New year’s resolutions for Halifax

Trevor J. Adams, Photo: Tammy Fancy

Once again, it’s time for a round up of resolutions I’d dearly like our city to keep in 2013. Some of them are new, others are like that troublesome “lose weight” resolution that one makes every January.
The first resolution is one that the last decade has shown us that Halifax most desperately needs: better government. For too much of the last decade, Halifax’s government has felt unfocused and often less than honest with its constituents. Dealings like the Common concert scandal and the botched Commonwealth Games bid have raised many eyebrows. This one is a work in progress. New Mayor Mike Savage showed, compared to his predecessor, good signs in the Skye Halifax debate, stating his position and leading Council to the decision (to follow its own rules with HRM By Design) that’s best for the city. Still, a couple good months don’t reverse a decade of poor governance. Haligonians should keep watching City Hall carefully.
With a municipal election just behind us, it’s easy to forget about another resolution this city needs to keep: vote. Most Haligonians just don’t vote. While Cape Breton saw voter turnout climb in the last municipal election, just 37 per cent of Haligonians voted, tying an all-time worst showing. The time to solve this problem is not four years from now, when we’ve had another municipal election and are again wringing our hands. Politicians and civic groups need to figure out the solution to this problem now, in time for more people to have their say in Halifax’s next election. (And in the meantime, we’ll have provincial and federal elections to spur us along.)
And as long as we’re doing things better, let’s also commit to rethink mass transit. Rush-hour traffic ever worsens in Halifax and it’s become increasingly clear that more roads aren’t an answer (or even an environmentally sustainable idea). Halifax’s best traffic solution is efficient and reliable mass transit. It’s time to take a hard look at Metro Transit to determine how it can best play its part.
The next resolution is another work in progress: clear, consistent rules for development. Halifax needs development, but it needs the right development—projects that will grow the city, chosen with a transparent, fair process. The decision of Mayor Savage and Council to uphold HRM By Design and not allow exceptions like Skye Halifax is a good step. Halifax must resolve to continue in this direction. Related to that, Halifax must commit to fighting its growing sprawl problem. Government-subsidized retail and housing developments in outlying areas only add to infrastructure expenses and traffic hassles, while stripping money and people from the downtown, which powers the whole region’s economy.
What do you think? How would you like our city to better itself in 2013? Write a letter to the editor ( and share your thoughts.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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