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Halifax politicians and campaign funders: Time to end this cozy relationship

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Photo: Adventures of KM&G-Morris/flickr

So let me see if I have this correct.

Dino Capital proposed a 142-unit twin tower development on south-end Wellington Street that would squish 354 people into air space approved for just 253, increasing the overall density of the residential street by 50 per cent.

City planning staff objected. Volunteer planning experts argued the eight and ten-tower complex was a bad fit.

Over the objections of the two councillors who represent the area, the project proceeded to a public hearing. More than 50 people lined up at the microphones during a four-hour talkathon last December. It is fair to say they were not enthusiastic. In fact, more than 1,000 people, most from the neighbourhood, signed a petition opposing the development.

Last week, Halifax city councillors filled up yet another three hours debating the issue before voting (after an amendment that made the project 20 per cent smaller, but no more popular among residents) nine to six to -- wait for it: approve the project.


Well, if you ask Coun. David Hendsbee (Preston-Chezzetcook-Eastern Shore), who voted yes, he did so because residential Wellington Street, population roughly 700 individuals, is a "corporate street… it fits the landscape proportionately."

Uh... OK.

Coun. Gloria McCluskey (Dartmouth Centre) explained her yes vote by criticizing the planning department for having approved three buildings in her Dartmouth district a few years earlier with "no thought of compatibility… no test of sensitivity… no thought of the effect on the community… If I sat here today and said this is wrong, how would the people of Dartmouth feel?'

Wait a minute. You said yes to a project the planning department rejected for… spite?

Let us not burrow too deeply into the mental gymnastics of the individual councillors who voted in favour of this particular project.

Let us simply… ahem… consider the general generic reality of from whom would-be councillors raise funds to get themselves elected.

We know, without knowing details -- specific disclosure not required -- that close to half of all current councillors received one-third or more of their campaign donations from developers.

Is it time to pass realistic municipal campaign finance legislation?

Or is it past time?

Your call.

This article first appeared in Stephen Kimber's Halifax Metro column.

Photo: Adventures of KM&G-Morris/flickr

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