Halifax budget committee to continue discussions on HRP funding

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Halifax budget committee to continue discussions on HRP funding
Watch: Halifax Regional Police presented its proposed budget to city council's budget committee today. As Megan king reports, councilors continue their discussions on how police funding fits in the city's plan. – Feb 3, 2023

Halifax’s budget committee was presented with a funding proposal for Halifax Regional Police (HRP) on Friday, with discussion lasting all day.

HRP is looking for $94.6 million, a sum approved by the Board of Police Commissioners.

“I recognize that the police budget has got to raise, because every year the salaries go up and we have no control over that,” Deputy Mayor Sam Austin said in response to the presentation.

“That’s all arbitrated, and it’s really the same as any department that we have. You know, salaries go up across the board because we’re a unionized workforce. And that’s proper well and good that people should be paid more when their costs are all going up.”

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The board recently rejected HRP’s ask to fund five new positions, but councillors have put the possibility of hiring an in-house psychologist and occupational health nurse back on the table.

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One suggestion would see these services be made available to all city-employed frontline workers, but a report from the CAO will provide further information on the ideas feasibility.

“I just don’t think we’ve been given enough information to make an informed decision about that right now,” councillor Patty Cuttell said. “I do look forward to what the CAO said she’s going to come forward with, a report looking at support from a corporate perspective.”

“Because it isn’t just police, it’s also fire,” said Cuttell. “It’s also, you know, even some of our 311 people in the call centre.”

The council chamber saw members of the public speak out against police funding, instead calling for the re-allocation of capital.

Councillor Waye Mason voiced his understanding as to the public’s distress.

“We’ve been talking about defund, refocus, retask and depressurize, and it’s always going to happen next budget,” said Mason. “That’s how it’s looking to the public, and that’s how it’s looking to me too.”

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Mason said he wants changes expedited.

“It has to be happening in a big way next year. We can’t keep going to the public and saying, ‘it’s coming.'”

With no decisions made and discussions continuing, the budget committee will have to wait on reports from city staff to answer questions before moving forward.

Committee will be back in session on Wednesday, with more budget discussions.

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