The year of living dangerously

Halifax faced much uncertainty in 2022, but there are people who give us hope for better days ahead

A couple of years ago, I wrote a column about the future challenges that I imagined Halifax would face. 

Among the topics I omitted: a COVID pandemic, a collapse in confidence in policing, Tim Houston’s provincial government, that #FreedomConvoy nonsense, rampant inflation, war in Europe, a cost-of-living crisis, a housing crisis, and … pretty much everything else that’s happened since March 2020. 

It was enough to make me foreswear my crystal ball. 

But as one of the most extraordinary years in Halifax’s history winds down and we work on the year’s final edition of Unravel Halifax, I can’t help but wonder about the future again. In 2022, we saw tantalizing signs that a long-promised transition to a more livable and desirable city might be resuming from its pandemic slumber. 

A new waterfront home for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia was in the works, until Premier Houston called it off in July, citing rising costs and economic pressures. This, despite the fact that culture was a small and shrinking portion of the latest provincial budget, as other departments saw their allotments increase. 

Some in the arts community are undaunted, saying the project is inevitable, and will resurrect when the economic picture improves. Others are dismayed, saying it shows a government uncommitted to the arts and unfocused in its priorities. Will the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia get its new home anytime soon? Alec Bruce investigates

A rare sally against the city’s long-entrenched car culture offered another glimmer of light, as HRM unveiled a pilot project to make the east end of Spring Garden Road pedestrian-only. With poor communication and little effort from law enforcement, drivers (largely ignorant of the project) continued to frequent the street, and the municipality soon abandoned the effort. 

The project’s sloppy execution and abrupt failure is a disappointment to road-safety advocates, giving little confidence that HRM will meet its promises to keep working to reduce road deaths and make Halifax a more accessible and walkable city. Phil Moscovitch explores what went wrong and what the future holds

And spotlighting how growing numbers of Haligonians are struggling to make ends meet, local businesses are reporting a dramatic increase in shoplifting. 

Media often report on shoplifting as if it’s nothing more than the latest fashionable crime wave. But experts tell us it’s a reliable barometer for how our most vulnerable citizens are faring in this economic hurricane. After all, few people steal milk, bread, and other staples just for the thrill of it. Chris Benjamin gets the story behind the story

Yet where there are storm clouds, there are also rainbows. In Halifax, they take the form of the people who are undaunted by 2022’s turmoil and are continuing to work to change our city for the better, undoing systemic racism, championing the environment, campaigning for mental health, and attacking poverty. 

In our cover story by Janet Whitman, we’re excited to again celebrate the changemakers, profiling the Haligonians — many of them with little attention or support — who are working to give us all a brighter 2023. 

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