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Halifax councillors call it a “power grab”, controversial bill moves forward

By Steve MacArthur Oct 31, 2022 | 3:34 PM

Premier Tim Houston and John Lohr, Housing Minister, speak at a media conference in September, 2022.

There was strong opposition, but in the end it did not matter.

The Progressive Conservatives will push forward with controversial changes to legislation [Bill 225] that nullifies a city bylaw on construction times.

Last summer, the city approved a bylaw that would prevent construction from going past 8 p.m. on weekdays [instead of allowing work to continue until 9:30 p.m.]

However, changes to legislation governing HRM [called the Halifax Regional Municipality Charter] strikes down the bylaw or any other matter they deem hinders housing development.

Mayor Mike Savage says it shows no respect for municipal authority.

“Bill 225 is a direct intervention into municipal affairs. Indeed, this bill was introduced without notice in direct contravention of the very provision of the charter that require notice…to call that concerning would be an understatement.” explained Savage as he appeared before the legislature’s Law Amendments Committee on Monday afternoon.

Halifax’s deputy mayor believes the government’s move to override a city bylaw damages their relationship. Several councillors spoke out against the changes and called it a power grab.

Pam Lovelace compared it to 1994, when the province forced amalgamation of community councils. That’s when Dartmouth, Bedford and rural communities had their own municipal councils, instead of the current arrangement.

“Nova Scotia continues to stumble back to an authoritarian governance model in search of absolute power. You see, this bill is an example of that harsh and punitive approach to governing,” she said.

Meantime, PC MLA’s turned down any suggestion from opposition MLA’s to change the bill. Simply meaning, it will go ahead as the government wants it to.

Housing minister John Lohr has stated it’s the only bylaw they are targeting in order to address the housing shortage. However, that was not good enough for Dartmouth area councillor Sam Austin, he feels this is not just about a noise bylaw and can apply to any city bylaw.

“This is bigger than that,” offered Austin. “It’s more than a noise bylaw, and takes away substantial authority away from elected [municipal] representatives.”

The Liberals and NDP both proposed changes to the bill but they did not pass as the PC’s have the last say with a majority. The legislation will now go back to the legislature for final reading before being passed.


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