With Election Day around the corner in Halifax on October 17th, 2020, we wanted to provide students with an opportunity to read what the mayoral candidates are saying about major topics that are of concern to the student population. We covered policing, public transportation, employment, economic development, and affordable housing! SMUSA VP External, Samantha Graham, provided questions to the 3 candidates for Mayor. Below are their responses.

Questions:

Policing

  1. What do you see as the next logical step for Halifax to deal with the discriminatory practices in the policing industry?
  2. Do you see the need to re-allocate police funding to other sectors more equipped to deal with education and crisis management?

Transportation

  1. What are your ideas to make transportation more eco-friendly in Halifax?
  2. Do you support the implementation of more bike lanes?
  3. How do you plan on advocating for more accessible transportation in Halifax?

Employment/Finances 

  1. Do you agree that minimum wage needs to rise and if so, what do you see as the next step forward in addressing this issue?

Economic Development Initiatives

  1. How do you plan to support students who have lost their jobs due to Covid and are struggling to make ends meet, not to mention paying tuition?
  2. Municipality did recast their budget in June, but what other initiatives do you plan on bringing forward in order to support the recovery of the Halifax economy?
  3. Many of our International students have been left in the dark during Covid-19 with many not able to return home due to border closures, most not being eligible for the Federal Aid Packages and they pay significantly more for tuition. How do you plan to support International students, so that they want to stay in Halifax after they’ve completed their studies?

Affordable Housing

  1. What are your plans to address the housing crisis in Halifax, as it remains a key barrier to young people staying/choosing to live in Halifax 

Responses from Mike Savage 

Policing

  1. The Wortley Report provides important recommendations for improving the relationship between police and the community they serve, including racial and other minorities, and I was pleased to see the Halifax Regional Police Chief apologize for street checks and take action to begin implementing the Wortley recommendations. I also believe it’s important that progress on that implementation be monitored by the Board of Police Commissioners, City Hall’s civilian oversight body, and Council, with regular update reports to the public. I also look forward to learning more about the Province’s new initiative to address racism in the justice system through a restorative approach. 
  2. I believe there are duties that are currently performed by police that might be more effectively handled by some other professional, but I don’t believe we should jump to reallocate resources without understanding all the implications of shifting responsibility. I’m pleased we passed a motion for a comprehensive review of the policing activities unanimously approved by Council in August to determine which duties can be shifted, and to which professionals. This will also allow police to focus on their core duties. Then we can consider the appropriate allocation of funds. I will continue to be a strong supporter of the non-police Public Safety Office within HRM, which considers broad determinants of crime and works toward enhancing strong, resilient communities. I also voted not to proceed with the purchase of an armoured police vehicle and to re-allocate those funds to restoring budgets for Public Safety and Diversity and Inclusion, along with additional municipal measures to address anti-Black racism under the direction of the CAO.

Transportation

  1. The Integrated Mobility Plan is intended to increase the use of active transportation and transit over the next number of decades, with an increasing share of personal trips made by transit and active transportation by 2031. This will only happen if we continue to support investments in transit, including electric buses as envisioned by the HalifACT climate action plan, new ferry routes, as well as new cycling and pedestrian infrastructure in well-planned, complete and connected communities. Our plans include rapid transit with dedicated bus lanes, some of which are already being installed, and rapid ferries.
  2. I am committed to making Halifax a cycling city by planning for a cycling network for people who ride now as well as those who would if our network were safer and better connected. Currently we have some 200 km of multi-use pathways, close to 5 km of protected bike lanes and two km of local street bikeways. In 2019, with the help of the federal and provincial governments, we were able to announce a $25 million commitment to build a Regional Centre All Ages and Abilities (AAA) Bikeway Network, which will include  50 km of connected protected bike lanes, multi-use pathways and local street bikeways.  
  3. Our Halifax Transit fleet is accessible but it can still be a challenge for people with mobility issues during wintery weather. I would support enhanced snow clearing to aid access to transit during winter. The supply of accessible cabs is a longstanding issue and we are seeking legislative permission from the province to allow us to incent the purchase of accessible taxis, which tend to be more costly than traditional cars. We have also done away with taxi zone restrictions that made it difficult for accessible cabs to effectively serve a client base throughout the municipality.

Employment/Finances

  1. Minimum wage legislation is entirely within the jurisdiction of the province but I have been supportive of all past increases in minimum wage and see that continuing. Council just passed a motion approving a Supplier Code of Conduct, effective April 1, 2021, inclusive of living wage requirements for many significant municipal contracts.

Economic Development Initiatives

  1. Since becoming Mayor in 2012, I have supported the hiring of paid interns across all departments of HRM, in part to assist students and new graduates in acquiring professional experience. I am supportive of federal aid packages, including CERB and CESB and their replacements. While cities don’t do direct compensation to residents or influence tuition, we do try to create a stable economic environment where students can find employment opportunities. There is no question COVID-19 has dramatically altered economies around the world, but I believe Halifax is well positioned to recover the momentum it was experiencing pre-pandemic and will continue to be a city where young people find opportunity. 
  2. The economy in HRM was among the strongest in Canada before the pandemic hit us. I believe the strong fundamentals will help us recover when the pandemic is over. Unfortunately, some businesses, especially the tourism, hospitality, and arts sectors, have been more severely affected by the quarantine. This summer, we moved quickly to increase patio space for restaurants where it was possible. We’re working with Discover Halifax to promote HRM within the Atlantic Bubble and planning to expand that promotion across Canada and beyond when it is safe to do so. I’ll continue to work with businesses and business organizations to identify steps the municipality can take to aid in their recovery. When the pandemic hit I moved quickly to engage the city’s economic development agency, The Halifax Partnership, to focus on recovery. They have since turned the economic growth strategy into a recovery and growth strategy, and continue to work to market the city to employers, market to the benefits of buying local, and connect business with available aid.
  3. Our economic development agency, The Halifax Partnership, has demonstrated great results with its Connector program that aids international students and other newcomers to Halifax with building their professional networks. This has proven incredibly helpful in finding employment. Since I first became Mayor, the city has also launched a Local Immigration Partnership which has created stronger ties with immigrant settlement agencies and federal and provincial immigration offices and create a more welcoming city for newcomers. I annually host a welcome reception for international students (this year being an exception due to the pandemic) to demonstrate to students that they are welcome in Halifax and we want them to feel at home. This is an event that sprang from the good working relationships that have been established through the Halifax Higher Education Partnership between my office and the post-secondary presidents.

Affordable Housing

  1. Affordable housing is one of the most critical challenges facing our city at the moment. We’ve been working with the Province to get authority to introduce measures such as density bonusing which allows for money to be set aside in a reserve fund for affordable housing projects, and recently Council approved the development of secondary or garden suites, which will increase the availability of housing across the city. In addition, we intend to take full advantage of federal dollars designated for cities to work with social agencies and other partners to increase the supply of affordable housing.
  2. The primary way to address rising rents on a permanent basis is to increase the number of available units. That is the purpose of the measures I mentioned above. We are also looking at the proliferation of short stay accommodations in residential communities, i.e.Airbnb and VRBO, with a view to seeing more of them returned to monthly rental stock. 

Responses from Max Taylor

Policing

  1. I believe an important conversation has started, and having mental health crises dealt with care, not policing would be a good idea. There needs to be systematic change in some form whether that means re-allocating funds or changes to training and policing tactics. Bad cops make it bad for good cops. My mom was a police dispatcher, so I know a lot of kind cops and dispatchers, what I’m hearing is they want change too.
  2. Yes, we need to re-allocate funding. Social services, mental health and addiction services, education.

Everyone deserves to be treated with respect. And there is systemic racism that needs to change, not tomorrow but today. Why? For the same reason little kids say ‘it’s not fair’.

Transportation

  1. Transportation is a huge issue in Halifax. We need to support green transportation and make our current infrastructure accessible to more Haligonians. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We can make life more affordable by learning from the successes of others and adapting great ideas to meet our challenges head on. We need transit that goes from one end of the municipality to the other. We need to investigate licensing more water taxis. And if we just did simple things like lower the speed limit, we could reduce emissions by 50% and make the streets safer for cyclists.
  2. Yes I support the implementation of more bike lanes.
  3. I would also like to investigate a pedestrian and bike only zone in our city centre. It’s a mess. There are lots of cities that have done this.

We also need to make sure people don’t have to book 7 days in advance for an Access a Bus. That’s unfair.

Employment/Finances

  1. Yes! Raise the minimum wage! Affordable housing has a lot to do with income, that’s why I support a living wage. Everyone in Halifax deserves a living wage, although, it can’t stop there. I support contracting in, providing good jobs to people who care about their work.

Economic Development Initiatives

  1. I would love to be able to offer free bus passes as a possible municipal action but unlike other levels of government, the municipality doesn’t have the option to go into a deficit situation voluntarily. That means we’re required to do more with less. As a “university town” we need to be aware of and focused on the needs of students at this time and always. The city has always done a good job of supporting new students and working with universities and students to ensure municipal services are meeting students needs. I will continue to do that.
  2. The best the municipality can do to ensure a swift and robust recovery is to ensure municipal services are delivered efficiently. As new or unexpected needs arise, we have to respond quickly to ensure we all pull through this together and stronger.
  3. International Students are important and we need to work with the Provincial and Federal Government to ensure that their needs are met during this really difficult time. Being away from home adds to the stress and financial strain. I think it’s critical that we find a way to take care of them. While they are in school this is their home, and if we want them to stay, we need home to be a place where they feel safe and heard.

Affordable Housing

Halifax is facing an affordability crisis. Rent has nearly doubled for some. In fact, recent stats show that rent has gone up more in Halifax than any other city in North America! Housing costs are soaring, wages are not keeping up, and the gap between the rich and the rest of us keeps growing. I am calling for rent subsidies and social housing, pledging to take the fight for affordable housing directly to the province to ensure adequate funding.

Too many new homes in Halifax are luxury apartments that most can’t afford. I wish to reform the planning system to ensure that it is quick, easy, and painless to build low-cost housing. This would open the doors to families and young people looking to put down roots in Halifax.

Responses from Matt Whitman 

Policing

  1. I defend the police.  It’s a tough job and we need them.  No one knows who brought the defund police motion to the police commission of what that means!  There is discrimination in all professions.  The key is ongoing training, conversation & mutual respect.  
  2. Do you see the need to re-allocate police funding to other sectors more equipped to deal with education and crisis management?  There may be some savings in outsourcing some less intense roles to civilians rather than Police.  

Transportation

  1.  I’d like to see more residents work closer to where they live & commute shorter distances.   I’d like to see residents use transit & Rideshare.  Those that can walk or cycle should Be encouraged if able and convenient.  
  2.  I’m in favour of bike lanes “in the right place and at the right price“.  We haven’t seen either of those so far.  1.1% of HRMs total population commutes by bicycle. We are over spending on this small segment.  I’m opposed to the $7M bike bridge ramp. 
  3. Travel by car, bike, bus or foot as you are able. Your choice. 

Employment/Finances 

  1. Minimum wage is not a municipal issue.   If private businesses want to pay employees more they can.   The impact will be higher prices.   Watching taxpayer dollars with HRM spending is my priority.  

Economic Development Initiatives

  1. I was shocked that tuition went up when classes went Virtual.   Smart spending will allow more funds for helping students (and Veterans, single Moms, small business etc etc). 
  2. Smart spending.  Not careless spending on stadiums, winter bike lane plowing, paid statue removal task force, armoured police tank, unenforced smoking ban, communications, PR, social media staff and speech writers!  
  3. Make HRM a safe, friendly, business centric place to stay after university.  More housing, less red tape, smart spending.  

Affordable Housing

  1. Less red tape, faster approvals, more inventory & more choice.  
  2. See above.