Halifax council takes ‘leap of faith,’ approves $250K grant for first hospice in Halifax

Halifax Regional Council approved a $250,000 grant to help assist in funding for the city’s first hospice on Tuesday, with the possibility of contributing an additional $250,000 during the next fiscal year.

Council spent more than an hour debating whether they would be helping to fund health care in Nova Scotia — a responsibility held by the provincial government — with the majority of councillors saying that helping to provide the service was worth more to citizens than the municipality staying within its mandate.

“Is it mandate creep? Probably,” said Shawn Cleary, councillor for Halifax West Armdale. “I’m not worried about other groups coming forward [and asking for funding]. We’ll just say no.”
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Steve Streatch, councillor for Waverley-Fall River-Musquodoboit Valley, also advocated in favour of the project.

“We need to take a leap of faith,” he said.

READ MORE: Hospice Halifax to build new facility, axes renovation plans

The Hospice Society of Greater Halifax is currently constructing a building at 618 Francklyn Street in Halifax, that will house accommodations for the terminally ill.

The 10-bed facility was estimated to cost approximately $6 million.

The organization had originally asked for council to contribute $1 million to the project, but that was rejected by staff as well as members of the municipality’s audit and finance committee. 

They may still be able to receive an extra $250,000 as a result of Tuesday’s debate, which saw Mayor Mike Savage bring an amendment to the floor that proposed contributing the additional money in the next fiscal year. 

The amendment passed, although the possibility of an additional $250,000 will be subject to a staff report and the approval of the audit and finance committee before it comes before council.

Savage, in one of the rare instances where he has stepped out of the mayor’s chair during a council meeting to advocate for an issue, said that it should be a hallmark of a great society that people should be able to die where they want to.

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“I think it’s building a community where we all want to live in,” he said.

WATCH: Halifax’s first hospice has a location

Even the councillors who were opposed to the city providing the hospice with funding said they believe the centre would be a valuable resource to Haligonians.

Some objected to issuing the grant when projects in their district were not paved as part of this year’s capital budget, while others objected to the nature of the contribution — with many laying the blame at the feet of the provincial government.

“I guess the fence is the place to be today,” said Lorelei Nicoll, councillor for Cole Harbour-Westphal.

“Everyone around this room would agree that how the province currently responds to end-of-life experiences is poor.”

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The Hospice Society of Halifax said they welcomed the grant from the municipality.

“We are very happy with this outcome. The contribution will be put to good use as we prepare to open our doors to patients and families in early 2019,” the organization said in a statement.

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