Letter to Premier Rankin-Protect the Halifax Common

March 17, 2021
Dear Premier Rankin and Minister Macguire,

RE: Legislative Protection for the Halifax Common

The 235 Halifax Common was granted “to and for the use of the inhabitants of the Town of Halifax as Commons forever” by King George III in 1763. It is Canada’s oldest and largest Common. The Friends of Halifax Common write to request that the provincial government enact legislation to protect the Halifax Common and that this legislation enshrine the 1994 Halifax Common Plan, adopted by Halifax City Council in 1994. This is similar to the legislative protection that the provincial government put in place for the Dartmouth Common. We consider this to be an urgent matter as the continued failure of governments in their respective fiduciary responsibilities to protect the Halifax Common have reduced the Common’s public open green space to approximately 20% of the original grant.

We ask that these legislated protections for the Halifax Common:

  • Be included in the HRM Charter as an amendment to s.66A; 
  • Reflect the language of the original Grant-“to and for the use of the inhabitants of the Town of Halifax as Commons forever” 
  • Protect the entire land grant from further encroachment;
  • Limit the building of structures on the Common;
  • Address the immediately surrounding areas;
  • Limit uses to publicly-owned uses;
  • Forbid sale;
  • Promote the remediation of the lands-ie daylight Freshwater Brook; remove surface parking;
  • Promote reclamation and wherever possible expansion as a remedy for losses;
  • Form a Board of Commissioners that has a majority of citizens at large and is tasked (authorized??) with on-going decision making.

And finally we would request that the legislation endorse the principal recommendations of 1994 Halifax Common Plan as follows:

The 1994 Halifax Common Plan was developed after a lengthy, involved and genuine public consultation. As a legitimately negotiated document, it is a valid compromise to provide guidance for the many substantive matters with respect to the management, detailed planning, capital expenditures and evaluation of proposals for the Halifax Common. 

A recent Master Plan Consultation and planning process begun in 2017 and now stalled fails to respond to citizens’ requests that the entire Common be included in the masterplan and that the streetscapes along its boundaries be protected. That is why FHC believe the 1994 Plan must form the guiding principles.

  Section 2.1- The amount of public open space in the Halifax Common will not be decreased.

  Section 3.1- The amount of land owned by the City of Halifax will not be decreased

  Section 3.2 -The city will seek to increase the amount of land under city ownership through recapture of lands.

HRM’s Centre Plan projects that it will have 15,000 to 25,000 more citizens living on the peninsula in the next 15 years yet it has done nothing to protect the Halifax Common’s open space or create other parks on the peninsula. Protective legislation, similar to that recently adopted for protection of the Dartmouth Common, which enshrines the 1994 Halifax Common Plan, will provide a mechanism to prevent further degradation of the Halifax Common. Provincial legislation will provide a solid opportunity for making the best long-term decision about the future of the Halifax Common.

The 1994 Halifax Common Plan was achieved through an honestly negotiated process and is a compromise where everyone participating gave up one thing to gain another. In the end of any negotiated position it was agreed to and supported by the public and the politicians. Please ensure that this baseline position arrived at with the 1994 Plan be respected and adopted through the legislature as part of the means to protect the Halifax Common “for the use of the inhabitants of the Town of Halifax forever

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Yours truly,

Peggy Cameron, Co-chair

On behalf of Friends of Halifax Common Executive