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Halifax council votes to increase role of science advisors in city decision-making

Halifax is set to increase the role of science advisors on the municipality’s committees, boards and agencies.

The decision to support a staff recommendation came after a friendly and rowdy discussion on the nature of science and whether it was possible for the municipality to “know what we don’t know.”

Richard Zurawski, who brought the original request for a staff report on the creation of a science advisor position, was at the centre of the discussion.

He voiced concern that the recommendation from staff to increase the role of science advisors, while not creating a permanent position, did not go far enough.

READ MORE: Coming to Halifax council: Science adviser, Gottingen street bus corridor

“Science is relevant to everything council deals with,” Zurawski said.

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“Even though we have science advisors at the federal level, not yet at the provincial level, science has not been given its due here in the municipality.”

Zurawski repeatedly questioned staff about a phrase in their report, that science advisors would be brought in “when appropriate.” He argued that the application of science is always appropriate.

“Without someone or an advisory board steeped in the sciences, sometimes you don’t even know if science does apply,” he said.

Councillors agreed with Zurawski’s question.

“Science and the answers it provides us are always changing with new discoveries,” said Coun. Steve Craig.

WATCH: Halifax science supporters gathered downtown for ‘March for Science’

Click to play video: 'Halifax science supporters gathered downtown for ‘March for Science’' Halifax science supporters gathered downtown for ‘March for Science’
Halifax science supporters gathered downtown for ‘March for Science’ – Apr 22, 2017

The recommendation passed 13-1 with Coun. Matt Whitman being the only dissenting voice. He said he was concerned over the fiscal implications of the motion.

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The city’s Chief Administrative Officer, Jacques Dubé, will now direct staff to create a policy outlining scientific advising principles and guidelines.

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