Despite requested changes for legislation dating back to 2008, Nova Scotia isn’t guaranteeing Halifax any approvals on its long list of asks.
The city has made 17 requests for changes to provincial laws sitting in the province’s inbox, some of which date back to the eras of Rodney MacDonald and Darrell Dexter, but a lot of it accumulated under Premier Stephen McNeil.
The city says many of the requested changes would help Halifax. They include everything from a drop in speed limits, to incentives to build affordable housing and more powers for Halifax council to do as it wants.
Municipal Affairs Minister Derek Mombourquette says he can’t give any guarantees on whether any of the requests will be approved or when the city might get a final answer.
“I have to do my due diligence,” Mombourquette said in response to questions about several of the requests.
“When you’re designing legislation that’s going to affect municipalities the size of HRM, and communities across the province, you want to make sure that you do the due diligence to do it right,” he said. “I made the commitment to them to respond as quickly as possible.”
The requests for legislative changes include allowing Halifax to give developers incentives to build affordable housing. And another would give Halifax the authority to introduce a district energy system in the new neighbourhood that will replace the Cogswell Interchange.
In order for the project to go ahead as planned, Mayor Mike Savage says the legislature needs to tackle that issue in the spring sitting.
“We’re getting to a point now where that’s going to impact our planning so that’s one that we need to elevate,” he said.
Savage said he thinks the city’s request to allow for more affordable housing is in “everybody’s interest” and isn’t “one that should be held up.”
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He said the list would quickly be cut down if the province gave the city more powers through the law that governs the city.
“If we were able to do some of these things without having to go cap in hand to the legislature, or you know begging for permission to do these things, I think it would be very much in the provincial interest as well as the municipal interest,” Savage said.
Other requests include asking the province to allow permanent residents to vote in municipal elections and clarifying the HRM charter to allow council to give not for profit organizations a discount on their property tax.
Many of the changes that council has asked for fall under the Motor Vehicle Act.
For example, changes to speed limits, street signage, traffic control persons, dooring, and restrictions to motor vehicle noise. That last one was added in October.
While council was debating whether to send the request to the province, District 4 Coun. Lorelei Nicoll pointed out the city is “still waiting in limbo” on the previous requests.
Only in her second year at city hall, District 14 Coun. Lisa Blackburn voiced her frustration at the hoops the city has to jump through.
“Once again, we have to go with cap and hand to the province and ask mommy and daddy for permission to make our lives better,” she said.
The Motor Vehicle Act has been under review by the province since 2009 — but there’s still no timeline for when the revamped act will be ready.
In the meantime, Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines said he’s hoping some changes can be made to the regulations.
He said he’s hoping to make those “probably by the spring of ’18.”
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