Halifax Mayor Says City Needs More Control Over Housing, Traffic


HALIFAX—Halifax’s mayor wants Nova Scotia’s political parties to commit to giving the city more power to make its own rules about housing, traffic, and more.

With the election campaign in full swing, Mayor Mike Savage says he wants commitments from political leaders that they will give more autonomy to the municipality.

“I think a lot of what we want goes to the issue of a relationship between Halifax and the province of Nova Scotia [and] being recognized as an order of government that is able to make our own decisions,” Savage told Huddle July 21.

Savage says he wants the next government to update the Halifax Charter “so that we don’t have to continually go back to the province looking for permission, which I think is counterproductive for both us and for the province.”

Recently, municipal leaders have felt particularly hamstrung by their ability to enact affordable housing policies in the city.

Affordable housing is one of the most pressing issues facing the city. However, HRM has no way to require developers to include affordable units in their projects.

Savage wants the ability to pass “inclusionary zoning” laws in Halifax that would give them that power, but they need provincial approval to do it. He says pushing for those commitments will be one of his biggest priorities when he speaks to political leaders during the campaign.

Savage points out the city is doing what it can to create more affordable housing by donating land and taking advantage of federal grants, but without key policy tools like inclusionary zoning the city’s effectiveness is limited.

Along with housing, Savage says he is looking for the next government to give Halifax more control over how it manages traffic.

There is a traffic authority that regulates many traffic and road safety decisions in Halifax, but Savage says its reach is limited.

“Every time we want to change something from, you know rules around speed bumps … to speed limits, we have to go hat-in-hand to the province. That doesn’t make any sense to me,” he says. “We think we should be able to allow our traffic authority to, you know, to manage traffic.”

Savage also says environment and climate change are key issues in Halifax and that he’s looking to see how political parties’ climate policies line up with HRM’s. He says climate policy is one of the ways the city and province impact each other the most and that it’s vital the two levels of government are aligned.

“It would make no sense at all for us to have targets on the environment that are inconsistent with the province,” he says.

He added that he doesn’t think any of the political parties “want to turn the clock back” on climate policy but that he’s been happy to see the government has made it a priority over the last few months.

Finally, Savage says he wants to see commitments from political parties that they will allow permanent residents to vote in municipal elections.

The city passed a resolution a few years ago supporting the idea, but again, the province needs to give the OK to make it law.

Savage, who has personally pushed for the initiative for years, says he believes such a law “ties in very well with the Ivany Report. I think it ties in with our goals for immigration and also being an inclusive and diverse city and province.”

“To me, it’s a statement about who we are as people and how we view immigration, how we value people who are coming here from around the world,” he says.