Halifax

Halifax to fix emergency response resilience

On Monday morning, the HRM’s Executive Standing Committee learned that Halifax’s municipal emergency management organizations are at risk of failing.

The city hired KI Emergency Management to compare the HRM’s emergency response documents and plans to the best practices in the world of emergency management. They found that Halifax’s emergency management works well, but it depends on highly knowledgeable and motivated people. But should these people leave the city’s employment, then the city itself doesn’t have the institutional knowledge to ensure robust emergency management with the loss of those key people.

During the debate, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer Cathie O’Toole told council that adding this capability to the city’s bureaucracy has been one of her main priorities and standing up the Department of Community Safety last April was the first step in a multi-year plan to strengthen the HRM’s bureaucracy when it comes to emergency management. There’s not much more to report at this point, but staff have been tasked with rebuilding the city’s emergency management policy framework. The city’s ultimate goal is to get accredited by the Emergency Management Accreditation Program. Councillor Waye Mason got this motion amended, and now staff will update this committee on the accreditation progress every six months.

Also, at this meeting, the committee endorsed a communication plan that the Youth Advisory Committee came up with to let young people know that bylaw M-200 exists. For those who don’t know, the M-200 bylaw is an anti-slumlord bylaw; if tenants live in a unit they believe is substandard, they can report it here. Since a lot of people, especially young people, don’t know that this bylaw exists, the Youth Advisory Committee came up with a solid communications strategy, which is now likely to start rolling out.

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Finally, like most meetings, this one included an opportunity for public participation. A member of the public from Fall River told the committee that democracy was dead and it was killed by capitalism all because of this development agreement. The extremely abridged backstory for this contentious local fight is this: The development will add a lot of housing, and as we all know, thanks to the Upper Tantallon wildfires, it’s dangerous only to have one exit. Since the development only had one proposed exit, the public rallied, and the city killed the development in 2022. But in February 2024, the province, specifically housing minister John Lohr, gave the development the okay to move forward with its one-exit-deathtrap plan. This, claimed the speaker, was a provincial government doing some light authoritarianism in the name of profit. He asked the city for some help in trying to stop the development.

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