to see if the reports of the last council are still relevant to the new one.
Hendsbee: Should we go through this list one by one? Jumping around seems inefficient. Some are done, some are in progress, and some are the same as the others.
Staff: That’s not a bad idea.
Hendsbee: I’ll make the motion to go down the list one by one.
Savage: Can’t we just go down the list? Haven’t we already done that? Can someone put the motion on the floor?
Cleary: (Reads the motion for agenda item 4 as written) We went through this process once, do we need to do this again? Based on submission by councillors to remove reports, how did this motion get weaned down? I recommended we remove more than this.
Staff: They were the ones removed by council before making it to this committee. This list is all of the reports that councillors wanted to remove.
Savage: Can we amend this to make it all of the reports that councillors requested removed?
Cleary: *Amends it*
Hendsbee: This is what I’m talking about, I want to avoid this.
Mason: Point of order, you don’t have the floor. But I also want to do this. Has staff parsed the list of reports to be removed?
Staff: I’ll put it in the chat.
Purdy: On the list that circulated last night there were two that were important for my district, do we have an opportunity to petition to get them considered?
Savage: Yes, that’s what we’re doing now.
Staff: What are the reports?
Purdy: 70 and 71, fireworks and rodent control.
Savage: Staff, why are they on the list?
Staff: We’ve been working on the pest management plan and it’s nearing completion. It’s a three part, very large report, in its draft stages right now.
Savage: My inclination is to just deal with reports as they come up, and not go through it as Hendsbee suggested. We’re taking off 1, 2b, 16, 23, 37, 55, 61, 67, 70, 71, 80, 96, 98, 104 and 105. Those along with-
Smith: Point of order? What are we working off right now? It’s not clear what we’re working on and what we’re doing.
Staff: In the meeting chat, you’ll see the numbers of the reports that councillors believe are no longer required, so you’re deciding if you want to remove them. Purdy has asked for 70 and 71 to remain.
Kent: The list of numbers you just spouted off, which list is that? I’m having technical issues following what we’re doing because I can’t see the list that staff and Councillor Russell have posted.
Russell: It’s just the list of numbers associated with the reports we have identified to be removed.
Savage: The list is 1, 2b, 61, 75, plus all these ones in the email Councillor Mason has just re-sent. Let’s start with the two Councillor Purdy wants to keep, 70 and 71.
Russell: The motion implies there’s such a thing as silent fireworks, but they don’t exist so I don’t think we need a report on it. (Fact check: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/silent-fireworks/)
Hendsbee: If we went through the list in order we’d be through it.
Savage: No we wouldn’t.
Hendsbee: ‘Silent fireworks’ is just the terminology for quieter fireworks. I just got an email from Barcelona, Spain, asking about the status of this fireworks report because they’re dealing with this too. I think it should stay on.
Purdy: The feedback from my district indicates fireworks are becoming a huge problem. Last year it was almost every night and New Year’s Eve it started at 5pm and went to 1am. At the very least we need to let people know we’re working on this. We should keep it.
Cleary: The motion speaks to city events, but sends a message to residents who are setting off fireworks that we’re starting to look into this.
Savage: Do we need a vote on this? Let’s pretend we’re in chambers and do a voice vote. Should we keep 70?
Voice vote – Keep it.
Savage: On to 71.
Kent: I want it to remain. Rats are getting worse. Can I amend this report request? Or do I need to do something later on? I’m just unfamiliar with the process.
Savage: You’d have to come back later for that. Keep 71?
Voice vote – Keep it
Savage: Okay, here’s the plan. We go through the list put forward by councillors, and then, should we need to, go through the rest of the list if we need to. Does everyone have the list that was sent out last night? Okay, then let’s go. Starting with number 10.
Outhit: 10 and 12 are already done.
Mancini: 12 is on our council agenda for today!
Hendsbee: 65 too!
(You can follow along with these numbers here: https://www.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/city-hall/regional-council/COW%20-%20210112cow04.pdf)
Savage: 16 then? It’s an in camera item.
Hendsbee: If we take it off do we still have conversations with our community partners?
Voice vote – Remove 16
Savage: 23, Cogswell redevelopment?
Voice vote – Remove 23
Austin: We just voted on it, but do we need this? I don’t have the background to know if it’s still tied into the stuff we needed?
Mason: That’s why I’m on the speaker’s list. I may have lost the thread, we’re talking about 23? There are two lots under construction on Cogswell, we want them to rebuild the street in accordance with our plan, not the way it was built in 1967, so we need to keep this. It’s more timely than ever.
Savage: New vote? Or can I just put it on the keeper list? 23 is back on the list. Number 37?
Austin: It can go.
Voice vote – Remove 37
Savage: On to 55.
Russell: This looks like it’s a report to prohibit one act. But it doesn’t really make sense so I think we should get rid of it.
Cleary: There’s a whole history to this, it deals with animal acts in facilities we own. There used to be bull riding acts in the Metro Centre. And we don’t want to, as a city, participate in harming animals. So we want to get rid of bull riding, but don’t want to come down on show dogs or agility dogs. So I think we should keep it.
Hendsbee: If Spain got rid of their bullfighting, we can get rid of our bull riding.
Russell: I don’t think this report is asking for what it says it’s asking for.
Hendsbee: What happens to the Ag shows about calf roping or sheep herding? So I agree with Russell, we should get a report on this.
Russell: I want to not get a report on this.
Savage: Just a reminder we’re arguing in the positive to maintain the negative.
Deagle-Gammon: I want to see it remain.
Mason: It’s talking about bull riding because that was the issue, but includes Ag considerations. I’ll be supporting this.
Voice Vote – Keep the report (Russell only dissenter)
Savage: 61, stadium site selection.
Russell: The stadium is dead, so why do we need a site for it?
Cleary: Ditto. I voted against this report and the stadium. It’s a waste of time for staff.
Voice vote – No report on stadium site
Savage: 67, feasibility of sobering centres.
Russell: I’ve changed my opinion on this, I want to keep this report.
Blackburn: Happy to hear we’ll be moving forward with this. It’s crucial to the work we’re doing on the Board of Police Commissioners.
(67 will get a report with no objections. No objection, no vote)
Savage: 80, tactical bike lanes.
Cleary: This was a result of COVID, we wanted to make it safer to move around outside, but city staff just rocked it. And we’re falling behind on permanent bike/walking infrastructure. So I’d rather they work on permanent bike lanes instead of these temp ones from the report.
Voice vote – No report on tactical bike lanes
Savage: 96, Blue Mountain-Birch Cove.
Cleary: We were on a Blue Mountain-Birch Cove streak at council, but I think this report is a bit premature. I think we need more information about the park before we form a committee for it.
Austin: I don’t think we should remove it. I think Cleary is right, and there are challenges, but I think our staff can handle it and I don’t think we should restrict them.
Lovelace: I think it should stay on the list, people are using the area right now, so we need to be providing guidance.
Mason: Our district has the Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee, and there are a lot of committees and they don’t do a lot of work. I think we need a regional parks committee instead of a committee for each park. But I’m not going to do anything about this right now. The smaller community committees start out gangbusters and then run out of things to do.
Cuttell: I think we need this report because we need to consider what our priorities are, and we want to engage with the communities we represent. If we change how we do park committees in the future, then we can do that here too.
Stoddard: I think it’s important to get this report, it’s important to the trail groups and people in my community to have this. A lot of the volunteers who’ve been maintaining the trials are burning out due to our inaction on this.
Voice vote – Keep the report
Savage: 98, renewing land leases.
Cleary: This was a reaction to a stance the province was taking to negotiations, and we voted for it because he was on the way out the door. He just wanted to send a message to the province, but we, who are still councillors, need to negotiate with the province.
Cuttell: In my district, there’s a ballpark that the city maintains, but it’s provincial land, and it’s unclear who’s responsible for maintaining that now that the lease is up. I do think we need a report about this, I don’t know that this report is going to come back with, but I do know we need more information.
Kent: I also want it to remain. I would hope the report would identify the land-lease issues in our district, and our relationship with the province is pretty one sided. Relationships are important, but not a lot has happened in dialogue with the province.
Morse: I’ve had the same issue as Cuttell around Kearney Lake.
Deagle-Gammon: I’d like to see it stay, the staff reports are so valuable for new councillors to get the information they need.
Voice vote – Keep the report
Savage: Item 104, disaster relief requests evaluation.
Russell: It came out of the disaster in Lebanon, for a century we’ve had the record for the largest non-nuclear man-made explosion in the world and they took it. This report set out the criteria for how to help other municipalities and it’s out of our mandate. This is a once in a century thing, and there are more important things for our staff to work on.
Cleary: This is my motion, but it was a staff suggestion because if ever a request came through like this, they wanted a framework. I didn’t really want it at the time, and I’m 50/50 on it now.
Austin: I’m with Cleary, but can we find out how much work, if any has been done on this.
CAO: We’ve looked at this, it’s a difficult policy thing to do, so it may be better served as a one off as required, and not making a framework.
Voice vote – No report
Savage: In-house towing.
Russell: This comes from cars being illegally parked, especially during the winter parking ban. But this would essentially be deputizing tow truck drivers. And I think we should tow more cars, and our current process is slow, but I don’t think this is something the city should do.
Mason: I want to keep it, there’s a reason the Halifax bridge commission has bought their own tow truck. We have a bit of a market failure, we don’t have enough tow trucks. We also have very narrow streets, and we tend to need more towing. I’d like to keep this on the list.
Cleary: Ditto Mason. But to Russell’s concerns, tow truck drivers can’t just move things willy-nilly under the current laws. This report is just looking at the business case. There’s a gap in our winter service and this is just looking at this map.
Hendsbee: As for the bridge commission towing, they just tow off the bridge, and then let a private company move it after it’s off the bridge. But I think we have an issue with our towing contracts, I think we need a list, or rotation, or something. It should be more than just looking at in-house towing.
Russell: What happens to cars when they get towed? The lots are all over the place. The towing companies can do it, they have the capacity, and if they don’t have the capacity we should build it up. I don’t think the government should do things that private companies can do.
Savage: In chat, Hendsbee suggested cars get towed to park and rides and booted, but I’m not sure about that. Anyways, vote?
Voice vote – Keeping the report
Lovelace: Can we get a sense of the progress that’s been done on these reports? It seems like a lost opportunity to cancel a report that’s 80 per cent done. Can we have that consideration added for this process in the future?
Hendsbee: Two of the reports are about elections, two are about public engagement, can they be combined? Or done in tandem? Can we remove 65? It’s on our council agenda for today. Can I get an update on 62? I thought the St. Patrick’s rectory heritage process was done?
CAO: We’d have to get back to the councillor offline about that.
Savage: Can we get an update on what reports were removed?
Staff: 1, 2b, 16, 37, 61, 80 and 104.
Hendsbee: With regard to 84, do we still need HalifACT 2050? Should we remove 87? Since no one’s travelling with COVID?
Savage: We dealt with that at council already?
Staff: Correct, so it doesn’t need to be removed, since it’s done.
Hendsbee: 91? It’s on the agenda too.
Savage: These will come off as they’re dealt with at council.
Cleary: Should I read the amended motion? Or are we assuming that we all know it?
Savage: The question!
M/S/C – Vote – Unanimous – Aye
Savage: We’re going to move on to our next session, but we will break at lunch.
Councillor Kathy Deagle-Gammon (District 1)
Councillor David Hendsbee (District 2)
Councillor Trish Purdy (District 4)
Councillor Sam Austin (District 5)
Councillor Tony Mancini (District 6)
Councillor Waye Mason (District 7)
Councillor Lindell Smith (District 8)
Councillor Shawn Cleary (District 9)
Councillor Kathryn Morse (District 10)
Councillor Patty Cuttell (District 11)
Councillor Iona Stoddard (District 12)
Councillor Pam Lovelace (District 13)
Councillor Lisa Blackburn (District 14)
Councillor Paul Russell (District 15)
Councillor Tim Outhit (District 16)
N/A – COVID
Previous meeting minutes and current agenda:
A former Naval Officer turned journalist, Matt Stickland is committed to empowering his community to ensure that everyone has access to the information they need to make their city a better place.
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