Friends of the Halifax Common distributed a three-question survey to Halifax Peninsula MLA electoral candidates and political party leaders. This was to determine their commitment to the passage of an ‘Act to Protect the Halifax Common’ similar to the one protecting the Dartmouth Common, as well as two additional questions on future parking garages and on a commitment to reduce and re-naturalize existing parking spaces on the Common.
Report Card on MLA Candidate and Party Leader Responses
Green Party – A
New Democratic Party – B
Liberal Party – F
Progressive Conservative Party – F
Green Party candidates in Halifax Citadel/Sable Island and Chebucto deserved an A for their responses which encapsulated many many of the aspirations that Haligonians have for this green and open space in our centre.
The NDP party response and that of the Halifax/Sable Island candidate merited a B.
A response was received from the Liberal Party Policy Team (which came belatedly), but nothing from Labi Kousoulis, the Halifax- Sable Island candidate whose riding includes the the Common, and who famously said previously that he saw no problem with a parking garage on the Nova Scotia Museum property since he never saw anyone having a picnic there. The Liberal Policy response started with a single statement about appreciation of the Common land but then revolved around the wonders of the $2 billion QE II hospital redevelopment project and the critical importance of parking garages on the Halifax Common in that plan. Both of these endeavours have taken place without any public consultation and the parking garages are hugely unpopular with the citizens. The response is worth a solid F.
And the Conservatives? Nothing from either the Party or the Peninsula Candidates. Another F.
At possibly no time in its 258 year history has the importance of the Halifax Common been more evident than it has been in the last 18 months. As Covid-19 limited our travel and opportunities for group gatherings, the Common land in the centre of the Peninsula has provided a breathing space for Haligonians. Traditionally, in any season on a pleasant day it has been dotted with individuals and small groups enjoying picnics, walks and sunshine, but never has it been as important as it has been during the last two years.
Yet, the very disturbing process of the province and municipality chipping away at the lands of the original Common for buildings, parking lots and garages is picking up speed at the very time the Common has proved once again its vital importance to the people who live here. The municipality’s commitment to increase population density on the peninsula adds another important reason to protect open and green space.
If elected as an MLA will you undertake to vigourously seek to lay before the Provincial Legislature at the first possible opportunity an “Act to Protect the Halifax Common” to offer to the Halifax Common a set of similar protections that have benefited the Dartmouth Common for 35 years?
If elected will you undertake to stop the construction of the second parking garage on the former CBC-TV site?
If elected will you commit to reduce and re-naturalize existing parking lots on the Halifax Common that are under provincial government jurisdiction such as the former School for the Blind, now the Victoria General parking lot?
Noah Hollis – Green Party Candidate for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island
1. Answer here- YES
Additional comments: As a representative striving to implement decolonization and indigenization into everyday decision-making, I have a duty to honour our interconnected relationship with the land for the next seven generations. The Halifax Common has seen much of its public space vanish for private developments, when the grant from 1763 is clear that this space is “for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common, forever.” Dartmouth as well as other competitive models in Canada, such as Vancouver, should absolutely be drawn from to write progressive legislation that protects the Common for generations to come.
2. Answer here- YES
Additional comments: I was offended when our MLA said that he’s never seen anybody having a picnic when he drives past green spaces, which justifies developing them into a parking garages. While I agree hospital expansion is important, this black and white attitude negligently promotes unsustainable car-centric culture. Focusing our long-term projects on more parking makes it harder to shift to public transit later. It is clear Nova Scotia governments generally do not respect the inherent right of the Halifax Common to be treated with ecological stewardship, and they do not recognize the value to an individuals day to day life of having an expansive green public common. I would be a strong voice on this issue and would hold whichever party forms government to the fullest account possible long past any one election.
3. Answer here- YES
Additional comments: As stated above, parking lots and garages are a poor path forward for creating a Halifax that is sustainably mobile. I would move to drastically shift from the current model of sprawl and endless growth that defines the HRM and focus on liveable and equitable community development.
Lily Barraclough – Green Party Candidate for Halifax Chebucto
1. Answer here- Yes
Protecting the Halifax Common is in line with the Nova Scotia Green Party’s mandate to create equitable access to green spaces. The Halifax Common is well utilized by many members of the Halifax community and provides free access to spaces to participate in outdoor physical activity. If elected as an MLA, I will work to preserve the Halifax Common and the ways it benefits the community.
2. Answer here–Yes
If elected as MLA, I would work to stop the taking up of existing green spaces for new parking spaces. Access to green spaces is essential for creating equitable, sustainable communities. I would strive to reduce the need for additional parking spaces by improving access to reliable and affordable public transportation within Halifax and between areas of the province.
3. Answer here- Yes
If elected as MLA, I would work to naturalize underutilized existing parking spaces under provincial jurisdiction. Access to green spaces is essential for creating equitable, sustainable communities. I would strive to reduce the need for additional parking spaces by improving access to reliable and affordable public transportation within Halifax and between areas of the province. As demand for parking spaces declines, I would work to restore existing parking lots.
Lisa Lachance – NDP Candidate for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island
1. Answer here- (Yes or No)
With many apologies, I haven’t yet had time to access the specific legislation but would endorse a strong community-led process to envision and protect the Commons for diverse activities.
I have loved seeing the packed Commons throughout the pandemic period – people playing, picnicking, skating, skate boarding, socially-distant socializing, and more. I hope that this experience rejuvenates our collective understanding of the commons. I support gathering the diverse communities who use the commons together to understand priorities and set this out in legislation.
2. Answer here- (Yes or No)
I don’t have access to the details of this project so I am not sure what can be done now.
Additional comments: As a province, I think we need an active and public transportation strategy and system. In particular, I think we need to re-think how we move people safely and efficiently around on the peninsula safely.
3. Answer here- (Yes or No)
Additional comments: I attended the Commons walk in June and was surprised to learn this information and that it had previously been green space. Similar to above, we need a collective planning process.
NS NDP Party RESPONSE
1. We in the NDP recognize the importance of green space for urban dwellers, and just how valuable the Halifax Common is as an accessible place of respite and recreation for Halifax peninsula residents.
When it comes to the concerns of people in our communities, an NDP government will listen and proceed on these matters in a spirit of openness and collaboration. Moreover, we are committed to pursuing a good relationship with our municipal government colleagues in the HRM (and across the province) so that they can be supported in working on their priorities.
A potential Act that deals with the Halifax Commons is the kind of initiative that would have to come about as a result of this type of open, careful, and respectful collaboration with the HRM and engaged citizens.
2. We in the NDP are committed to working with our communities to tackle the climate crisis. When it comes to diagnosing the problem, two interrelated issues come to mind: an over-reliance on single passenger vehicles, and a lack of support and infrastructure for active transportation and community transit.
If we can work together to reduce the reliance on single passenger vehicles, the space required for parking lots can also be reduced. An NDP government will invest in public and community transit, build the Blue Route active transportation network by 2030, fund and support programs that make personal active transportation infrastructure accessible, develop an electrification strategy, and prioritize public and community transportation in COVID-19 recovery capital spending.
This plan will ensure equitable, convenient, and reliable access to transportation, reduce the air pollution-related health risks along transportation corridors, and improve overall health outcomes.
3. We in the NDP have every confidence that our plan for Public and Community transportation will have far-reaching positive impacts that go far beyond the service itself, including the ability of our local communities to preserve and expand green and wild spaces.
Nova Scotia Liberal Party Response