The ongoing disagreement between Halifax and the provincial government has elevated the need to work together on the QEII redevelopment, says Mayor Mike Savage.
Savage’s comments came as a presentation on the $2-billion project by provincial officials drew to a close at a meeting of Halifax Regional Council on Tuesday.
Paul LaFleche, deputy minister of transportation and infrastructure renewal; John O’Connor, executive director of major infrastructure projects; Paula Bond, Nova Scotia Health Authority vice-president of integrated health services; Brian Ward, director of major infrastructure and Alex Mitchell, senior medical director and general surgeon with the Nova Scotia Health Authority provided councillors with an overview of the QEII New Generation Project.
There were very few new details revealed in the presentation, but it was a chance for councillors to get more information on parking, including the construction of a controversial parkade proposed for Summer Street, across from the Halifax Infirmary.
A tender for the parkade released in January received a hostile reception from community advocates and Coun. Waye Mason after the document indicated the province would need to buy part of the Halifax Common — land that the municipality is in charge of protecting.
O’Connor said during the presentation that the proposed seven-storey parkade is needed to accommodate the expansion and redevelopment of the Halifax Infirmary.
Approximately 2,700 parking spots are needed at the Halifax Infirmary site, O’Connor added, with the parkade being a necessary component of that plan.
Halifax council directed staff two weeks ago to work on creating a plan to close off a west side portion of Summer Street, freeing up land on the hospital side of Summer Street for the parkade.
Nova Scotia has since paused the tender as they work to find an equitable solution with the Halifax Regional Municipality.
“We are working constructively together at the moment trying to find solutions,” Jacques Dubé, HRM’s Chief Administrative Officer, confirmed on Tuesday.
“We don’t want a huge power plant in the corner of the road… I think everybody agrees that is not the optimum location for that.”
O’Connor said on Tuesday that a study commissioned by the province found 92 per cent of the QEII’s total visitors drive or are driven-to the facility — a large reason for the municipality’s parking needs.
Municipal councillors targeted questions at how the province and the municipality could work together to alleviate the parking issues.
Coun. Sam Austin suggested that the province partner with the municipality on its SmartTrip Program, which offers a discounted employee transit pass for participating partners.
“Sometimes, unfortunately, as governments we sometimes work at cross purposes with each other, so it is good we’re having a dialogue today,” said Austin.
The province indicated they were open to all possible partnerships and solutions.
Nova Scotia indicated on Tuesday that they still hope to begin construction on the parkade by May with completion scheduled for Spring 2021.
The presentation deliver on Tuesday indicated that construction on the QEII New Generation project is expected to be completed by 2025 with facilities fully operation by 2026.
— With files from Graeme Benjamin and Alexa MacLean