Halifax City hall through the memorial arch
Budget Committee

HRM’s budget finalized

Councillors help Walmart to send a message to you that they care
 | April 22, 2021

Budget Committee, April 21-22, 2021

Meeting recap (the important stuff):

HRM Council put the finishing touches on the budget today. Property taxes are going up a little bit, and most of the budget increases, including controversial police increases, were included. Blue bag pickup service will also be reduced to bi-weekly, for the people in the city who currently have weekly recycling collection. 

The Budget Committee meeting started off with 27 speakers, 18 of which were speaking out against the police body cam budget over. Most of the speakers said the research has already been done and that body cameras don’t change police behaviour and when it comes to being used as evidence it only tends to help the police. The speakers also said a study was done five years ago and the police should not be the ones doing the study to see if they get body cams. Councillors pushed back against the speakers saying police body cams will be in the city anyways because the RCMP now has them. Most councillors felt they were able to support this decision because it was just looking for information and they support evidence based policy making. Councillor Purdy asked if she could not vote first to see how others were voting on this issue before making up her mind, which wasn’t allowed as a matter of procedure. Councillors Cuttell, Mason and Stoddard were the only ones to vote against this increased police spending. 

The other public speakers were there to advocate to not have bus route 55 change, which would go through the Craigburn subdivision where they all live. They cited many concerns which could be applied to any bus on any residential street, as Austin pointed out in the debate. Although, one woman expressed concern that people on the bus on their street increases “stranger danger.” Austin continued to say that if there was a genuine concern with service he’d support it but their complaints were essentially that they didn’t physically want a bus on their street. This debate devolved to the point where Councillor Kent felt the need to use a point of privilege to express concerns that other councillors were “mansplaining” and generally bullying the newer councillors. The rookie councillors expressed concern there was never a good time to bring stuff like this up, and every time they do the veteran councillors tell them to bring it up at a more appropriate venue. It was a tight vote failing eight votes to nine, but route 55, in November, will turn around on Craigburn Drive. 

One of the other big debates from this budget meeting was the reduction in blue bag recycling pickup. (As an aside, I’m a rural resident of the HRM. My bluebag pickup is bi-weekly, and has been forever. It was infuriating to hear councillors say they just couldn’t abide by their residents paying taxes for decreased services, when I pay taxes and the decreased service is just my normal service, anywho!) This debate was also heated and unlike other debates that usually have well defined splits, like the urban/rural split, this one didn’t. Initially the councillors advocating for a return to weekly blue bag service were folks who had a lot of complaints about it. This change will affect the duration of the five year contracts which switched councillors like Cuttell’s vote to a nay. Ultimately the motion passed and blue bags will be picked up bi-weekly for the next five years. Councillors Lovelace, Hendsbee, Austin, Mancini, Mason, Smith, Cleary, Morse and Mayor Savage ultimately voted in favour of rural resident blue bag solidarity.  

There was a medium sized debate about giving the CAO Jaques Dubé money to hire people to complete the big projects, like HalifACT, the city has on the go. Mason put forward the motion and has said repeatedly throughout this process said that if the city is serious about it’s ambitious plans it needs to spend money and hire people to get it done. There was a lot of hesitation on the part of councillors to give the CAO money without strings attached and the debate eventually became councillors asking for the same numbers over and over in different ways. They ultimately decided to pass an amended motion with strings attached in a tight vote, with Councillors Russell, Deagle-Gammon, Kent, Purdy, Mancini, Cuttell and Mayor Savage voting against. It’s worth noting that when it was proposed initially by the CAO he said it was within his power to just hire these people as needed, and likely would be anyway, but was just coming to council for transparency purposes.   

And finally, the last big debate at the end of the meeting was whether or not to lower the rate at which property tax will go up from 1.9 per cent to 1.5 per cent. For the average household in the HRM this represents an increase in annual property taxes of $27 instead $38. In a follow up question by Councillor Cuttell, it was revealed that the median household increase (i.e. what most of us would actually pay) would be a lot lower because the average is inflated by a small number of expensive houses. Councillor Purdy and Mayor Savage were adamant that even though it’s not a lot of money, it sends the message that the city cares. Councillor Austin said he couldn’t support the motion because it’s not targeted help. The impacts of COVID have not been equal and this tax decrease is an across the board decrease. He said it would help the Walmarts of the world who had phenomenal years and wouldn’t help people who need it in any meaningful way. Mayor Savage and Councillors Purdy, Mancini, Smith, Cleary, Cuttell, Stoddard, Lovelace, Blackburn, Russell, Outhit, Deagle-Gammon, Hendsbee and Kent voted to send the message to you that they care, but in doing so tangibly helped the Walmarts of the world. 

Full list of budget adjustments:     

Who said what (paraphrased): 

Russell: First up, public participation. 

Karen Gross: I’m speaking today on two police items on the budget adjustment list. I don’t think these efforts at police reform will do anything. The HRP has consistently shown to be dishonest with the BOPC. *My sound cut out weirdly and is now back, missed ~30 seconds* Yesterday you approved a plan to look at police services but it won’t be done until 2022, this is much slower than other cities. Hamilton’s taking police out of schools by 2022. Toronto’s changing the way they’re responding to 911 calls for wellness checks. The HRM is more heavily policed than Toronto, how long does it figure out that we don’t need to be more policed than Toronto? 13 of you said you wanted police reform, what are you doing about it? I appreciate the process and I know you’re under pressure to meet police demands but there are better ways. I’ve seen police escalate a conflict in order to arrest someone. Police cause harm. You’ve been elected to represent the public and an overwhelming number have asked you to defund the police, please do so today. 

Laura Conrod: I’m speaking up today against additional funding to the HRP. Their budget is $88 million, how is it the HRP can’t fund these projects with their budget? Where’s the oversight in their spending? The BOPC is currently looking at defunding the police, why would you approve this before waiting for committee to do their work? I’m also disappointed in the decision to pursue body cameras, it doesn’t make sense with the body of evidence. In increasing police funding you’re disrespecting the process of the BOPC looking at defunding the police. 

Kate Powe (they/them): I just want to echo previous comments, I’m asking that you not include the two police items on the budget this year. There’s been an outpouring of support for defunding the police and I think in supporting these you’re going against your constituent’s wishes. There’s an opportunity to be bold in Halifax and we’re asking you be bold. Also, body cams don’t work, we know that, so studying them is a waste of money. There’s a lot of people calling in here who don’t normally do this and you should take note of it.  

Lou Campbell (they/them): I live right down the street from the police station. I have firm opposition to the police budget adjustment lists. As the previous speakers have said there’s lots of evidence out there saying body cameras aren’t effective. They aren’t effective for public safety, they don’t stop the police from abusing people. There was a filmed altercation last month and that police officer, as far as I know, is still employed. It doesn’t make sense to me to spend money on that report. The RCMP position to investigate complaints. I don’t think it’s effective for police to investigate police, it seems ineffective, and the money could be spent in so many better places. It’s upsetting to be increasing a budget of $88 million, there’s no trust in the community, we need to respect that and the huge public outcry and think on what public safety means. The police are not increasing public safety. Thank you for your time. 

Russell: The chat is only for councillors, please don’t use it if you’re a member of the public. It’s for the process of the meeting. But I will take you off the speakers list. 

Avery Dakin: I’m speaking today against the additional funding to the HRP and it’s pretty obvious why. I think you’ve seen the reaction. Their budget is $88 million, it’s a lot that could already be redirected to public services that are already lacking. We’re in a housing crisis, people are starving on our streets, and the police have a mounted unit of one horse and one rider? While we’re assessing the role of police in our society we need to rethink police. We’ve seen a video of the police yelling at an unarmed Black man. I don’t think we can trust the police with public safety and what that future should look like. I won’t call the police if there’s someone in my community who’s struggling. There’s better social services we can spend this money on. 

Kaela Fraser: I also agree with Avery and not allocating more funds to the police. I agree with what they were saying about increased funding to housing. Where I live in the South End people without housing have been knocking on windows because they were cold. There’s a need for better services for unhoused people, especially if they’re walking around looking for warmth in the winter. We’ve seen the video of the HRP threatening a Black man, I don’t trust the HRP. I don’t think there’s adequate training for them to even carry firearms, and more training probably won’t help that. Increasing police funds won’t help the same way increasing social services would. 

Sadie Beaton: I don’t think council should be entertaining increased police training, the urgent need to defund police departments has never been more clear. You have a committee working on what it would mean or look like to defund the police. I hope you’d at least wait for their analysis before any kind of increase to the police. It seems disrespectful to the process. One easy way to save some money is to listen to the people who are heavily policed. They’ve been telling you in so many ways there needs to be defunding of the police. We know police cameras don’t change police behaviour. I strongly oppose any additional funding to the police services.  

Rachel Derrah: I glad I found out about this, I’m echoing what people have said today. I’m feeling angry that we’re even talking about funding the police when defunding the police is so urgent. If you ask any random person you’ll hear ideas about what defunding the police could look like. I’m just an upset citizen, that we’re considering increased funding at all. Increased funding for the police to police themselves is ludicrous. The street checks loophole still hasn’t been closed, we’re just looking for accountability. I’m feeling disappointed and it’s kind of shameful for them to be asking for money. Just shameful. 

Robin Tress: I too am talking about police funding. There’s documented evidence that body cameras don’t change police behaviour, I have studies, they were presented to Natalie Borden last summer. The idea of spending money to find out if body cams are useful for the HRP makes me laugh because otherwise it would make me cry. There are no measurable effects of body cams. In Washington, they looked at police body cams and it did not impact anything. In Australia, police violence went up. And right after the Chauvin verdict body cam footage of the police killing a 16 year old Black girl was released. This study will just increase police funding. I barely know how to make a coherent argument about the police monitoring themselves, it’s ridiculous, any other public institution has outside scrutiny. Time and time again we see the police doing a bad job at that. Defund the police means reducing funding, not increasing funding. And there are several processes looking at defunding the police ongoing in Halifax right now, why is this even being considered? One thing I want to stress to councillors is that this is a decision, you today are making choices. I urge you today to make the right choices and work towards defunding the police. 

Madelaine Higgins: Thanks to my fellow Haligonians for showing up, I think this an unprecedented level of community engagement. The police have requested these increases, but at the same time have defunded Victims Services by $50,000. There’s asking for increased funding for workers comp and self-investigation but defunding Victims Services. The police don’t keep databases for DNA of rape kits. The funding the police get to do polygraph testing, the results can’t be used in court (they totally can, it’s a bamboozle). Taxpayers are spending money on coercion with polygraphs. The mounted unit is getting more money than Victims Services, more money for horses than people. Body cams don’t prevent violence they record it, our officers should not be going around with weapons of execution on them. Body cams tend to bolster police defences because it’s not unbiased, it’s first person perspective. The goal of policing we can say is to increase community safety, but they don’t. I’ve had violent and traumatizing experiences with police as early as 8, and I’m white and privileged, I can’t even imagine what it’s like for others. Our housing crisis could use this money. I would like to advocate for professional liability insurance for police and we can use early warning indicators to make sure they’re performing well in the community. Other professional industries require it, so should the police. 

Alex Mann: I also have concerns about the increased policed funding. I don’t support any increase to police funding. The body cam study is a waste of money. A report on body cams in other cities doesn’t mean that’s how they’ll be used here. I’m concerned about who will get access to the tapes, and the HRP is notorious for not sharing their policies, so we won’t know who’s accessing these tapes or why. Having body worn cams doesn’t lead to increased transparency or accountability. I don’t trust that a report compiled by the HRP will be honest. There are dozens of studies that have been done on this topic with inconsistent findings, it would be very easy for the police to cherry pick what they want. The fact that the HRP is claiming they need to be recorded and monitored to treat people correctly isn’t encouraging. Body cams are going to be a huge amount of money that could be better used elsewhere. Body cams will only further inflate the HRP budget. The BOPC looking at defunding the police while increasing funding seems insincere but surely defunding doesn’t mean giving the HRP more money than last year. 

Caitlin O’Neill: I’m strongly opposed to the increase to police funding. This is my first time speaking at city council because I feel very strongly about this. As everyone has said the HRP has an $88 million budget, given the current realities of COVID if they feel this is truly necessary, I disagree, but if they must, they should take it from their budget. They can get rid of their horse. We’re not asking for the police to get more funding and surveillance. With the use of Stingray trust has been broken in this city, it went on for three years and we didn’t know. Body cams can have built in facial recognition and the HRP has demonstrated they can’t be trusted, like with the Stingray. Based on my work I know these cameras are expensive. If can’t trust them to do their jobs without cameras how can we trust them at all? The CBC looked at the RCMP and found over 18 years there were 461 cases where the RCMP abused BIPOC communities and there were two people punished. They can’t police themselves. The street check report has examples of cops facing retribution when they try and call out other bad behaviour in their ranks. They don’t have a culture that will allow them to improve themselves, it seems like it’s actively discouraged. There are better things to spend money on if you have $150,000 to spare. Police respond to harm but cause more harm in doing so. 

Tonya Hoddinott: I was planning on not attending but after listening in I agree with everyone. During COVID the budget for Victims Services was slashed but domestic and familial violence has gone through the roof, so the fact that budget was dropped during the pandemic shows their interventions, helping victims, is not at the forefront of the HRP’s mind. And compensation for officers went up while Victims Services went down. They looked after themselves instead of public safety. Hiring the RCMP to write a report about the RCMP is basically nonsense at this point. Time and time again we hear these reports but nothing happens in the HRP unless citizens hold them accountable. I’m asking you to decide today based on the fact that we’ve kept on showing up and the police are unwilling to do it themselves. The body cam company that’s monopolized the States is keeping the data from body cams, which is then used to further track people. The community is showing up and trying to keep HRP accountable but we need the support of our councillors.

Katie Whitlock (they/them): I’m a Bedford resident and have been working and paying taxes for 14 years. I’ve come into contact with HRP and RCMP in a variety of professional settings. I’ve seen violence, racial discrimination, a lack of empathy. This is being exacerbated by politicians and a “few bad apples.” The police are asking for money to do a study on body cams but the BOPC have already received a report on body worn cameras. They don’t work. It’s my strong belief that the police should not receive increased funding.

Steph Clarke (she/they): I’m speaking against additional funding for the police. I don’t understand why the HRP can’t fund this report from their budget. The police do not prevent crime, they show up after it happens and usually make it worse. Preventing crime comes from social services that could all use increased funding. The HRP has never done harm reduction or crime prevention. They abuse their power and have zero positive impact. Why are we required to pay for our own harassment and torture? 

Meghan Leary: I’m echoing what everyone on this call has said. I’m against the police increases. It’s unethical to hire within an industry to investigate its own wrongdoings, no one else does it because you can’t do it without bias. We can’t trust the police forces in Canada to hold itself accountable. Where are the good apples? There have not been many examples that prove that this is taking place. The use of body worn cameras is not an effective measure and creates a biased perspective when used as evidence. It won’t increase public safety in any way. If there were to be hires, they should be independent of the police. There are so many better places to spend this money. We’re in a public health crisis and there are places in this city that could use this additional funding. I also think police should have personal liability insurance, it would be a good way to use the funding already in the police to hold them accountable and ensure safety of the members of our community. I urge you to listen to this outcry, if we can’t rely on our police force, hopefully we can rely on our councillors. 

Charyl Scotland: I’m a lifelong resident of the city of Dartmouth. We weren’t aware of the changes to Craigburn Drive. We were shocked and reached out to Steve Streatch but we didn’t see anything. Streatch told us we’d hear from Halifax Transit, and we did, and were told we were consulted. We weren’t. In 2015 when the survey was done for Craigburn, 100+ people responded to the survey saying they don’t want it to happen. We weren’t made aware of pop up consultations and we didn’t hear anything so we thought it was dead. Never once was the bus going to be leaving Waverly Road. We didn’t think it was a possibility. Fisher didn’t tell us what was happening because he was running for the federal Liberals. Then we got moved to district 1 and we have nothing in common with the rest of district 1. We never got a newsletter from Streatch. We got stuff from Mancini. The two of them had a gentleman’s agreement but didn’t know about the transit committee meeting we should have attended. Please do not approve this bus change and let’s make this a moving forward together moment. 

Kate Ryan: I’m wanting to speak on behalf of the parents on Craigburn, there’s a lot of us. We have concerns about the safety aspects of the bus coming through. We’re worried the bus will make the street less safe because we use it a lot for active transportation, biking, rollerblading. All of the traffic is local traffic because it’s not a thoroughfare. The bus won’t be speeding through but there’s a park and soccer field and when our street is used as a turn around we can’t send our children to the park because the bus was coming through, it’s a real safety concern. The fact that our community isn’t a thoroughfare and it’s made us insular and I’m not a big fan of the “stranger danger” of busses coming through. (Uh………..what?)

Sue MacNeil: I’m a longtime resident of Craigburn subdivision. I’m concerned about traffic safety with the changes to route 55. Getting out of Craigburn is hard at the best of times and this will make it more likely for accidents. Going around the bus will be dangerous. Making the right hand turn on to Waverly is dangerous, you have to nose out to see properly and there’s a crosswalk you have to be aware of. 

Myra McKay: My concern is with the kids playing on the street in Craigburn, and there’s a lot of seniors. I’m worried about the sightlines for the bus with the kids playing in the streets and the narrow streets. I’m not sure anyone takes the bus here, except for the people on Waverly. 

Andrea Speranza: I’m a community member of Craigburn, if I can sum up the feelings of the people who signed the petition against the bus route, it would be that we’re disappointed. We’re disappointed that the changes will impact our community and were decided without talking to the community. We rallied 50 people last year and provided hard copies of petitions, and got no response. We asked to speak to Halifax Transit and we were told by their lawyers that it wasn’t necessary. We’re disappointed we had to learn yesterday that we had to sign up to speak today (this information has been public for at least a month). The road is narrow and there are no shoulders or sidewalks. How will people walk safely? There have been numerous accidents on Waverly Road. This change will only save $20,000, what’s a life worth? Will the city be liable for this change? Will our taxes be paying for these lawsuits. Maybe we’ve fallen through the cracks with COVID but we need our councillors to better represent us. We’re asking the city to not make the change to this route and collaborate with us and make new changes to this route.

Outhit: You asked to speak with Transit and HRM lawyers said not to meet with you? 

Speranza: We have it in writing but I don’t have it in front of me right now. 

Outhit: That seems unusual, I’ll look into that further.  

Hendsbee: Are you involved with Camp Courage? 

Speranza: Yes.

Hendsbee: Thanks for your work with that. 

Brenda Holland: I’ve been a resident of Dartmouth for over 38 years and I’m voicing my opinion on the bus route. I’m worried about the noise and pollution from our houses. Our houses aren’t set back enough so the busses will cause stress, hearing loss, depression and sleep loss. These busses will run 16 hours a day. Then you have the exhaust pollution, we’re sucking in all the pollution from these busses (worth noting, another resident said no one takes the bus, so that’s a lot of cars generating exhaust). These busses are in our front yards. 

Nancy Ives: I’ve lived in the Craigburn subdivision for over 20 years, we already have easily accessible bus routes on Waverly. In speaking with my neighbours we have some concerns. In terms of cost, will we have an earlier and more frequent snow clearing? We only have two entrances and exits onto Waverly, and you’ve heard the concerns, has any consideration been given to traffic lights or stop signs to make it safe for the bus? Would that offset the savings of turning onto Craigburn? There’s going to be developments that will increase traffic. On Waverly Road traffic is busy, I think the community has changed in the past five years. Maybe a park’n’ride? We want to work with transit to find a solution but maintain our subdivision as it is. Our kids use the roads to play. I would like council to consider maintaining the current route 55 and maybe change it elsewhere. 

Samantha MacPherson: I want to speak against the increased policed funding. Other people on the call have already made a lot of strong arguments against this. Their budgets are already huge and there are better ways to spend the money. 

Lovelace: We already rejected the RCMP request. Are you aware of which of the police bodies are responding to your concerns in your neighbourhood?

MacPherson: I don’t know, I don’t have many interactions with police because I’m a white woman. I’m trying to support the concerns of other people in our community. 

Lovelace: It’s sometimes unclear which police are policing our community because we have two. 

Doug Colborne: I have concerns about the rerouting of the 55 through our community. I’m worried about the safety concerns of the bus going past the park. It has no fence and the children are used to the minimal traffic and there’s almost zero through traffic. It’s a high activity area by the park, it can have a lot of vehicles stopping by. Halifax Transit concluded that there are no inherent safety risks about travelling on Craigburn but did they take the park into consideration? Did they do any structured or documented analysis? If there was can we have access to these documents for review? It’s logical to conclude a bus will have some level of increased risk to the residents and to the children. Can you state with certainty that there’s no increased risk to the children? 

Frank Beasley: Thanks for the opportunity to speak about route 55. I grew up there and we didn’t have bus service and moved back four years ago because it was a quiet area. When I heard the bus route would be shortened to save a couple thousand I wasn’t a fan of that, I was less of a fan of it being turned around on Craigburn. This makes no sense to me. The busses are pretty good at turning on a dime, the roads are narrow and cars a parked on the street and sometimes cars even have a hard time getting through. Not everyone uses the Dartmouth library but you’re not going to move it if not enough people use it, it doesn’t make sense for a bus. Don’t become irrelevant to our community, that would be a mistake.  

Kara Friesen: The body cams are not a good idea, the video can be cut. I think there’s enough information out there to say they wouldn’t be effective. Police culture needs to be overhauled. Resources would be better spent. HRP should do better with the budget they have. The police should hand out food, not tickets. We need more funding for community programs. 

Brent Moxin: I’m a resident of Craigburn estates. I’m here to speak about the bus changes. This route has been used for over 70 years and Transit says it’s one of the routes with the lowest ridership. The ferry service in Woodside has the lowest ridership, so they eliminated service on Saturday, Sunday and holidays, why not do this on route 55? Lower ridership means lower funds and it’s all about the money. If we could have a meeting with Halifax Transit to discuss our ideas it would be a win. In Nov 2021, stop service on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, don’t lop off the service, don’t reroute it through Craigburn. 

Russell: We don’t seem to have any further public speakers and staff has asked for a ten minute break, but maybe break for lunch and come back at one or before one? I see thumbs up, so let’s break until one o’clock?  

*Break for lunch*

Russell: We have a staff presentation and then discussion. Fraser, the floor is yours.

Fraser: I’m going to go through the process for the rest of the day and where we stand fiscally, here’s the process:

Fraser: How we’re going to fund the adjustment list: one time expenses should be paid with one time revenues and ongoing expenses paid with ongoing revenue. We review our financial situation and see if we can reduce tax rate increases on specific groups. Here’s a brief overview of this list

Fraser: Here’s the rate impact:

Fraser: With the deed transfer tax that means we have a surplus. Tax rate reductions will put pressure on following years. Here’s our plan and recommended changes:

Fraser: When I spoke earlier in the process I said it was a conservative estimate and we’d revise. Here are the assumptions we had:

Fraser: We’re not seeing the growth on the commercial side we had predicted, so we will have gaps. A big savings is not taking out the short team loan. Here’s the history of the deed transfer tax:

Fraser: Because the transfer tax is so volatile and hard to predict we asked CanMac to do an analysis and prediction. That’s the black boxes on top. We’ve been more conservative. Here’s our fiscal plan as of today, if everything gets approved:

Fraser: Insurance costs are increasing (it’s a hard market! I don’t know what this means but play hockey with a lot of insurance brokers. It’s a bad time to be in insurance). 

Fraser: We can use reserves to close the gap, but it’ll get worse in following years. 

Austin: Going back to the rate impact, the impact on the rate is illustrative? It won’t impact the rate if we fund it through deed transfer? 

Fraser: Correct. If the full deed transfer tax goes to all the items, it would reduce the tax increase from $34 dollars to $29, and the tax rate would decrease. 

Austin: The deed transfer, it’s volatile, and it’s good budgeting to finish with extra in the deed transfer account. If we were to fund the budget from the deed transfer, what are we banking on in future years from the deed transfer? 

Fraser: $60 million. 

Austin: What’s the breakdown? Is some of it one time vs ongoing? 

Fraser: Your question is if we don’t hit $60 million, what’s the shortfall? 

Austin: Yes, what’s the risk? 

Fraser: The risk is low, the housing market is red hot. We’re the fastest growing housing market. We could reassess mid-year, we could use reserves, or stop capital, but I’m comfortable with $60 million and our growth prediction is conservative. 

Austin: Long term capital, we have $2 million left if we fund everything, what would the art gallery and Neptune cost? 

Fraser: $100,000 for Neptune, art gallery was $7 million over five years. 

Blackburn: *Sighs deeply* That was a sigh of relief but I feel a lot better having read the report a few times and Austin’s questions about the deed transfer tax. I’m going to put forward a suggested amendment and would like to move to accept the 10 one time overs and capital expenditures to be funded by the deed transfer tax. *Reads the motion* We’ve had a pretty fulsome discussion on one time expenses so I think this is a good way to fund these with limited risk.  

Mason: If there’s something we don’t agree with in this list, can we amend it out instead of nuking the list and starting from scratch? 

Traves: Generally we’re not open to amending the amendment. Breaking it out and voting on it separately during the vote is good though. 

Mason: I support all of this except the body worn cameras, which we’ve heard a lot about today. And we’ve started to hear some excitement about traffic calming. 

Russell: Can you list the 10 items? 

Blackburn: *Reads the 10 one time items*

Russell: Discover Halifax is ongoing now, not a one time, we learned this last night. 

Blackburn: My bad, remove that. 

Mancini: There’s nine items on the list, we talk about the list as whole but then break out for the vote. So how do we debate any one of these items? 

Traves: You are free to debate the motion in its entirety or any specific part of the motion. At any point, any member can ask to have an item voted on individually. 

Mason: I’ve already spoken to this but we should separate the body cam to a separate vote. 

Cleary: I have no issues with most of this. The body cams though, I’m going to vote for the body cam in spite of the correspondence and public speakers, they’re right. There’s no literature to suggest this will change police officer behaviour. But that’s not the only use of the body cam, it can be used for evidentiary purposes. (The speakers today said it benefits the police in evidentiary purposes) But if anyone followed the George Floyd murder, video and body cams were useful in Chauvin’s conviction. It’s reactive but policing is reactive. It’s worth the investment to see if body cams will be good or bad. It’s good to see the recommendations before deciding. 

Kent: I am okay with grouping everything together but when I look at the original amount and bottom line it would include some savings, which I am against. What happens if we don’t vote for saving money? Have you run those numbers? 

Fraser: The savings would be removed, and there would still be $1.3 million in deed transfer tax. 

Kent: I appreciate the feedback on body cams. We challenged back on policy for body cams. We did an approval in principle based on policy. If we can’t come to a reasonable approach to policy on body cams, I am still struggling with the decision to let it get to this stage. The public interest, and presenters today articulated themselves well, but we haven’t heard from people who were maybe pro-body cams. I’m on the fence with this one. I’m okay with clustering eight and pulling out body cams. 

Mancini: Thanks to everyone who spoke today about body cams. The people who spoke said the body cams aren’t going to change everything, and they’re right, it’s for evidence! Wouldn’t it have been valuable to have body cams in those incidents? Absolutely. It’s a tool for the tool kit, and there’s strong policies for this. We should take the body cams out of this motion.   

Traves: You should remove the motion and re-put it in without, or have the debate now as part of the larger piece. 

Blackburn: I’m fine with that. 

Mason: I thought I did that already in AO1. 

Traves: You did, but for the vote, not a separate debate too. 

Russell: I’m fine with pulling it out, so the motion no longer has the body worn cameras. 

Savage: I think I can support all of these things. I have a question around urban forest, $1.3 million this year and there’s money in future years? Will it come back again next year? 

Fraser: Because it’s a capital item it’s a three year plan. It’s a one time this year and capital plan next year. 

Savage: Next years the money would be from the capital budget? 

Fraser: Yes, as part of the capital budget. 

Savage: The future years spending will come back to council in future years? 

Fraser: Yes.  

Smith: Was going to speak on body cams, I would speak on public art but it’s going to pass so I won’t die on that hill. 

Lovelace: I’m happy to support everything on this. We should have a fulsome discussion on body worn cameras. I’m grateful for the high level of community engagement, but I have to remind our colleagues that the RCMP will have body cams, and if we do not do anything, they will have body cams based on Toronto. So having the opportunity to get the data here, we need to do this study, and then we can decide to do it. 

Purdy: I was under the impression the traffic calming was going to put a lot of pressure on our TPW staff and I kind of got the impression that they didn’t want it to pass. 

Anguish: We wouldn’t have put this forward if we didn’t think we could do it, but we did highlight five risks in the briefing note. We put it here because we believe we can get it done and it’s important to council.

Purdy: The art piece, I wasn’t planning on supporting it because I can’t support a tax raise for public art this year with COVID. It’s just collateral damage if it’s all together in one piece, I didn’t know it was a possibility to group them all together. 

Russell: This is $400,000 to research the history of 42 streets, that’s 5-8 staff positions? There are 220 business days in a year and about 7 hours per day. That’s 185 hours per street, and that seems like a lot of work to research the history for each street. I’m not sure I can spend the money to research these 42 streets, I would ask that it’s voted on separately or broken out of the motion. 

Cleary: Can someone speak to the non-accepted works? It’s not about going to Google, it’s lawyers doing the research, so it’s only a few hundred hours of work, it’s not a bad deal for lawyers. What sort of work is involved in these non-accepted streets? 

Anguish: We tend to outsource the work, if it was cheap it’d already be done. This is based on averages based on past work done by real estate. If the work can be done in less time it will be and any savings will stay in the capital project. Just because we budget $400,000, doesn’t mean we’ll spend $400,000. 

Traves: Part of the cost is the title search, before doing that we need to survey and that’s the expensive part. 

Deagle-Gammon: (Reading Austin’s question in the chat) Can anything people want separated be separated as discussed?

Traves: Depends if you want a debate or separate vote. Russell I think wanted to vote on this one separately. Up to you though. 

Austin: I wasn’t meaning to derail the meeting but I just wanted to make sure people didn’t feel trapped voting for an omnibus. 

Cuttell: I’m supportive of the $400,000 for the non-accepted streets and it causes a lot of confusion for the people who live on these streets and there’s no way to get them good answers. This is important. It’s been a long standing issue and it’s time we do some work and figure it out. 

Morse: People in my district have had to build their own drainage because we don’t know who owns the street, so there’s no way to get proper roadwork done. And it won’t be done until we know who owns these streets. It impacts HRM as well because our streets are taking damage from these poorly drained roads. This is just one example, but we need to get this sorted out. 

Lovelace: My understanding is that this is going to be an ongoing thing for the city, it’s a one time thing this year, but it will be an ongoing cost. 

Anguish: This is just to get started and find out what we’re getting into. We don’t know enough right now. Does this list grow as roads are transferred to the HRM? I don’t know. Unaccepted streets is about ownership, not standards. We can get provincial roads where the ownership is understood but the roads are bad. That’s a bit different. There are also private roads being transferred. I’m not sure, I don’t think it’s a burgeoning problem and the final details of the transfer are still coming to council, so you will have some level of influence. 

Lovelace: Many of these streets don’t have stormwater management installed, what’s the role of the municipality? What’s the implication of increasing the deficit of the municipality in the poor standards of these roads?

Anguish: The biggest challenge with these roads is we can’t invest in them, Morse’s example is excellent. People with private roads doing their own repairs have follow on issues. If the HRM owns all 42 streets is there work to be done? Absolutely. 

Russell: I was curious about that and the details about that, that it requires survey, I can see how that would have an impact of adding to the cost. And I see that if the HRM doesn’t own this we can’t take care of them. I’ll be voting for this, there’s no need to separate on my behalf. 

Hendsbee: I’ll be supporting this omnibus, I can tell ya, there are other roads in our municipality that we’ll have to deal with. Our property owners no matter where they live pay taxes and should get services to some equitable degree. The forestry issue, are we going to be able to get federal money for tree planting thanks to Trudeau’s announcement? Look forward to the body cam debate. 

Cuttell: Back to the eight items here, the traffic calming list, the list of additional items, Astral is on there twice, is that an accident? The additional neighbourhood impacts, can staff explain what those are and how they got on the list? 

Anguish: Additional neighbourhood impacts. The areas where we’ve already done traffic calming what we’ve learned is that if we do traffic calming on only one street it’s pushed the traffic to other streets. This money is to fix those streets. 

Koutroulakis: Astral is a school and a road. We’re doing the Astral Jr High zone and Astral Drive itself. 

Cuttell: I have a similar concern that by only looking at Pine Grove we’re creating the exact problem of additional neighbourhood impact with Pine Grove. 

Koutroulakis: I can’t speak to that directly, I don’t know it. We could take it off.

Cuttell: No, not take it off, add more.

Anguish: This was done quickly, we could have missed things, if we have, like this, please bring it to our attention. 

Kent: Question on process, body cams are out? 

Russell: Body cams are out. 

Kent: Anything else? 

Russell: No, everything else *reads the list*

M/S/CVoteAyeUnanimous

Savage: I know we want to go through the rest of the list but just a general comment. For those of us who were here last year at this time, it’s a huge difference, last year we were cutting a bunch. We kept some essential services and our financial situation is good now. Receiving money from the restart money last fall was good, the gas tax increase was good. Deed transfer is volatile, but it’s pretty consistent. We’ve been up dramatically over the last number of years. It’s the dividend of growth. We don’t see it in commercial value but we see it here. HalifACT and Transit, we have big projects for a big and growing city. We should be sensible and prudent and there’s a lot of stuff we need that’s good for this community and I think we can do it and keep the tax rate lower than predicted. 

Mancini: I’m putting the body cam motion on the floor. As discussed, I acknowledge the people that spoke this morning. The point of body cams are not reform or prevention, it’s evidence. A number of the speakers spoke about the RCMP motion which isn’t even on the budget. And speakers said we could put money to housing but that’s not our jurisdiction! It’s good that speakers came forward, it’s easier to do with the city. We need to have our residents continue to speak but I ask for your support in supporting this motion. (Why would they continue to phone in if they’re just going to be ignored?)

Mason: There’s three things happening. 1) Should the police have body cams? 2) Should additional funds be allocated if their budget is $88 million and has a cost of living increase? 3) When we’re committing to review public safety and policing why should we put money in for something we might not want after the motion we passed yesterday? We first talked about body cams 4 or 5 years ago and decided not to do it for a lot of technical reasons. The people who were most strongly asking for body cams at that time was from the African Nova Scotian community and that was at the beginning of the street checks conversation showing we had systemic racism. I’m not going to support this at this time, if it’s critical to the chief they can find it in their budget. For me the issue is we have a lot of other things ongoing right now, and it’s not the time. 

Smith: On procedure, I thought we were going from top to bottom instead of picking items out. 

Russell: There’s nothing procedurally for that and I (as chair) have no preference. 

Hendsbee: I’ll be supporting the body cams, tech has improved, costs have gone down. We need that kind of accountability in cops in the first person, not third party. Was there consternation about the cameras in busses? It’s helped our busses. We should move forward with this, it’s long overdue.  

Cuttell: I do welcome this discussion because it’s important. I appreciate Mason’s summary of points, but there’s another one, who writes this report? There is context here, there’s not a lot of community trust in the police is what I’m hearing. While I think a report would be critical, who writes that report is equally important. I’m not going to support this right now, I think some more consideration needs to be taken with who writes the report. So I do not support this. 

Deagle-Gammon: I’ve been going back and forth on this. But we don’t decide that this money is spent on the report. Can someone answer where the money will come from if they want to fund the report? 

Dubé: This came as a request from the BOPC and needs an additional body to look at the policy. Can the chief find money in his budget? I don’t know, I don’t think so, that’s why it’s an over item. What I do know is that they need the additional money to complete the work. 

Deagle-Gammon: Can we make sure the person who does the report is an independent person? 

Dubé: The person would be hired by the chief but council could ask for an independent review. They have access to the same information for research (it’s perception and bias though, not access to resources). 

Cleary: I appreciate the discussion we’re having, I think the vote here will be different than when we put it in the ‘parking lot’ in the first place. My feeling on this is that the literature is clear on behaviour, but it’s not clear on how it will work in Halifax. This request came from the BOPC who are the HRP’s civilian oversight. We were only able to remove the police vehicle because it was in the fleet budget, not HRP’s budget. But we don’t control what they spend. The BOPC asked for this, so I’m going to support it. I want to know what we’re getting into should we go down this road. A lot of the people four or five years ago were asking for body cams. I would like to defund the police but that’s what these motions are doing. The provincial government does social services, so there’s nothing we can put money into that we take from the police (the library Sean? What’s wrong with the library Sean?).

Traves: Just to clarify something Cleary said. It’s correct that HRP is not accountable to the HRM for its budget but it is accountable to the BOPC. So they can’t spend money on things the BOPC doesn’t approve. 

Smith: Couple quick pieces, Lovelace stole my thunder. The RCMP is going to purchase body cams and put them around the country. Depending on when that rollout is we’re going to have body cams in the HRM by the RCMP. It’s something we’re going to experience. We have oversight but can’t tell the HRP what to do. Do I support body cams? I don’t have a lot of confidence but we want to make evidence based decisions, so we need evidence. We need to know the policies and procedures should be implemented. I have concerns with body cams in general but we’re saying get the research and Halifax context. There’s not a lot of Canadian research. I will support the report but I’m skeptical of the body cams in general. We heard a lot of folks speak against the RCMP but we already killed that in February, that’s why we’re not talking about it. I will vote for because I want the evidence. 

Lovelace: You stole my thunder Smith! In Iqaluit the RCMP have been piloting body cams and Indigenous communities have requested that to increase accountability and transparency. Everything from when does the camera turn on, to when it can be turned off. It’s about getting the information for the Halifax context. Mason made good points but cameras are coming, so it’s important for us to have the data and opportunity to make an informed decision on whether or not body cams on HRP are warranted. We can’t influence the RCMP and direct them not to have cameras. 

Austin: I’m in the camp of Mancini and Cleary, I’d like to get a report on this. I believe body cams are an evidentiary thing and not to change behaviour. I’ve been unsure of how to vote for this because of the body cam video coming out of the States, specifically the not-taser one (good thing he clarified, there’s a lot of body cam footage of police violence). On the police budget, we could make a bunch of showboaty things to move the crossing guards to TPW and that would be defunding the police but that’s low hanging fruit. We need systemic changes and we have motions doing that. The police budget was increased because cost of living is going up, it’s maintaining the status quo, no additional sworn officers. Our employees are unionized so salaries go up, it’s appropriate to maintain the status quo while we look at reforms.  

Stoddard: I struggle with this one personally. I think the people who previously requested for the body cams thought it would make a difference. Today they don’t think they’ll make a difference. Our experience with the RCMP’s body cams and how they treat the public will give us some information on whether or not we should support body cams. We’ll be able to monitor how the RCMP use body cams and how our residents feel about it. The police budget of $88 million is our biggest cost. If they feel it’s important and can find money, why do they need extra money for such a small amount? I have a hard time with that. We have to change the behaviour of the police, not the equipment. If you don’t change that, what they’re wearing, tasers, guns, body cams, it’s not going to make a difference. When you’re doing it within your own department you’re not going to be able to avoid your bias. I’m on the border with this. 

Outhit: I think we need to look into this to get evidence. I’m also a suburban councillor, and a white male. My experiences with police have been very very very different than the people who called in today. My daughters would go up to the police during public events. Smith’s daughters would not. We’re going to look at reforms of police in the next couple of years. The cities who’ve done more reform-wise have more control than we do. But we are still going to have police and they’re still going to be armed, and we’re going to have to decide if we should give them cameras. The argument that I heard, do we have the ability to get this report done, but without the police doing it or reviewed by not the police? Can we put those parameters around that funding? 

CAO: The direction to the chief came from the BOPC, council can put whatever parameters it wants around funding. If this funding is granted the chief will hire someone with expertise in the area. If council wished to put a condition about having this peer reviewed I don’t see an issue with that. You can make it a condition of funding I suppose. 

Outhit: I’ll have to come back but I’m wondering if my collogues would support the independent and peer reviewed?

CAO: By definition the police chief is independent, so I have confidence in the chief. He has full access to the information from the Canadian Police Association and academic partners. But I understand the perceptions. 

Outhit: That’s what I was getting at. 

Russell: If you’re considering an amendment there are two more speakers, then closing. 

Purdy: This would fund a one year research position where they are gleaning evidence and community engagement to see if our community can stomach this right now? We’re also talking about policy and policy development, so when this comes back to council all of the policies would be laid out? 

CAO: The BOPC asked for this report. The chief doesn’t have enough people to do this report. This person will help the chief pull together all the research and that would be brought back to the BOPC for their consideration. At this point it doesn’t include public consultation. If the BOPC decides to proceed further then there would be public consultation and policy. 

Smith: To give background on the BOPC piece. We asked for body cam info, and the chief came back with how to implement body cams. And we said no we want more information, and they came back with a report on the benefits of body cams. The chief was asking for this to be an ITC budget item, a.k.a. a capital budget item, when it came to commission instead of implementing it over five years. We wanted more information of how it would be implemented, if implemented. And then this is the result.

Morse: I struggle with this one, I know we need evidence to make this decision. But on the other hand I’m worried about who’s going to write the report. So I’d be in favour of an amendment for someone independent to write the report. 

Traves: The challenge for putting parameters around this is, is that it’s up to the BOPC to decide the parameters. You’re deciding today whether or not to fund it, not put parameters on it. 

Mason: That outlines something that’s concerning me. We need to decide if we’re going to entertain overs and unders from the police when we can’t have parameters on how this money is spent. I don’t feel comfortable with how we get this. I don’t think this is working the way we hoped. 

Mancini: This is an extremely important debate. And residents said today that the police budget is so big why don’t they just include it? But we could say that about any department (does the library use their power to harass people of colour Tony?). We have a lot of things on the go to potentially reform the police so now is the right time to spend more money on this. At the time BIPOC people wanted body cams to help protect them, and now they don’t feel like it’ll work, so they’re speaking against it. So that’s why we need more information. We’re not going to do policy development now but that will be a critical piece. There’s been very good debate. 

Purdy: Point of Order: I think I’m first to vote in this vote and I want to be not first. 

Russell: No. 

Purdy: Well it’s just that when everyone speaks I change my mind. 

M/S/CVote Aye – Purdy, Austin, Mancini, Smith, Cleary, Morse, Lovelace, Blackburn, Russell, Outhit, Deagle-Gammon, Hendsbee, Kent, Savage – Nay – Mason, Cuttell, Stoddard – Motion passes

*Break*

Russell: We have no speakers on the list, when are we breaking for the day? I’d like to end as soon after 4 p.m. as possible, but after a vote. 

Mason: Moving to fund the anti-Black racism training. At this point our choice is tax rate or deed transfer tax? 

Fraser: The recommendation is that we would use the deed transfer tax. 

Mason: I’m fine with that, question? 

M/S/CVoteAyeUnanimous

Mason: I have time left? 

Russell: Yes.

Mason: Newsletter funding on the floor! The biggest thing we hear is that “you never told me you were going to change this,” so direct mailing is important. 

Austin: This is for four a year? Just two? Two is fine. I’m fine with that. 

Russell: I was also unclear on that. 

CFO: I thought it was two, but could be increase by two, to four. 

Mason: $3500 per is only one, so this will bring it to two. 

M/S/CVoteAyeUnanimous

Mancini: I’ll put the library electronic resources on the floor. We all love our library and the folks we heard from this morning would like to take money from the police and give it to the library, but it doesn’t work that way (it actually kind of does work exactly like that, at this exact meeting actually). Can you tell us about the electronic collection and what this would do to improve the library? 

Åsa Kachan (Head of Halifax Public Libraries): We have seen a 32% increase in electronic checkouts with the pandemic and this has been increasing annually, and it’s high demand. There’s a big financial impact for the library. We have over 100 people in line for the 80 some odd most popular titles, but we also want to make sure we have a breadth of voices. Generally hardcovers are less than $40, audiobooks are generally $120-130, and the price of ebooks is double the cost of a hardcover. I know $100,000 is a drop in the bucket, so we’re going to keep coming back to make sure we can serve our community. 

M/S/CVoteAye Unanimous 

Kent: Just for information, when should we speak to things that don’t have monetary implications?

Russell: I can put you after Deagle-Gammon, who has a similar thing to talk about. 

Cuttell: I too have a similar item, but I’ll wait. I’d like to remove the bi-weekly under item from the list. 

Russell: If we don’t move it, it’s not on the list for consideration. 

Cuttell: If it’s an under it’s good to know if we’re going to approve or deny it in the broader conversation of this budget. 

Russell: It hasn’t been added yet. You’d make a motion to approve it, not to remove it, please correct me if I’m wrong lawyers. 

Fraser: The unders have been included in the total, so what Cuttell is asking for is not moving forward with that. 

Cleary: From a process point of view, they’re all in the budget, if no one moves a motion today it stays weekly collection. The only reason to move it, I think, is for clerical reasons. 

Traves: If nothing happens with the item then the current collection schedule stays the same. 

Russell: We’ve back on the main motion, no cart motion. 

Deagle-Gammon: The route 55 bus change, I’d like to thank all of the residents who spoke. Traves said that Transit didn’t need to meet with the community in the context of the budget because it’d had already been approved in the budget. The city did good consultation but the communities didn’t feel like there was good consultation. How did the city do the safety assessment? I’d like to propose a motion to keep the route turn around where it is but extend to the Alderney Landing Ferry and get a report on the pilot. Kids play street hockey on the cul-de-sac. 

Cleary: Procedurally, when this was going into the ‘parking lot’ we talked about whether or not the Budget Committee has the power to change the Moving Forward Together plan. Can we even do this? Should this be done at council instead? I have lots of busses that go down narrow residential streets. There’s nothing inherently unsafe about busses on narrow streets, busses don’t go on a cul-de-sac. 

Traves: Ultimately this will be the council’s decision at Committee of the Whole. It’s not an easy answer, as I see the motion, it’s $50,000 for a one time pilot, but it can be done. 

Cleary: There’s going to be a bunch of stuff proposed in this format and I’m going to vote against them, and ask everyone else to vote against it, because transit is about the whole city not ‘I don’t like this in my district.’ Maybe bring them all back together to council. We’ve all had to deal with this. 

Mancini: I agree a lot with what councillor Cleary has said, there was a lot of pain with the Sambro Loop. Normally I agree wholeheartedly, but in this situation, I’m not even in district six I’m in district one! When the Moving Forward Together plan was moving forward the councillors didn’t know to inform them because they should be in district six, not district one. So there was no councillor telling them to get informed. I’m going to say no to the other requests but I believe this area has been underrepresented. Regardless of what we do today, do not call this route the Waverley Route, call it anything else.       

Hendsbee: I think we have a few anomalies like that, which need to be corrected. (I’ve tuned him out a bit, cat on my desk, he’s talking about parking lots?

Austin: The average daily boarding, the section beyond Craigburn, how is that counted? Average over the day? Or snapshot in a day? 

Dave Reage (Executive Director for Halifax Transit): Total for the day and average of every day.

Austin: At the farthest one, where there’s five, is there an unofficial park’n’ride?

Reage: Hard to say for sure right now, it’s not allowed at the turning loop. It’s possible that people are parking nearby. It’s possible that’s the bus driver getting in and out and tripping the counter.  

Austin: We’ve done this before, there is precedent for doing this sort of thing, but none of the feedback today was about routing. It was ‘I don’t want a bus on my street.’ I don’t think I support this on that basis. If we build this into the budget, what happens if we put that money? This should require some report to council? 

Reage: In addition to our budget we’re here with our service plan as well. If we get direction from council to proceed with this motion we’ll go forward with it. What we really need is an approval and clear direction. 

Austin: People in my district are also mad about changes coming to the busses by Penhorn, but I’m not trying to pull apart the plan. We all have to take our lumps sometimes. 

Blackburn: The Moving Forward Together plan was passed by council a month after the election in 2016 and there was no time to go back and re-look at some of the things decided. We knew we were losing the bus in Beaver Bank, and we got petitions with hundreds of signatures, and nothing I did budged Transit. I just can’t agree to support this at this time. Maybe coming to council for a full staff report? My fellow councillors should consider coming to council for a full staff report with all the desired changes. We knew that some places were going to lose bus service. In my case Beaver Bank was axed but the community got an express route which gets them downtown faster. I know it’s difficult. I’d support this at council, but not here.  

Mason: Moving Forward Together got rid of low performing routes and did better routes. We’re talking about bus losses but we’re not talking about the wins. We’ve been able to make bus service better on a whole. The motion coming tomorrow from Kent, by streamlining the routes busses run quicker and drives up ridership. It was hard to tell residents that we were getting rid of the old number 9 because the ridership was low. The concern for me is the lack of ridership in the tip of that route. Our commitment is for ridership not coverage. 

Cleary: The pendulum swinging from coverage to ridership is to get more people riding the bus. These changes are where we need to go with transit. 

Cuttell: I hear people saying it’s needed to take lumps, but Austin still has a bus, even if it’s a transfer. The changes to the routes happened but so did the low income bus passes. Transit doesn’t know if the jump was route changes or low income bus passes. Yes, we need more bus routes but do we need them at the expense of other bus routes. There are opportunities for improvements or tweaks. Things brought forward in the past need to re-examined. I think public consultation needs be better too. It’s hard to make decisions without complete information. I think we need to find opportunities to have these conversations. 

Russell: We have four speakers and hard stop in three minutes, break for the day.

*Break for the day*     

*Meeting’s back*

Cleary: Question for Reage, if route 55 stays as it is, are there implications for service for that route? 

Reage: With the motion that’s on the floor right now there’s about $50,000 additional funding needed. And there’s a hard restriction for the number of busses at rush hour so to add this route change we’d have to decrease the rush hour service. 

Cleary: Think about this colleagues, think about our busses, you need roughly six cars to come off the road for one bus for greenhouse gas emissions to be equal. Given the low ridership, it’s a pretty bad message to send to continue sending empty busses and reduced service during rush hour. I got changes coming up to route 5, so if we’re doing this for bus routes, I’m going to make sure we do this for my bus routes too. If we’re throwing out the Moving Forward Together plan that is. 

Kent: I’ll be supporting Deagle-Gammon. I want to remind us of conversations we had yesterday, and remind some of you of the ongoing… it just seems like a battle for councillors in rural and outlying areas to have their voices heard in connecting communities. In this case Deagle-Gammon is doing her best to hear her constituents. I wasn’t going to use the word shaming, but now I am, we’re shaming each other. “If you’re not going to play fair I’m not going to play fair,” wow what a way to present that. We have new councillors that have every right to bring forward issues and concerns for our district. We are responsible by way of election to tend to our residents that live in our area. What I’m not open to are threatening moments where you do the same thing we do. I felt this when talking about the plans in place, we’re not the councillors who put those plans forward, those councillors might not have had the best interests of their constituents at heart. Councillors in the outlying areas need to represent their districts differently. I’ll be supporting Councillor Deagle-Gammon to show strength for new councillors. We know Transit has a huge job and they’re working on it, but there are gaps and we need to find ways to support it. 

Deagle-Gammon: Is this to close? I have a question that’s unanswered. What was the process to determine the safety issues?

Reage: What?

Russell: Can you repeat the question since it’s a new day? 

Deagle-Gammon: Transit concluded there were no safety issues in the route change, what was the process to determine safety issues?

Reage: In Craigburn Drive we used our normal safety procedures, there’s nothing in Craigburn that would make it any different than any other street in our city. *Freezing

Russell: Can you turn off your video?

Reage: When we look at Craigburn it’s physically no different than other streets. So that’s the starting place, single unit housing, playgrounds, that’s not different. Looking at service on a new street we’ll test it with busses, and we did that, no issues were noted. For stop locations we do a proper analysis (it’s intensive, I’m still working on a story about this). We can confidently say that there’s no issues with safety. Some people say speeding is an issue but on average busses are the slowest vehicles on the streets. That’s how we concluded that. 

Deagle-Gammon: What time of day was the bus trial done?

Reage: I’m not sure off hand, typically during the day. There’s nothing on Craigburn that made it different than any other street. 

Deagle-Gammon: So no formal assessment? 

Reage: No, there was a formal assessment. Our professional drivers go out and do assessments, and then there are also formal assessments in bus stop locations. 

Deagle-Gammon: Can you make those public? Are they public? 

Reage: I don’t know, I’ll have to get back to you. 

Mason: I’m hearing a lot of frustration from new councillors at the speed with which you can affect change. When I was first elected it took two and half years to create the foundation for the Moving Forward Together plan. We started changing metro transit in 2013. Public engagement in 2015. We did a lot of consultation. *Lists a lot of consultation* It’s in the staff report from 2016. We’ve all had struggles with this. We’ve all had stops closed, we’ve all had routes change and stops closed. I don’t agree with Cleary’s approach but we’ve all had to deal with what you’re dealing with. It’s all about having plans, and not making decisions based on who’s making the most noise. Our transit plans are based on consultations, if we want to see big changes in transit and have to get people out of their cars. If you want change, I feel you, but change the plans. These street by street fights aren’t going to change anything for the better. None of the traffic planning changes are going to happen in my district, and I’m going to vote for it because it’s making the city as a whole better. If you think we need a strategic redirection, let’s do that, but we can’t be fighting street to street. 

Outhit: There’s two issues here. I feel badly for our new councillors, there’s a lot of things our councillors don’t understand or the residents don’t understand. This is a plan and a budget, which is different than other departments. We have a good plan and I think we need new plans, but. You make the best decisions you can at the time and amend if you need to. When we brought in the red book we thought it was amazing and now today it’s not working and we need to change. So I’m sympathetic to both sides of this. If this during this budget is not the time to have the down-in-the-weeds discussion, when is the time? What is the better approach? I don’t want to gag this discussion but I understand today might not be the right time. 

Reage: Top of the chain is the regional policy which then gives us direction like the Moving Forward Together plan. The Moving Forward Together plan we stripped Transit to the studs and rebuilt it, essentially. This is the last year of major changes. The annual service plan is the operational planning level. This plan that we’ve brought to you is saying with this budget this is what we’re doing. In terms of the next steps, you never stop planning for the future in transit, once we finish the Moving Forward Together plan we start planning for what’s next. We evaluate the changes and see if our old plans are still effective. And it just becomes a rolling cycle of planning and implementing. 

CAO: Reage is right, my advice to Outhit’s question is getting a staff report on this sent to the Transporation Standing Committee. I don’t know if we can get it done in time for November. What’s being proposed today is inconsistent with what council’s been directing us to do to date. If there’s a desire to change the strategic direction then we should do that. 

Austin: I feel yesterday I was blunter than I meant to be with ‘take your lumps.’ It’s a hard job we all have. What makes it challenging is it’s hard to be everything to everyone. Am I a representative of my constituents wishes right or wrong? Or am I elected to think? It’s more of a continuum rather than ‘a’ or ‘b’, but when my people talk to me I try and find out what are they saying. Deagle-Gammon’s constituents don’t want a bus in their neighborhood. Sambro Loop they were concerned about the lack of service, I’m sympathetic to that. But this is just ‘I don’t want a bus on my street.’ What they’re asking is us to spend more money for less ridership because they don’t want a bus on their street. The same type of streets throughout the city that support busses. This is not the type of thing we should support. If we follow this path we end up in a bad space because we’re not following a plan we’re just cherry picking things we want. 

Lovelace: I’ve been on the fence about this, the concerns we have about being rural councillors and not being part of the consultation process. We’ve entered into the plan partway through the process, and with that comes a new understanding and need to represent our constituents. But evidence informed decision making is important. We have to listen but we also have to manage our fiscal situation. When we make decisions that are evidence informed it doesn’t always make people happy or get them the things they want. But it makes sure we’re sticking to our mandate. While I want to support this initiative, it’s in our best interest to stick with the process and move forward in a fiscally responsible manner.

Hendsbee: I’ve been biting my tongue, I think Deagle-Gammon is doing the right thing here. I think the new plan is good. I’ve been a transit planner since 1993, until Metro Transit took it over in 1999. Lawrencetown was supposed to have a transit plan in 2005 but that was killed due to the regional plan. We have a report for express busses on highways for rural areas, what happened? Nothing. Build us park’n’rides, give us transit so we can get out of our cars and stop clogging up the city centre with our cars. We pay the same taxes but we don’t get the same services. We’re trying to get better service for our communities and what do we get ‘stick to the plan,’ well sometimes the local populations know better than planners. Bring on the Lawrencetown loop, we’ll show you that it’ll work. 

Cuttell: Are we here to reflect what our constituents say or are we here to think? I think we’re here to do both. Our follow councillors should recognize that even though we are reflecting our constituents, we are thinking. A lot of us don’t know when to try and make the changes, every time we try we’re told it’s not the time. When I’m trying to talk about the 415, it’s because staff just changed the plan without consulting anyone. The changes they made to help students didn’t help the students because the timing was all wrong, and the staff reports reflect that. So I have questions about the process, decision making and the effect of the changes. And it’s incredibly difficult. I think we need a staff report on making changes, it’s a reasonable way to go, but we have to somehow follow through on this. I do have questions, and I think Hendsbee is right, yes we make plans, but they don’t always get it 100 per cent. Sometimes you need to go back and revisit. I’m glad to hear it’s peak hour busses that are in short supply because maybe it’s open for noon hour busses. 

Austin: I just want to make sure I’m not misquoted, I did not suggest you were reflecting or thinking, it’s both. 

Blackburn: I can taste the frustration. I know exactly how our new councillors feel because I’ve felt that sense of frustration in my chest as well. I know you’re tired of hearing it’s not the time and place for this debate but it’s not the time and place for this debate. We don’t even have a dollar figure for these Transit asks, how much money will it cost? My point is I would love to have this explored and all of the transit issues on the sheet, but we need more information. I need to know what the residual effects are, we’re playing Jenga. You have to be strategic with where you pull, if we do it wrong it’s all going to collapse. I’m not trying to silence you but please bring this back as a motion of council. 

Russell: I appreciate the comments Blackburn has made, with respect to her struggle with Beaver Bank bus service. 

Deagle-Gammon: I appreciate the discussion and appreciate all of the positions. I’m not a rule breaker. I love evidence based decision making. The one thing missing for me is the disconnect of the one community who doesn’t feel like they’ve been consulted (oh, I have some bad news for you). This community feels like they haven’t been consulted and this motion is just a pause. The speakers we listened to yesterday were majority from Craigburn (they weren’t the majority of speakers, the majority was people who were speaking against body cams and were ignored). Some people feel like their voices aren’t being heard. I’ve been trying to do this, I tried at Transportation Standing Committee and was told I had to do at Transit’s budget presentation, we did and got this note, and now we’re here. And now we’re told we have to back to the Transportation Standing Committee. It’s really about a community that feels like they weren’t consulted. I think it would be a different plan if they were sufficiently consulted. As long as we use ridership as a metric for bus service we’re not going to get cars off the road. I’ll drive you crazy with data and consultation, give us this one year, and if this doesn’t pass, don’t call the bus route Waverly. This district is so upset to be part of district 1, they should be Dartmouth. 

Cleary: I appreciate what councillor Deagle-Gammon is doing, I respect it. I don’t agree with it, but I respect it. But the community was heard. A bunch of them spoke directly to us yesterday. But listening to them doesn’t mean we agree with them and because we disagree doesn’t mean we didn’t listen. Everyone on council passed the Moving Forward Together plan. In the fall of 2016 we changed to the new number 9 and ridership went way up. If you look at a map of transit we cover a huge amount of geography. I’m begging you to vote against this and get a report looking at all of these issues, but we can’t do it ad hoc at the last minute. 

M/SVoteAye – Cuttell, Stoddard, Outhit, Deagle-Gammon, Hendsbee, Kent, Purdy, Mancini – Nay – Smith, Cleary, Morse, Lovelace, Blackburn, Russell, Austin, Mason, Savage – Motion Fails

Russell: Back on the main motion.     

Kent: I’m going to ask for a point of privilege. I’m struggling with the assumptions and language in the debates, I think we have to be mindful of our dialogue when we’re talking about new councillors and the motions we’re bringing forward. It feels like we’re being mansplained to, like we don’t understand what’s happening here. We need to be mindful of how we use our language. I don’t want assumptions made about my understanding, there’s a lot of information coming at us. And we need an opportunity to have some of these discussions. We are diverse, we have parity, we’re progressive (eeeeehhhhhh……), we need to look for opportunities to have team building and have candid conversations about how we interact with each other. And now I’m going to speak to the issue of the reinstatement about Everett Street. I absolutely know what’s happening here, I spoke to staff, I wasn’t going to put a motion on the floor, what I wanted to know was how to speak to it. So my residents know they’re not unheard. I have this small area that’s important and within the transit area, I’m prepared to come back to council at the appropriate time. This area has been underserved even though it’s a small area. The way that was explained to me is that it’s a complicated scenario and that we also don’t have enough busses. As these new busses come online, I hope we can look at ways to revisit the situation in the Cow Bay area. It doesn’t fall under the transit plan or the provincial area for transit support with MusGo Rider. It’s a no man’s land within the city. 

Russell: You’re out of time. 

Kent: My point of privilege should have separate timing. 

Russell: 30 seconds.

Kent: This is not new to any of you, it’s an area of concern. I appreciate we can come back to council and I will, and rural councillors we should work together. 

Stoddard: I just wanted to confirm the motion we’re speaking on. 

Russell: The motion on the floor is the main motion, which is the entire budget list. At this point there are no amendments on the floor. 

Stoddard: I move that council continue the weekly organic collection. 

Mancini: Point of order, didn’t we deal with this yesterday?

Russell: The interruption in the weekly service was temporary, if we do nothing it comes back. 

*General jokes about doing nothing*

Cuttell: It’s critically important to maintain the weekly collection. What’s made Otter Lake successful is the diversion of organic. There’s a concern that if we go to bi-weekly then we may lose some of that diversion and it wasn’t brought up in the briefing note.  

Lovelace: I move we approve all the positions proposed in the Planning and Development meeting. *Reads the motion* I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints about the time it takes for Planning and Development, there are a lot of people who want to build a diverse housing stock but they’re facing delays. It’s critical that we increase planning staff to get stuff done sooner and deal with complex issues we face, even down to enforcing bylaw standards. It’s a hefty pricetag but it creates more revenue with the property taxes. 

Cleary: Had a bunch to say, but that was it, so ditto. 

Kent: I support this. (She said more but I missed it

Blackburn: Quick question for Fraser, this is $805,000 ongoing, which piggybank should we be taking this from?

Fraser: We’d be using the deed transfer tax to bring it in and then change the funding model as it was implemented. 

Blackburn: No huge risk? 

Fraser: No. 

Blackburn: I’ll support this then.

Deagle-Gammon: This is an easy one for me to support. The three additional compliance officers are desperately needed. Our residents are complaining there aren’t enough compliance officers, adding this resource will be awesome. Is one of these compliance officer’s specialties for animal control? 

Denty: It would assist but it’s not earmarked. I can’t be specific with how these folks would be integrated. 

Hendsbee: How much pressure is our retirement bubble placing on us? These new people will help but the older folks will leave with corporate knowledge.

Denty: It’ll help with succession planning if they can get in now and get the corporate knowledge from the older staff before they retire. 

M/S/CVoteAyeUnanimous

Kent: I’d like to move to add the $115,000 for the mobile special waste collection. *Reads it* It’s a must do, we need to give our citizens the tools they need to dispose of their waste. This one is getting rid of a barrier. It’s an easy one and I ask for council’s support. 

Cuttell: I support this as well. I think it’s an important piece in solving our illegal dumping issue. I know it won’t solve the problem but it will make a difference for a number of people. I think it’s unfortunate that people dump illegally and that we have to rally volunteers to clean it up. 

Deagle-Gammon: You beat me to the punch Kent! Giving this opportunity will hopefully reduce illegal dumping. 

Austin: I’m not going to support this, I think it’s a nice to have but I don’t think it’ll curb illegal dumping. 

Hendsbee: I’m in favour of this. Last year we cancelled it due to COVID, today 38 cases were announced, I just want to make sure this service won’t be cancelled again. 

Anguish: I don’t have a crystal ball, we’re going to follow public health guidelines, and we’ll do our best to make sure it can move forward if approved. 

Lovelace: We’re talking about rural areas with these events, and they’re also educational opportunities. 

Cleary: I’m supporting this. When the depot opened back up again the wait was about 20 minutes. Not many people use the Halifax Recycles app, there’s a lot of other places to take a lot of things. But anyway, there were COVID protocols in place and they’re good at what they do. A lot of people are frustrated about long lineups. This is a rare occasion where I’m going to be in agreement with Hendsbee. 

Stoddard: I’ve also heard those complaints, and some people turned around and put it out in their black bags so they could get rid of it without it being seen. That’s not good, and propane tanks could hurt some of our employees if people do that. 

Kent: I appreciate that there is some indication of support on this, for places like the Passage illegal dumping is rampant. Stoddard highlighted a concern, people will get rid of their waste. Mason has pointed out there isn’t one for the south end but we’re happy to host your constituents in the Passage. 

M/S/CVoteAye – Morse, Cuttell, Stoddard, Lovelace, Blackburn, Russell, Outhit, Deagle-Gammon, Hendsbee, Kent, Purdy, Mancini, Mason, Smith, Cleary – Nay – Austin, Savage – Motion passes

Russell: Back on the main motion, Mason’s up. 

Mason: I’m going test council on blue bag service and switch to bi-weekly. *Reads motion* I’m not saying this is scientific but I’ve polled my residents though my channels. A majority were against greenbin going bi-weekly but most people were okay with blue bags going bi-weekly (like rural people do all year every year). I know there are some people who have some concerns but it would free up money to put into other programs. 

Kent: I will not be supporting this, I’ve spoken around this, we need to give constituents the tools to deal with getting rid of their waste. We have an issue with wind and rodents (I also live close to the shore with wind and seagulls, it’s… not an issue, and we keep our bags outside beside the house, anecdotal, I know). I can’t in good representation support this. I’ve lived in a district that’s had a lot of issues with rodents and we’re continuing to have rodent issues (it’s because they live here too, and we built on their habitats, we have to kill them all, or they’re always going to be an issue). 

Outhit: In my situation if we didn’t have a cat we would barely throw anything out. I’m worried that some people will start putting recycling in black bags to get rid of this. What would it cost to pick it up every second week, on the average tax bill?

Fraser: It’s a reduction in the average residential tax bill of $1.07 or 0.0004 per cent of the tax rate. 

Outhit: I’m worried we’re being pennywise and pound foolish. 

Russell: That was just for this year Fraser? It will be higher later?

Fraser: $2.94 or 0.0012 per cent of the rate. 

Cleary: Listening to the comments of Councillors Kent and Outhit, I would think for wind and rodents having fewer collections would be better. If I put out a lighter bag weekly it’ll blow easier than a full one every two weeks. And if rats have to wait two weeks for a meal, they’ll have to stop relying on it, and move to a higher food source frequency. I think having a longer time between collection dates would reduce the pest and wind issues. 

Lovelace: District 13’s had bi-weekly pickup for a long time. The cost of half bag pickup doesn’t make sense. Even with weekly pickup some people don’t use it because their bags aren’t full. What’s the cost implication of cancelling these contracts? 

Anguish: We priced in a number of options due to lessons learned from COVID. So these numbers are locked.      

Austin: I heard complaints about the green bin but I didn’t hear anything from blue bags. Most people don’t seem to care, the only slight issue some people have is storage but generally those people have commercial pickup because they’re in apartments. 

Kent: Just to clarify Cleary’s comments, it’s rare for residents out here to have half a bag weekly. Maybe the residents here are just more diligent. In the average house there’s not a lot of space people are willing to take up with recycling, so people put it outside. And when it’s outside there’s extravagant work that needs to be done to protect it from rodents. On that piece, it’s not a case of once and while putting out half a bag. Weekly would make it less attractive to rodents. The wind is a predicament because on a windy day and how the houses are configured it can create a wind tunnel. Weekly would allow us to not chase four, five or six bags. I had a virtual townhall and worked with staff and not everyone has the ability to deal with rodents and wind. 

Purdy: I believe recycling just like garbage and organics, is a basic municipal service, so to reduce basic municipal services (to the standards of the city’s rural residents) shouldn’t be done. This doesn’t account for big families, when big families cook there’s a lot of recycling. And there’s a lot of residents. 

Hendsbee: Mark this day down, I agree with Cleary. It’s a give and take situation. Bringing back the green bin and getting rid of weekly blue bag is fine. There’s no bag limit on recycling. It’s a reasonable adjustment with regards to COVID. 

Cuttell: I think this is worth trying for a year. We tried green bins last year, this year we can try blue bags. We really need to reduce packaging and there’s a discussion about producing recyclables in the first place but I’ll be supporting this for a year. 

Anguish: If you vote for this it’s for the duration of the contract. If you want a one year trial we’d have to go back and review the full implications. This is for the duration of the contract. 

Hendsbee: Point of clarification, when were the contracts renewed and how long are they? 

Philopoulos: Just signed, five year contract. 

Russell: I’m going to be voting in favour of weekly recycling. I’ve talked to a lot of community members. I can’t support this because of the critters and unwanted guests because they can’t freeze their organics or wash out their green bin, so I’m glad to see that’s been restored. We’ve been a household of two people and put out a blue bag every week, I don’t think that’s more than others (more than me). I think we may need to look at our diversion rates. I’m concerned about the wrong type of waste getting out there. Cleary, you’re right about the weight of the bags, and you can tie two blue bags together. I don’t see the need to reduce this for three dollars a year. It has not presented the right degree of savings. 

Deagle-Gammon: The concern for me is the five year contract with option to extend, that changed my opinion, because if we change this we’re stuck with it for five years. Councillor Purdy is right it’s a basic service you get for your tax dollars (the basic service I get is bi-weekly pickup of blue bags). 

Cleary: I appreciate what’s being said by everyone. But it’s Earth Day. If we have less trucks picking up there’s less pollution. The amount of waste generated is dependent on lifestyle, not family size, if you eat fruits and vegetables it’s less waste. Our diversion rates a pretty good, and better than they were. Are weekly blue bags responsible for that? It’s like religious people, if you need a God to tell you to be good maybe you’re not a good person, maybe recycling is the same. 

Stoddard: My residents have said they want to keep their blue bags weekly. I have residents in households of four to five people that said they would struggle with biweekly. And just to what Cleary said, not everyone can afford to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. If someone needs to open a can to extend their meals, they shouldn’t be punished for it.

Cuttell: The five year contract gives me pause. If we stay with weekly pickup now can we revisit this later in the contract? 

Anguish: Yes.

Cuttell: Okay, then I may change my position on this. 

M/S/CVoteAye – Lovelace, Hendsbee, Austin, Mancini, Mason, Smith, Cleary, Savage, Morse – Nay – Cuttell, Stoddard, Blackburn, Russell, Outhit, Deagle-Gammon, Kent, Purdy – Bi-weekly bluebag collection passes      

Russell: I’m going to speak to the multi-service youth centre. The multi-service youth centre (a.k.a. the Den) is offered at the Sackville Library and it’s to make sure our youth are properly served. It’s a drop-in centre, which has been challenged by COVID, but everyone appreciates it. There’s a favourable report coming to committee about it, so we should approve it. *Reads the motion* I would appreciate your support for this. 

M/S/CVoteAye Unanimous  

Russell: Lunch before we start another debate? 

*Break for lunch*  

Russell: And we’re back!

Outhit: I’d like to expand the library food program. *Reads the motion* It’s an important program to educate people about food and feed people. I’m so supportive of this. If we want to keep this going and expand it we have to fund it, so here we are. 

Mancini: Is this one time or ongoing?

Kachan: We don’t think the demand will drop, so we’d like ongoing, but I put it up as either/or because of COVID. We don’t see the downside of this.

Mancini: I’d like this to be one time. 

Outhit: I was hoping for ongoing. Can you give a rough estimate for the cost to the taxpayer? 

Fraser: $0.17. 

Outhit: I’m going to call the question, I don’t want to debate 0.17 cents. 

Mancini: Ongoing? 

Outhit: Yes.

M/S/CVoteAyeUnanimous

Mason: I’d like to propose a motion. *Reads motion for funding for in-year staffing* I don’t think we can wait another full year to move on the IMP and HalifACT. We don’t need the full money initially proposed, so after talking to the CAO I’ve reduced it for this year. When we talk about HalifACT, the longer we wait, the more carbon we emit and the less effective HalifACT will be. Everything we’re working on is intertwined. For HalifACT, it’s going to cost money, and there’s a lot of work, and we’re not going to be able to even start that with more staff. Time is of the essence and we need to bite the bullet and keep going. I ask you to support this motion.

Savage: I have concerns about this as expressed before, I like this motion better. I like that this gives us more information and allows us to be nimble. I was going to propose $1 million but I can live with $1.5 million. No other jurisdiction does this but I was wary of giving the CAO carte blanche. We’re adding 60 people already. I will not support this motion if next year is tied to this. I don’t think we should tie ourselves to a multi-year plan.

Cleary: The way the motion is worded, when these reports detailing staffing resources, are they just for information or do we get to approve it? The way it’s written right now it sounds like it’s not an approval. We’re diligent in our budget and go through it line by line. I’m not comfortable giving a pile of money to the CAO when we require that level of detail for other departments. We don’t run the city, we approve our policies and budget, my fear is we’re just saying ‘sure whatever you need,’ to the CAO. So is it information or approval? 

CAO: It’s intention, and I think it’s worded that I would provide an information item two weeks before posting to ask questions or raise an issue and a notice of motion to stop it or whatever as needed. The reason we have to consider subsequent years is because we’re hiring permanent positions. The only reason it’s less than $2.5 million this year is because we can’t hire people fast enough this year. We still have to do a fair amount of due diligence for directors. 

Cleary: I can’t support that, if that’s the plan, you can just do that to create new positions. I can’t approve a plan that isn’t a plan.  

Mancini: I can’t support the motion as it’s written, I’d like to see if business units need more staff to include it in the budget for next year. Can we break it out? 

Traves: Yes. 

Austin: The way I understand this it’d be better if the plan went forward as Mancini proposed. It’d be nicer if this was more of a comprehensive plan but I appreciate that things will come together at different times. But I’m a little confused to the objection to build things into next year’s budget, we do that all the time with staffing, we did that with 15 planners this morning! They’re not going to work for free next year. We want to do this, we think it’s a priority, what’s the issue with signposting that? I’m a bit mystified what the objection is. 

Deagle-Gammon: From the beginning it was said that this is something we don’t always do. If we split the motion between this year and next year, would the hires this year be term positions? Term positions are harder to fill. I’m always complimenting the staff, they do a phenomenal job and do need to be resourced well, and this is a matter of staffing them

CAO: The positions being considered are professional technical positions, they’re a split of bargaining and professional positions. The very reason we’re doing this is to not have term positions. Looking at the positions that have been theoretically approved by council, these extra 15 people are to help deal with the increased capacity of the 60 new hires. These are not term positions, they can’t be. It has to be baked into the budget this year, and in future years.  

Russell: I’m not going to support this motion as originally presented or in Mason’s new motion. There are alot of reasons for it, because it came to us as an ask to hire some people without any other information. We had to ask for a briefing note. There’s no plan. We have a rigorous process to do the best that we can to hold ourselves accountable and this is saying ‘let’s just hire 15 people’ assuming we hire 15 people, then they’ll be baked into the budget. Assuming the people are hired at the beginning of the year. If you hire them later in the year you can hire more people with the money and then more people are baked into the budget (slippery slope fallacy). We’re doing everything based on discussion, we’ll have to go back to the minutes to see what was discussed (or read Committee Trawler!). It sounds like we’re already planning to hire these people. This is saying ‘here’s money with no rules around it.’ Without some degree of structure I can’t vote for this in any capacity. This is more than the top two or three items on this list. If this comes back with a report and rules I can support this, otherwise I can’t. 

Outhit: I see that there are concerns, so I’m going to add an amendment to require the CAO to give council a report on the staffing plan for hires prior to posting, to council for approval. 

Deagle-Gammon: Does this mean this money gets allocated to the budget with the amendment? 

Fraser: You can do it a couple of ways, the recommendation is for Fiscal Services, we could wait until the plan comes back and find a source, probably operating reserve, to fund this. Then in 2022/23 and beyond would be part of the wage model. 

Deagle-Gammon: So in this meeting we need to make it clear where the money is coming from? 

Fraser: I would just need to know if you’re willing to have it in the budget this year, which would be deed transfer, if you want to wait the report would designate the funding. 

Russell: Is this a friendly or do we need to vote on it? 

Traves: If the mover and seconder approve it’s friendly, and we can’t amend the amendment. 

Outhit: I’m fine with it being friendly. 

Russell: We’re back on the list of speakers, which means Mason. 

Mason: Thank you to Outhit for the amendment, the motion says deed transfer tax. There’s a million different ways to get where we’re going, I think this is just more clear to do it now, than mid-year with a budget adjustment. 

Savage: It’s a bit of a misnomer to say it’s funded out of the deed transfer tax, it’s one pot of revenue. I disagree with Austin that this isn’t different than planners, we have a list of planners, their qualifications, and how much they’re getting paid. This motion is better with amendment. I can’t support this, we’re increasing $2.25 million per year. It’s too much. My preference would be $1 million of annual cost. I would rather have a lower number and see how it goes, but it’ll impact the tax rate.

Cleary: This year it would only have a potential impact based on hires. They aren’t for sure. When they come to us with the amendment, they have to come to us with a plan, and if we don’t want them based on the plan we can say no then. Before it was ‘you have big plans, give me money and I’ll fix it,’ not ‘you have big plans, I’ll tell you how I want to fix it, and you approve it’ which I’m comfortable with because we can say no if we need to. 

Cuttell: In regard to how it impacts taxes, if we don’t use the money where does it go? What is the impact on the taxes for people?

Fraser: $1.25 million is $4.32 per tax bill. The impact for next year would be $2.5 million which would be part of next year’s budget. 

Cuttell: If we don’t spend the money are taxpayers still charged and we don’t use it? 

Fraser: It forms a surplus. This year is unusual, typically I haven’t identified a big pot of money. This year I have a big pot of money in the deed transfer tax. What this is doing is chewing away at the $13 million in deed tax revenue. 

Morse: What specifically will this do? Are there areas that are understaffed now that would be addressed through this funding? 

CAO: I think your question was about HalifACT, as you know Denty has included staffing for HalifACT. When we look at all of the increased growth pressures we’ve having we’re facing a lack of capacity. We have a bunch of things we’re trying to do that all require experts for the various projects ongoing. We just need a lot of project management help to get this all done. There’s a lot of work that needs to get done and we can’t do it with what we have. I would not be doing my job if I didn’t tell you that with all the pressures we have and all your priorities, that we can’t do it with current staffing. We’ll come back with a more detailed plan, and we may or may not hire all these people. 

Lovelace: We have all these plans which have not been adequately resourced and have been delayed. The intent of this is to build capacity and efficiency to get closer to our goals. Can you give me assurances that if this is approved today the train will start rolling faster? Will Blue Mountain Birch Cove be resourced better and move faster? 

CAO: Certainly Parks and Rec is a place with knock on effects. If we have more planners doing development there will be more parks requiring work. The Moving Forward Together plan was passed without the financial plan in place and now we’re starting to roll it out. Blue Mountain is similar. I can’t commit to you that we can meet all of your expectations.   

Deagle-Gammon: All of these plans were approved and not resourced as required, so I appreciate the spirit of this. When Cleary said we can say no, we can, but we’ve already asked the taxpayers to pay for it. That is a consideration to take in. Yes there’s a deed transfer tax, we could also use that to hold down taxes, so we should consider that. So if the motion gets split, then I can see how I can vote on year one but I’m worried about future years. There’s a surplus on deed transfer tax and how we use it is important to taxpayers. 

Outhit: I’m trying to be a voice of reality and reason, and I’m not trying to be negative. We talk about all these big projects and it’s dependent on buying the land, having other governments come up with the money. Even if these plans are approved, there’s no funding because we don’t know where it’s coming from. If the province and the feds say no, there’s a good chance these things won’t happen. So we have to assume the projects will happen so we’re ready if they do. But I just hope we set expectations accurately if we can’t buy the land or other governments don’t come through. Some of these things are going to take a decade. 

CAO: HalifACT didn’t happen in a year, it took four years to develop the plan for HalifACT and another 10 years to achieve the targets we set. It’s not just about the major strategies and funding from other governments. It’s the bread and butter of the business, which is council’s staff reports. We have 200 reports, and you’re always asking why we can’t get them sooner. So if we’re going after the bigger projects, we have a lot of staff under a lot of pressure, so what can we reasonably expect in terms of output in this time. And I’ll bring that back to you with the report. As to whether or not it should be funded this year, if you agree we need additional resourcing then we should fund it this year. It’s the frugal, conservative, fiscally prudent way to do this. 

Austin: Maybe I wasn’t clear based on the Mayor’s comments. This is different than hiring the planners, with the level of detail. We agreed to add that to the list and they’re going to be paid next year and moving forward. But they’re staffing positions. If you’re not comfortable putting money this year for hiring staff, don’t put in the budget this or next year. But if you’re comfortable adding money this year with context from Dubé, why not add it now? I’m struggling with splitting the ticket and doing this as a half measure. We’re either going to do this or not do this. I don’t get the logic. Doing both seems weird to me.

Cuttell: It seems strange to me too, if we pass this now, we hire people and the funding becomes baked in? Why are we allocating the $2 million? 

Fraser: If it’s funded and staff are hired this year it becomes an ongoing commitment. What we’re saying is that it’s that it’s an impact on the fiscal outlook. 

Cuttell: I understand that, it seems like we’re adding an additional $2 million of funding.

Mason: I wrote it like that, because in the past when we didn’t include next years spending people have been accused of being dishonest. The motion has been amended to be more clear on that. 

Mancini: I still need clarification on the $2.25 million. If we just approve the $1.25 million and don’t have any mention to the $2.25 million, what happens in the next years? It becomes ongoing in next years? What impact is breaking out the $2.25 million?

Fraser: The assumption for the $1.25 million is because we’re going to hire people mid-year, so they’re only being paid a half year salary. Next year they’d have to be paid for a full year. The CAO’s report will lay out what the positions are, with their salary ranges, and the impact when fully funded. I think Mason’s intention was just to illustrate that if we do this this year the costs this year are lower than next year. 

Mancini: But we don’t need to put the $2.25 million in the motion, if we vote yea for the $1.25 million, we’re still doing the $2.25 million next year at budget time? 

Fraser: Yes. 

Mancini: Other than making a point, it’s not needed in the motion

Fraser: Not from a finance point of view. 

Traves: It comes back to Mason’s intent, my previous advice was too hasty. If the initial cost is $1.25 million and the ongoing years is $2.25 million when staffed up, then it can’t really be split.  

Deagle-Gammon: I thought if the motion was separated then it would half the positions, and then next year we could add more positions, if required. 

Traves: You’re approach is the way I understood it at first, it’s not that it’ll be half the positions, it’s that they’d only be filled for half the year. I misheard that. In reality it doesn’t make sense, if I’m wrong in that the CFO can correct me but she’s smiling so I don’t think I got it wrong.

Lovelace: One of the things we’ve done is adequately resourced the special and big projects we want to do. Certainly we can look at the six month period to help accelerate things but we have following years, where we’ll still need to do the work. And if we don’t resource it we’re just repeating the mistakes of the past. We need to jump in and just do it. The delaying is one of the biggest complaints I receive. 

Russell: My understanding of this at the beginning was that we were going to hire people for part of the year and then they’d all be folded into the budget in the following fiscal year. Then we’d be free to hire 15 new positions next year because we’d be looking at a brand new $2.25 million in the next fiscal year. (Nope, not it.)

CAO: The motion was crafted the way it was, it’s not 15 new positions every year, we’re saying the 15 positions will cost, when fully staffed, $2.25 million. The $1.25 million is to hire them this year, for part of the year, not a full year. It’s the same money for the same people.

Russell: That differs from how I remembered it (but like they just explained this, repeatedly). 

Mason: Like all the other overs and unders I’m making a motion based on the briefing note. We can change this year to year at budget time, like we do every year. 

Mancini: Residents want us to jump in but they also want us to be fiscally prudent. I don’t see why it’s necessary to include the $2.25 million (transparency, Mason explained this, as did the CAO and CFO).

Fraser: If this is approved and people are hired then next year the cost will be $2.25 million. 

Savage: There’s no point splitting the motion, if we approve the $1.25 million, we approve the $2.25 million next year. We approved planners. If this passes we are committing to $2.25 million to the budget this year and future years. I’m just not going to support the extra $2.25 million for unidentified positions. 

M/S/CVoteAye – Blackburn, Outhit, Hendsbee, Austin, Mason, Smith, Cleary, Morse, Stoddard, Lovelace – Nay – Russell, Deagle-Gammon, Kent, Purdy, Mancini, Cuttell, Savage – Motion passes 

Savage: The Discover Halifax motion was taken out of Blackburn’s motion yesterday? I’ll move it. We’re doing okay as a city but some people aren’t. The real needs of the tourism industry are important, these people really need the help. We can hold the line on taxes but these people really need it, so I’ll move it. 

M/S/CVoteAyeUnanimous 

Cleary: I’m going to move the motion to enhance the snow clearing for bus stops from 48 hours to 24 hours. Briefly on this, because we talked about this before, we’re spending a lot of time saying the same things over and over. But if we’re serious about a model shift, and accessible busses, then we have to do a better job of clearing our transit stops. I think this will be better for everyone. 

Kent: I’m supportive of this, I do understand what’s at play for transit. Those who have the benefit of transit face issues with it. I know that this will be a tough pill to swallow for people in my district who are losing transit but I support this because it’s an important piece of service our residents deserve. 

Outhit: When this first came forward, I said then and now that people want shelters not cleared out bus stops. We were given the impression that we were largely achieving 24 hours now without the extra money. I get the spirit of this but I don’t think it’s worth spending the money if we’re already mostly hitting this target

Anguish: I don’t recall saying most of the time. At times we are meeting a 24 hour standard but we don’t have a qualitative measurement. I can’t tell you what the measurement is. This money will give assurances that we’ll be able to meet that target, except in exceptional storms. 

Outhit: We’re achieving this sometimes, most times, whatever, and in a storm we can’t clear it anyways. I’m wondering if we’re going to get our money’s worth for this. I support the spirit of this but I’m worried we won’t see much of a change. 

Blackburn: What Outhit said. The $2 million, does that include the cost of equipment required to make it happen? I have a problem with buying a lot of equipment for this 24 hour standard and then it sitting around unused. 

Anguish: It’s an estimate, we’d have to do negotiations with six providers and eleven contracts, it’s our best guess based on current rates. We have to give 180 days notice, if they require extra equipment that could be an issue, COVID is messing up supply change. If you make this decision we’ll go out and do it but there’s a risk we won’t be able to land the contract or guarantee the price. As far as equipment sitting idle, we have a good group of contractors, they’re not going to buy equipment they don’t need. But weather fluctuates year to year. 

Blackburn: We’re almost there now but I don’t see the return on investment for this $2 million so I’m out. 

Lovelove: I’m out too, I’d like to see safer bus stops. 

Smith: I was going to support this and still might. I understand what you just said about negotiations. Most of the bus stops are done by contractors, do we have any HRM staff doing bus stop clearance? If we were to say ‘up to $2 million’ would that allow you to negotiate and come back to council? 

Anguish: Negotiations are just that, we’d set out based on the contact we have in place. A service provider might be unwilling or unable to do this, and we’d come back to council immediately. Yes we have HRM crews that do the peninsula and downtown Dartmouth. We’re pretty close to hitting 24 hours with our people.

Smith: This is a question to Fraser, if we were to say ‘up to $2 million’, put it in the reserve, and then come back to council so we can still negotiate, and give final approval?

Anguish: This is a question for Fraser, so I’ll pass it off to her.

Fraser: If you say ‘up to $2 million’ then you’d have to negotiate priority stops to not go over $2 million. It’s a contract change and ongoing, so you’d want to put it on the tax rate. It’d be eligible to withdraw from reserves but I’d recommend it go on the rate. 

Stoddard: I understand this process is to accept or decline, not redirect? 

Russell: Can you clarify? 

Stoddard: If there was something on the budget for $1000, if it was accepted or declined that money is off the table, it can’t be redirected to something else? 

Russell: Correct. 

Stoddard: So we couldn’t just put it to shelters.

Russell: That’d be a separate motion, for council.

Stoddard: A lot of time people can’t make it to the bus stop, climb over the snowbank to get into the bus or the bus doors can’t open because they hit the snow. 

M/S/CVoteAye – Hendsbee, Kent, Austin, Mason, Smith, Cleary, Morse, Cuttell, Stoddard – Nay – Outhit, Deagle-Gammon, Purdy, Mancini, Lovelace, Blackburn, Russell, Savage – Motion passes 

Smith: I’m going to move to change the tax rebate for non-profit housing from 25 per cent to 50 per cent. 

M/S/CVoteAyeUnanimous

Mason: We haven’t seen a lot of 9 to 8 votes. I’m going to put forward the money for the heritage district. We’ve talked about it, we have the briefing note. 

M/S/CVoteAyeUnanimous

Russell: Can we get an update on tax rate? 

Fraser: It’s $10.8 million, a tax increase of 1.9 per cent, or $37 per (average) house. But with the extra revenue there’s a surplus of $2.86 million, so that falls to 1.4 per cent, or 28 per (average) house.  

Cleary: I’ve got, in the one time bucket, I have $5.6 million and for ongoing I have $4,811,300? Can you tell me how that’ll be funded? Normally the ongoing would go to the tax rate? 

Fraser: Normally, yes. This year though, because we went lean on deed transfer tax in our projections, we have an extra $13 million. If we hadn’t had that built in the rate would have been lower. If you use reserves to offset the one time you’re pushing the pressure out next year. We’ve been fortunate with the federal funding and we’ll need to recover that next year. To be prudent I’d recommend the deed transfer tax but we can change the tax rate if requested. 

Austin: We’re down to the IT audit and the two police motions? 

Russell: Just the police ones. 

Austin: I’ll put forward the two remaining police items. I’ll support these, it’s not a lot of extra money for the police budget and the cost increases are mostly for salaries and that’s the same. There’s a need for both of these two items. (There is, but the police should already be funding anti-racism training and keeping people safe, it’s like their whole job, they shouldn’t need extra new money.)

Russell: is this one moton? 

Austin: Yes.

Cuttell: On the court disposition clerk, I have a tough time with this. Knowing how much overtime exists with HRP, and I know it’s inevitable in some cases, but they have $2 million in overtime, do they need to relook at their staffing model? What efficiencies can they find internally?

Russell: Would you like to split this? 

Cuttell: Yes.

Smith: I don’t know if anyone from the HRP is here to answer Cuttell’s question? 

Kinsella: I’m happy to take questions, I spoke at length about these, I’m happy to answer questions about Journey to Change but we should go back in-camera for the disposition clerk. 

Cuttell: I was just stating my position. 

Smith: I had some issues with the core of the clerk issue but I’ve changed my mind with more information, and I can support the Journey to Change training especially as it’s being taught by community leaders and is important. I support these two items as they are now.

M/S/CVoteAyeUnanimousJourney to Change motion approved

M/S/CVoteAye – Austin, Mancini, Mason, Smith, Cleary, Morse, Stoddard, Blackburn, Hendsbee, Kent, Savage – Nay – Purdy, Cuttell, Lovelace, Russell, Outhit, Deagle-Gammon – Court disposition clerk motion approved 

Russell: Back on the main motion, Mayor’s up.

Savage: Fraser gave us an update, what would it cost to get to 1 per cent? 

Fraser: Rough estimate $2.8 million per half a percent, which is roughly $5.2 million, I’ll plug that in and see where we end up.

Savage: To compare where we were last year, we were laying people off, cutting services. Our deed transfer tax is higher than projected. We received a bunch of money for COVID which we weren’t supposed to put in our operating budget, but we did, so we’ll have to deal with that next year. I’m not saying we should raise taxes but we have enough money to decrease our tax rate and add money to our reserves. We are going to support a lot of great causes, and we put money aside for some contingency funds. We’ve spent a lot, I think it’s important to give our taxpayers a break too. We’re increasing the tax bill, even if we just figured out it’s reduced by a bit. I’m going to propose we hold the line at 1 per cent of our tax bill. What’s the cost? 

Fraser: Assuming all deed transfer tax is applied, it’d cost $2.8 million. 

Savage: We haven’t allocated the surplus but it’s around $34 million? 

Fraser: Yes.

Savage: So I propose we use the surplus. 

Austin: 1.5 per cent is a good rate, the last five years was in the 3s and 2s to artificially squeeze this down. Using surplus is not something I could support. I don’t think we should dip into surplus funds for this. Surplus money should be stashed away to pay for major projects, and we have a lot of major projects coming. Using the surplus to borrow less in the future is a much larger tax savings. We have a lot of huge projects coming up that we know are expensive. This is just keeping taxes artificially low which compounds our problems later. 

Mason: Putting the deed transfer tax is something we can relatively easily predict. I think it’s important to keep the rate at or near inflation or cost of living or whatever the metric we use is. I think this will come home to roost, I can’t support this.

Kent: This is a pandemic we’ve just come through and there’s the potential for future shutdown. We’re better off than other cities. Yes there’s going to be peaks and valleys who don’t have a savings to pull (the proposed ~$10 decrease) from. We’re asking our taxpayers to squeeze and borrow. Jobs aren’t secure. Ours are but there are thousands of others that are affected. To add more taxes, I wanted to see the tax rate stay flat, and I was happy to support the stuff we paid for, but I think we should put it away now, so our taxpayers can pay for it later when they’re doing better. I say squeeze away.

Russell: I can’t support this, we should not be using one time money to pay for ongoing expenses and that, I fear, is what we’re doing with this motion. We’re increasing services in a way that we can pay for, and still lower our project tax rate increase.    

Cuttell: Taxes are complicated, I think there’s some important things to remember, we’ve seen a bit of a bonus. And that bonus came from the sales of properties buying and selling their homes. In our case it was a bonus that we’re seeing the ability to provide services and projects we haven’t normally been able to do. We’ve also seen home prices going up, and there’s an assessment which has a cap, but as we’re moving forward we need to keep in mind that a reasonable increase to the overall budget, people are already paying higher costs than they should for higher costs of housing and the cost of living. Everything is getting expensive. People are being squeezed in many different ways and every penny counts. 

Outhit: In my time on council we’ve frozen taxes three times and the sky didn’t fall. The deed transfer tax isn’t really a result of anything we’ve done. We’ve made our city better, sure, but we’ve got a bit of a blue bird. We have a surplus, if we paid $100 a month in power but only used $1000 the power company gives us a refund. I’m worried about this bus stop, I’m worried about the blue bags, since we’re raising taxes and decreasing services (for some). It’s not a pandemic budget, it’s not a recession budget, so to try and get it down from 1.5 to 1 per cent by using a small portion of our surplus I think is quite reasonable. We’re expecting a surplus of $34 million, what would it cost to do? 

Fraser: $2.8 million. 

Outhit: If we took $2.8 million out of $34 million and still put most of our surplus into the reserve. I don’t have a problem with that. 

Purdy: In a billion dollar budget, $2.8 million isn’t going to do much. We’re at one year into this and we’re looking at a shutdown, and we’re telling restaurants to close their doors. People are under a lot of pressure, it’s psychological. Your taxes are going up and services are decreasing! I’d like to see reserves go down to zero to have no tax increase this year because people are under so much pressure. 

Stoddard: I would support this 1 per cent, a lot of people have told me of their hardships and have been laid off or had their hours reduced. They’re suffering psychologically too. I think we can give people a little break and we’ll still have enough to start working on our other projects. I agree with Councillor Kent’s point that maybe jobs and the economy will come back and we can get them to pay more then. 

Deagle-Gammon: I agree with and support this. We’ve been given a dollar value residentially, but what’s the difference commercially? 

Fraser: I have to call a friend, I’m only allowed to touch the residential program right now. 

Morse: Back in December we were told next year could be tougher with the pandemic impact, and some discussion with smoothing over those impacts by planning ahead. It sounds to me like it’d be better to stay at 1.5 per cent expecting next year to be difficult, do you still think that way? 

Fraser: We’ve benefited greatly from the federal money. Next year we have a gap of around $34 million. We have to look at the assumptions we made, we didn’t project any commercial growth, for example. And we’ll put all the decisions from today into the model, some things go higher than the tax rate, so we’ll have to play catch up with that. So we will have to catch it up next year. 

Cleary: There’s no right answer, it’s a values decision. The problem isn’t decreasing taxes on the year. That isn’t that big, the problem happens when it’s done year over year. And the difference between 1 and 1.5 per cent, it’s handful of dollars over the whole year. If we weren’t planning major expenditures, then it wouldn’t matter. But every million that goes into reserves is a million we don’t need to borrow. This discussion will happen each year, and we’ll start to wish we raised taxes to build cool things. It doesn’t have a huge impact on pocket books, it’s just a signal that we care. 

Lovelace: If we’re holding the taxline artificially year after year, what that means is when we don’t increase we don’t have the state of good repair. We need to address the Planning and Development backlog. If we don’t address the costs that we have and artificially keep the rate low it’ll compound our problems of not being able to meet the expectations our people have. We do care, you can see that in budget. This road transfer from the province, we need to address that. Holding at 1 or 1.5 per cent, the tax bill isn’t in our hands, the rate is. I appreciate the Mayor putting this forward.    

Blackburn: The leftover from the deed transfer, if we throw it all at the budget we get it down to 1.5 per cent. What would it cost to bring it down to zero? 

Fraser: $5.8 million.

Blackburn: And how much would that leave for our reserves? 

Fraser $27 million? 

Blackburn: How much did we put in reserves last year?

Fraser: Around the same amount.

Blackburn: The decisions we make today will have a minimal impact on tax bills. When they get their assessment, that’s when people are going to go ballistic. We can do our part to keep the bills down, but they’re going to get a kick in the pants and it’ll have nothing to do with the tax rate, it’s the assessment. Bringing it down to zero would send the message that we care and we’d still be able put as much as last year into reserves. 

Lovelace: Second!

Blackburn: That was a comment, not a motion, just wanted the numbers. 

Smith: We’ve been chucking around a lot of numbers. We started at 1.9 per cent which is $38 dollars, the deed transfer brought it down to 1.5 per cent which is $27 and the Mayor’s proposal 1 per cent which is $19.59? 

Fraser: Yes and last year the surplus was $35 million. 

Smith: I support the way we’re going but not this tax cut. When I look at this budget, we see the things we’re losing but we’re gaining a lot. We held the tax rate, it caught up to us, and now we have to increase it as it goes further. The pandemic is a difficult one (My paraphrasing is going down the tubes due to also watching the COVID presser, apologies reader, if you’re still here on page 50.

Savage: We have occasional deficit disorder. We’ve been told we’re doubling the gas tax, has that been factored? 

Fraser: Yes, it goes into the reserves.

Savage: I’m not a deficit hawk, I’m not an anti-tax guy, we’re not keeping the rate artificially low, we’re adding more than ever to the reserves. We’re just saying we can help a little bit, this year. You don’t raise taxes when you can, you raise them when you need to. If we were able to run deficits it’d be different. We show leadership, we make tough decisions, and we send signals. We should send a signal that we care about our people by making our tax rate lower. We didn’t know we had this extra money, we do know, we should help out a little bit. 

Austin: I think we should keep in mind we should always have a surplus because we can’t budget for deficits. Surpluses are a sign of good management and we had a good year this year. If there was a way here and now that I could direct tax relief to the people who are really struggling, I would. We can’t, we can just lower the overall rate. We’re also lowering the rates here for Walmart. I can’t lower the rate on Walmart. We have so much we’re trying to do, so minimizing debt there is fiscally prudent. We’ve gotten a lot of one time money from provincial and federal gov’ts, are we running a risk if we’re taking money to restart and lowering our tax bills instead? 

Fraser: The federal money has an accountability aspect. We got 46 million, we’ve used 15 this year, and it has to offset decreased revenue or increased cost. A portion of it has to go transit, about 20 million, we can demonstrate that we’ve spend the money appropriately.      

Austin: I appreciate that, but from an optics point of view it’s not a good look. 

Outhit: I think Sam made a good point for the Mayor. They gave the people’s money to us for the people and we’re using that money to lower the tax rate for the people, holy smokes! All we’re debating are we putting 90 per cent away or 100 per cent of the surplus. If we put away 90 per cent we give people a little break. This is my 13th budget, the sky has never fallen. The average tax increase in my time on council is 2.2 per cent. (Just to be clear, the “people” who will get the biggest tax breaks this year are the Walmarts of the world. Meaning our tax money was given back to the city to help us, and instead they’re helping the Walmarts the most to send a signal that they’re helping us, the people.) This should be a no brainer in a pandemic and a recession. 

Cleary: I’m going to do something I’m not good at, bring everyone together. I’ve heard councillors say we’re cutting services, but it’s only the blue bags, and we’re providing $11 million in more stuff. We’re not cutting anything. Assessments, there’s a lag, it won’t be felt until next year. We won’t have a big surplus next year because we’re using the deed transfer tax now. We have a lot of money coming in. We’re giving people a break, we’re lowering taxes, we’re not. We’re just increasing taxes less. I can live with the one per cent, let’s have a unanimous vote for 1 per cent and get behind the mayor. 

Purdy: This is my favourite day of council yet (hard disagree from me). I was just going to suggest we take enough from the surplus to get us down to zero.

Russell: I think that’s amending an amendment, and someone has a radio on in the background? 

Traves: You’d have to defeat the motion on the floor and then pass it. 

Purdy: It’s so friendly. 

Savage: I feel it is friendly but we should vote on this and see where it takes us. 

Purdy: I appreciate this, do we not all feel this heaviness of this one more thing? I don’t want to increase a tax bill $5, I’d rather the upper ones get away with it, to make sure the ones that need it get the help they need (this is only the former, not the latter). I withdraw my motion but the sentiment is to do everything we can to help. 

Cuttell: I’m all for going to the vote but I just want to add one thing, we’ve been focused on one thing, the tax rate, and not our overall revenue and how much do we need. We’ve had a good, unexpected year. Let’s pass this on. This average increase is only an average, does anyone know the median? The people who are really absorbing this impact are the new homeowners, it’s not $19 for everyone, some people will pay significantly more. We’re about to head into a lockdown for four weeks, let’s have some good news here, we’re still increasing our coffers. 

Fraser: I can’t answer the dollar amount for the dollar amount but 26 per cent of homes are above the average of single family homes number we use. Most of those home are $300,000-500,000. 

Russell: So the median would be a lot lower.

Fraser: Yeah.

Hendsbee: We don’t know how long this will last and we won’t see the benefit of the assessment base until next year. This COVID panic buying is going to have an impact on the residential base and we don’t know the impact on the commercial base. There’s going to be more significant pain. Things may change in the future. I’d like to see the 1 per cent for the “political” reasons. We’ve cut the rate in half and we’re providing new services. 

M/S/C VoteAye – Purdy, Mancini, Smith, Cleary, Cuttell, Stoddard, Lovelace, Blackburn, Russell, Outhit, Deagle-Gammon, Hendsbee, Kent, Savage – Nay – Austin, Mason, Morse

M/S/CVoteAyeUnanimousMotion telling CFO to go make the budget passes 

Savage: *It’s a general thank you, I’m spent, this thing is like 60 pages long, sorry Mr. Savage*

*Meeting adjourned*

Present:

Councillor Paul Russell, Chair (District 15)

Mayor Mike Savage

Deputy Mayor Tim Outhit (District 16)

Councillor Kathy Deagle-Gammon (District 1)

Councillor David Hendsbee (District 2)

Councillor Becky Kent (District 3)

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)

Absent: 

N/A

Interviews:

N/A – COVID

Previous meeting minutes and current agenda:

Previous meeting

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.

 Let’s cut to the chase: The Committee Trawler wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the support of our readers, like yourself. Sign up now – and with your monthly contribution (or one-time contribution) you can help us stay afloat. In return, we will give you a say on the content you want to see on The Trawler.