Crisis shelters, Cogswell, COVID Recovery tracker & Coronavirus Update #41

Hello all, a couple of quick notes today,

With heavy snow and rain expected tomorrow (Feb. 2), Halifax Water has asked residents to help the stormwater in your area make its way into one of the 24,000 catchbasins throughout HRM by safely clearing snow, ice, and debris from a catchbasin near you.

Find your nearest catchbasins here: https://halifaxwater.ca/fire-hydrants-catchbasins 

Recently there has been a lot of discussion about the ‘crisis shelters’ that have started to appear in parks around the municipality, including this story on Global about it last week.

I want to emphasize that the Halifax Regional Municipality takes an empathy-based human rights approach to homeless encampments that recognizes the human dignity of people experiencing homelessness.

The municipality will not force the eviction of residents from homeless encampments unless and until their need for adequate housing is met.

The response to homeless encampments is collaborative and community-based, working with partners, to find adequate housing solutions for encampment residents. Individuals experiencing homelessness will not be evicted while HRM seeks to identify alternative options for adequate housing.

While the installation of structures, including temporary shelters, on municipal property is not permitted without approval, the municipality hopes to work with Halifax Mutual Aid to identify alternative options for those experiencing homelessness.

Ultimately the Province is responsible for housing in Nova Scotia. MLA Lisa Roberts did an excellent job of summarising the issues in a blog late last week. https://www.lisarobertsmla.ca/blog/2021/1/26/cvksoeas2xiyg9fe75y4lvv2mnvo1d. 

I urge the Province take immediate steps to place all unhoused people and place them in our empty hotels, and to ensure adequate shelter, single-room occupancies, and below-market housing are available. In the meantime, the municipality makes public safety a priority for all residents, including those experiencing homelessness.

For more information on the municipality’s approach to homelessness and homeless encampments please visit our website: https://www.halifax.ca/about-halifax/regional-community-planning/public-safety#encampments

You may have heard in the media that Cogswell tender has been issued.  What does this really mean? This is a huge step forward toward fixing some of the worst planning decisions from the 60s and 70s.

The Cogswell District Project is one of the largest city-building projects in the history of Halifax and Nova Scotia. The work should be awarded by the end of summer 2021. Construction is anticipated to begin in the fall of 2021.

As set out in Administrative Order 2020-004-ADM, adopted by Council in July of 2020, staff has identified social procurement opportunities to include contract requirements in the tender that aim to achieve social benefits/impact, specifically regarding workforce development and supplier diversity. Staff has been engaging with the Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian communities, as well as the construction industry to determine what can practically be achieved in this regard.

High quality dedicated cycling lanes, multi-use trails, new parks and open spaces, a reimagined transit hub, and a significant central urban square will transform this vehicle-centric area into a livable pedestrian-friendly area for people to live, work, and play. I am very pleased that this project is finally moving to construction!  More info here: https://www.halifax.ca/about-halifax/regional-community-planning/construction-projects/cogswell-district

What impacts has COVID-19 had on Halifax’s economy?  Halifax Partnership has set up a tracker to show us the challenges and our progress in recovering.

COVID-19 has brought a sea change and created new economic conditions across the globe and here in Halifax. This Tracker examines the economic toll of the pandemic, Halifax’s pace of recovery, and our resilience in the face of ongoing COVID developments. There may be lingering effects of the pandemic and more economic uncertainty from the second wave of COVID cases across the country.

It is important to note that while there are deep and abiding challenges for certain sectors of the economy, particularly hospitality (hotels and restaurants, some retail), the economic recovery has been surprisingly strong, and more people are employed now than a year ago.  Collectively, we need to work to support those sectors that need it, address the gender gap, and work to ensure a fair and equitable recovery.  More here: https://halifaxpartnership.com/research-strategy/economic-response-and-recovery-plan/economy-covid-19-recovery/

Public Meetings

Halifax Regional Council
Tuesday, February 9, 2020, 10 am | Virtual Meeting
VIRTUAL PUBLIC HEARING – Case 23285 – Application by HRM and the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre to amend the Regional Municipal Planning Strategy and Halifax Peninsula Land Use By-law to allow the development of an emergency shelter, shared housing use, multiple unit residential use and community facility use at 5853 College Street, Halifax. A virtual public hearing will be webcast and may be viewed online. Get more information about how to participate in the virtual meeting.
https://www.halifax.ca/city-hall/agendas-meetings-reports?category=127

Budget Committee (all Council)
Wednesday February 10, Friday February 12, Wednesday February 17, Friday February 19 2020, 10 am | Virtual Meeting
https://www.halifax.ca/city-hall/agendas-meetings-reports?category=1181

Halifax & West Community Council
Tuesday, February 16, 2020, 6 pm | Virtual Meeting
https://www.halifax.ca/city-hall/agendas-meetings-reports?category=140

Roadworks Update

The following street closures or sidewalk disruptions have recently been added to the RoadWorks map

  • HUNTER ST from CHARLES ST to CUNARD ST, starting on 2021-01-28
  • CUNARD ST from HUNTER ST to CLIFTON ST, starting on 2021-01-28

Note – a temporarily marked crosswalk has been installed on South Street between Queen St and South Park St. This was done to provide pedestrian passage around a development encroachment for new construction on the south side of the street which necessitated the closure of that sidewalk. The crosswalk will remain in place until the development encroachment is removed towards the end of the project

You can find out road closure details on the HRM Roadworks map:
https://www.halifax.ca/transportation/streets-sidewalks/RoadWorks

Coronavirus Update #41 – income tax emergency benefits

Below are the weekly COVID-19 government support/program tracker update(s) for the week of January 18 – January 22. It has been a relatively quiet week. If you have any questions or would like a copy of the updated tracking sheet, please let me know.

Temporary Amendments to the Income Tax Act for COVID-19 Emergency Income Benefits [January 19, 2021] – Government of Canada

The government has announced that it will introduce temporary amendments to the Income Tax Act to align tax rules for those receiving regular EI benefits, and those receiving other federal COVID-19 emergency income benefits, such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Currently, EI and CERB income are treated differently when determining tax relief under the Child Care Expense Deduction and the Disability Supports Deduction. EI recipients are also not currently permitted to deduct eligible expenses against their EI income, whereas CERB and other COVID-19 emergency income recipients can. The temporary changes will enable EI recipients to make the same claims and ensure fair income tax treatment for recipients of federal income support during the pandemic. The change will apply to income for 2020 and 2021.

This latest announcement is just one of a number of changes being introduced by the CRA in the approach to tax season to respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other notable changes include relief for employer-provided automobile benefits and new flexibilities for claiming home office expenses (among others). Source.

How can we help?

311 – HRM’s Call Centre
HRM’s call centre is open 7 days a week, Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday & Sunday 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to respond to routine inquiries and complaints from HRM residents. Please use this service since it helps HRM keep track of issues that are of concern for residents (missed solid waste pickup, sidewalks not cleared, transit info or complaints, etc.) For more information please visit http://www.halifax.ca/311/

Call my office
Call my office for assistance with your municipal issues. Please have your 311 reference number ready.  You can reach my Coordinator Liam MacSween during the business day, his phone number is 902-490-2012 and his email is macswel@Halifax.CA

Regional Council Reports and Agendas
If you want to read reports coming to Regional Council (posted mid-day Friday prior to the Tuesday meeting) or to check the agenda please go to https://www.halifax.ca/city-hall/regional-council

Halifax and West Community Council Reports and Agendas
Community Council meets on Tuesday evenings that alternate with Regional Council. Please check the webpage here for agendas (usually available a week before the meeting), locations, and times. https://www.halifax.ca/city-hall/community-councils/halifax-west-community-council

Halifax Peninsula Planning Advisory Council Reports and Agendas
Halifax Peninsula Planning Advisory Committee meets once a month to discuss and provide feedback to Council on planning proposals for the three districts on the peninsula. Please check the webpage for agendas (usually available a week before the meeting), locations, and times: https://www.halifax.ca/city-hall/boards-committees-commissions/h/halifax-peninsula-planning-advisory-committee