A new community council had been proposed for Halifax Regional Municipality in 2013, and now without any public consultation, it has emerged under the guise of HRM’s Centre Plan.
Given that the communities within the centre plan area are quite different, municipal planning needs to be flexible in order to respond to local needs.
The Harbour East Marine Drive and Halifax and West community councils are in the best position to address any planning matter and provide that direction.
A new community council will assume more authority over time and this will increase costs (staff time) or reduce public participation.
As more authority is assumed, meetings will need to be held on each side of the harbour on a semi-monthly basis if the current level of public participation is to be respected, and this will increase costs.
If costs are going to be contained by alternating meetings on a monthly basis on each side of the harbour, then this will reduce public participation and access to decision-makers.
So, a new community council had been proposed prior to the Centre Plan, there is nominal if any planning rationale for it, and there has been no public consultation: why has it been proposed and why will it assume more authority over time?
That's because the new community council is the forerunner of a future City of Halifax council.
It has been a long-standing goal of some members of the business community to create a large City of Halifax.
Hence, in the last five years, everything has been branded as Halifax at considerable cost and HRM is now routinely called a city.
A plebiscite to de-amalgamate HRM’s rural districts has already been called for and this next step in the campaign to create a large City of Halifax will prove to be complicated, therefore costly.
In its 2015 study of municipal amalgamations in Ontario, The Fraser Institute found there was no tangible, financial benefit from amalgamation, that promises of lower costs and lower taxes did not materialize, and that amalgamations have not led to more efficient services because of a reduction in competition between municipalities.
The Fraser Institute also advised that de-amalgamations are not the answer due to significant costs and lack of guarantee of service efficiency.
There may well be a need for greater autonomy and more control over decision-making by HRM’s rural districts, but that’s an argument that can be made for any community, for example, Dartmouth, which will not accept being part of any future City of Halifax.
There is no need for a new HRM community council and it’s time to stop this costly and divisive campaign to create a large City of Halifax.