The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board has set the electoral districts for the new 16-member HRM Council, which will …
High hopes for a smaller CouncilBy Trevor J. Adams | May 2, 2012
Tags: Council, election, ferry, Halifax, Metro Transit, politics
For a couple of years now, we’ve been calling for cuts in the size of HRM Council, which will finally happen in October’s municipal election. And yesterday’s Council discussion on proposed cuts to Metro Transit’s ferry illustrates once again why a smaller Council will be better for Halifax. Several Councillors objected to maintaining late-night ferry service when their own districts were seeing bus routes cut. Once again, Council showed its astonishing tendency to focus on narrow parochial issues, ignoring the greater good of the city it’s there to serve. Cutting late-night ferry service will cut pedestrian traffic in the downtown and hurt businesses. It will reduce the vibrancy of Halifax’s heart.
Alex Boutillier from the Metro sums it up nicely. “And there you have it: everything that’s wrong with council in one issue,” he says in his blog. “Don’t examine the matter close enough the first go round, act surprised when the public realizes what’s happening and gets upset, reverse the original decision and order a staff report, then complain about how your constituencies are getting screwed.”
So what does this have to do with the size of Council? On a smaller Council, Councillors will represent much broader districts. They’ll have no choice but to think more broadly. Pollster Don Mills and I discussed this in an interview in our December issue. “If you’re representing a larger group of people who go across community boundaries, you have to start talking at a higher level about the bigger issues,” he said. “You can’t get too micro in your approach. I think that will be helpful. That should raise the quality of the debate around the election to a higher level… We might be able to talk about issues like urban development, crime, public transportation—issues that are really more important to the functionality of the municipality than the locally based issues like the frequency of garbage pickup.”
In short, October can’t come soon enough.
What do you think? Will things be any different after October’s election?