Politics

Coming to Halifax council: Possible CFL stadium, campaign finance reform, Cornwallis committee

Halifax Regional Council is back in business on Tuesday with a full slate of eye-popping items to debate.

From discussions about a possible CFL stadium to a vote on municipal campaign finance reform, there’s something for everyone this week.

It’s important to note that council will not be meeting in council chambers this week as they temporarily relocate to the Harbourfront Marriott in downtown Halifax.

The temporary move will last until the Dec. 4 council meeting and will allow for the installation of new and updated technology in the Halifax council chamber and the municipality’s broadcast centre.

Ball now in Halifax’s court on CFL stadium decision

This week’s council meeting will likely be dominated by a discussion on a possible stadium for a CFL team in Halifax.

A staff report headed to council recommends that council direct the municipality’s chief administrative officer (CAO) Jacques Dube to complete a thorough business case analysis on a proposal for a stadium, including a stadium district development.

Shannon Park has been identified as the preferred location for a football stadium by Maritime Football Ltd., the group that’s working to bring a CFL team to the region.

The report says that Maritime Football is in talks with Canada Lands Company Ltd. to purchase a 15- to 20-acre site. If developed, the site would include a parking structure, with an estimated cost of the stadium development at between $170 million and $190 million.

The report does not say how much funding council will be asking for, but calls the participation of the provincial government as a capital financing partner “essential.”

Founding partner of Maritime Football, Anthonly LeBlanc, says the goal is still to have a team on the field in Halifax by 2021.

Tim Outhit, councillor for Bedford-Wentworth, said in a Facebook post that council must look at examples of tax-supported stadiums like those in Regina and Ottawa, while also investigating “what went wrong in Winnipeg.”

Outhit appears to be referencing the decision that Manitoba made last month to write off loans for their stadium, leaving the province’s taxpayers on the hook for $200 million.

Cornwallis committee

Council will vote on Tuesday whether to approve a motion from the Commemoration of Edward Cornwallis and Recognition of Commemoration of Indigenous History Special Advisory Committee about changes to its governance structure.

The committee has been tasked with examining how Halifax commemorates its controversial founder, Edward Cornwallis.

The committee has said they want to change how they are governed so that they can be a partnership between two groups, rather than one tasked by the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM).

“Hopefully, if council passes it, it will be a product of a true partnership between the Mi’kmaq and non-Mi’kmaq community in the HRM,” said Monica MacDonald, co-chair of the committee and manager of research at the Canadian Museum of Immigration.

The proposal would see the committee’s budget funded by the municipality and the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs.

A bronze statue of Cornwallis — which faced toward the mouth of Halifax Harbour since it was erected more than 85 years ago — was placed in storage in January, after council voted 12 to four to take the statue down until a permanent decision can be made.

Cornwallis is a disputed character, seen by some as a brave leader who founded Halifax, and by others as the impetus of the 1749 scalping proclamation against Mi’kmaq inhabitants.

Campaign finance bylaw

Halifax Regional Council is set to vote on the second reading of a new bylaw that would govern campaign financing in municipal elections.

A report from the municipality’s Executive Standing Committee says that council should support the new Campaign Financing Bylaw and ask staff to conduct a review after the 2020 municipal election.

The results of the review would then be presented to the Executive Standing Committee.

According to staff the proposed by-aw “represents a first step in campaign finance accountability,” for the municipality.

The municipality has been previously governed by the provincial Municipal Elections Act, which doesn’t put restrictions on the types or amounts of donations or how much money can a municipal candidate can spend during a campaign.

Some of the highlights in the bylaw include the principal that only individuals will be able to donate to municipal campaigns. Donations would capped at $1,000 to any single council candidate with a limit of $5,000 to all candidates.

Under the new bylaw, mayoral candidates would be allowed to accept contributions of up to $2,500.

Council candidates would be limited to spending $30,000 on their campaign, while mayoral candidates are capped at spending $300,000.

Flood risk assessment study

Halifax’s Audit and Finance standing committee is recommending that regional council approve an increase to the municipality’s planning and development budget by $450,000, earmarked for flood risk assessment studies of two high-risk flood areas.

The studies would examine mitigation strategies for the Sackville Rivers and Shubenacadie Lakes Systems, with staff saying that the studies “will continue to move HRM towards a better
understanding of flood risk and viable solutions to high priority risks.”

The studies will then allow the municipality to apply for a federal program to have the government help fund the mitigation efforts.

If approved by the federal government’s National Disaster Mitigation Program, the municipality would need to put forward an additional $225,000 in funding from the municipality’s general contingency reserve fund in order for it to be matched by the same amount from the federal government.

Report dealing with ‘invasive’ ornamental plant in Little Albro Lake

Sam Austin, councillor for Dartmouth Centre, is looking to get a staff report on the options for dealing with an “invasive” ornamental plant in Little Albro Lake.

In his request coming to council on Tuesday, Austin says the Floating Yellow Heart — an aquatic plant native to Asia — has completely taken over the lake since first being detected roughly a decade ago.

Austin says the the plants has a tendency to form a dense mass that covers the surface of the lake, making it hard to swim or boat and displacing the native vegetation.

Little Albro Lake drains into Halifax Harbour, which is the reason that the councillor believes the invasive species has been restricted to its current location.

“Unfortunately, it is unlikely to remain contained in Little Albro Lake over the longterm,” Austin writes in his request. “Pieces of the plant can grow new roots meaning it can be easily spread by boats”

Austin wants the municipality to work with the province — which has jurisdiction over invasive species in bodies of water — in order to find a solution for the invasive plant.

— With files from Sarah Ritchie

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