As part of the Art of City Building 2020 conference, we invited Mayor Lisa Helps from Victoria, BC, and Mayor Mike Savage from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to discuss coastal cities.
Art of City Building 2020 – Session 2: Coastal Mayors CityTalk
A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation
1. Addressing multiple crises during the state of emergency
Coastal city mayors Mike Savage and Lisa Helps agree that COVID-19 requires city leaders to face the multiple crises in front of us together: the climate emergency is happening at the same time as crises in the economy, inequality and social justice and of hope and optimism. It will take a herculean effort to make the changes that are needed—we can’t stack up the crises one by one, we have to deal with all of them, and their interdependencies, all at once.
2. Tackling urban and rural priorities together
Mayor Savage points out that Halifax is both the largest urban municipality on the east coast, and the largest rural one as well. He argues that city-building is not just about buildings, but also about conserving our natural and cultural assets for current and future generations.
3. Vulnerable communities have been made more vulnerable
According to Mayor Helps, the homelessness and mental health crises are more visceral than ever, with more encampments across downtown Victoria than ever before. Said Mayor Helps, “unsheltered populations, untreated mental health and addictions issues have negative impacts on everybody—those who are impacted, businesses, and community members [alike].” Agreed Mayor Savage, “we spend a lot of time maintaining poverty, not eliminating it.”
4. Social media is no replacement for the public square
Mayor Helps argues that open-minded and open-hearted community conversations about vulnerability and homelessness are critical during this difficult time. Social media can be a divisive force that amplifies a certain level of discourse, which suggests Mayor Helps, is no replacement for other forms of thoughtful dialogue that have been made more difficult during the pandemic. “If we can’t talk about homelessness, the opioid crisis, and climate change in thoughtful and open-hearted ways, especially when we disagree, we are not going to solve the problems facing our cities.”
5. Transparency and engagement are critical
According to Mayor Savage, “When you keep telling people things are good when things are worse, there is no hope.” He says a key ingredient of municipal leadership is transparency. Mayor Helps agrees that it is pivotal to engage residents to help develop solutions.
Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to email@example.com with “transcription” in the subject line.
Mary Rowe [00:00:20] Hello, everybody, it’s Mary Rowe from the Canadian Urban Institute. Very, very pleased to welcome you here to the Art of City Building. We’ve had really a fabulous morning where we had a highly stimulating session. The mayor of Halifax is hosting the Art of City Building. It actually is an event that originated out of Halifax. And I was lucky enough to be with you last year in person and addressed the group there. And then this year, CUI partnered with the folks there to put together something across the country and the mayor opened it. And now he’s back to have a conversation with one of his colleagues, the mayor of Victoria. And as people know, CUI is in the connective tissue business. We link practitioners working in cities across Canada, and increasingly we’re getting people coming in from United States and Europe. And sure enough, this morning, there were people coming in from New York and California and Mumbai even I see and Eastern Europe. And, you know, these topics are so pressing. And I just want to appreciate the leadership that the Art of City Building organizing committee has put into this, put into it. In the last few years and this year, shifting to a virtual program, the quality of that conversation this morning was very, very high. And I was really glad to just be able to sit and listen. And there are many, many partners that have gone into creating the Art of City Building. And if you go to the Art of City Building dot ca, you’re going to be able to see all of them. Halifax Partnership, Downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia, the Port of Halifax, National Urban Capital, a whole bunch of them. So I’m just going to encourage you to go to the web site and have a look and see. This is what it takes, folks. It’s going to take a lot of folks coming together across sectors, doing our bit collectively to have these kinds of conversations that are so crucial, how we’re going to survive. Also, there are sessions this afternoon that will carry on. So don’t think that your day is over. It’s only just starting. It’s only just beginning. And we’re going to have this afternoon’s session on placemaking. And then at the end of the day, a session with Eric Klinenberg and also the chief librarian in Halifax and Jen Angel to talk about libraries and social infrastructure and all the different kinds of things, all the different ways in which physical infrastructure and social infrastructure need to work together to make our communities more resilient. CUI, as I said is the national organization and I am here in Toronto today, which is the traditional territory of many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Annishnabec, Chippewa and the Wendat peoples and the Haudenasaunee. And as as across the country, Toronto is now home to many First Nations across Turtle Island First Nations and Metis and Inuit.
And I’m sure that Mayor Savage and Mayor Helps will signal the traditional territories that they’re participating from and that we are together in this circumstance. The first in my lifetime, a global circumstance that is causing us to have to rethink urbanism and rethink communities and rethink how we organize ourselves to live together. And the theme of today, being underwater is such a profoundly important metaphor for how what, what, how our cities finding themselves. What are they underwater by? They’re underwater by a lot of things. And I’m going to start, if I can, with Mayor Savage. I always say age before beauty Mayor Savage. We’re going to go to you first. And if you could just start us off and describe a little bit about you’re heading down, bearing down a storm is bearing down on you a post tropical storm. So couldn’t be more visceral. How do you figure we’ll go to you first? Just give us a little outline of what’s going on or how you’re proceeding the challenges, and then we’ll come to you Mayor Helps and then we’ll have some collective conversation.
Anybody who wants to come into the chat, please do put some questions up. There are comments, as always. Just remember whatever you put in the chat will be seen because this will be all of this is recorded and posted in a couple of days, including the chat. So over to you, Mayor Savage, nice to see you again. Thanks for joining us on CityTalk and congratulations on really a terrific, terrific event. I really pleased to be part of it.
Mike Savage [00:04:12] Well, Mary, it’s nice to nice to see you again. And we’ve had you here in Halifax before for this conference. And Lisa, it’s a pleasure to be on with Lisa, who I think is acknowledged as a leader and a lot of these issues. So we are in Halifax all anxiously watching the track of Hurricane Teddy, which is coming up from Bermuda.
Sounds like a nice soft name, Hurricane Teddy, but the hurricanes are not. And so if it doesn’t hit us quite as hard in Halifax, it will hit our neighbors in Cape Breton hard. So either way, we’re all going to be hit by this. There’s going to be a slow moving storm. And it is, I think, symptomatic of the challenge of climate and the fact that more and more we’re seeing these storms. As I said this morning here in the land of the Mi’kmaq people, the land that is known as –, which means great harbor. We are defined by our connection to the ocean. Everything we do from the great successes we’ve seen, the fishing and the commercial ventures that have come out from our harbor to the tragedy of the Halifax explosion just over a century ago, when the largest manmade explosion in the world prior to Hiroshima killed two thousand people and injured almost ten thousand, blinded a thousand people. It was the start of the CNIB in Canada. So we’ve had tragedy and we’ve had great wealth. The symbol, the slogan of the city is E Mari Merces, which means and Latin from the sea, wealth from the sea. And so we’re defined by that. And it’s been a blessing to us more than it’s a curse. But it is something that we have to be very cautious of. So the theme of underwater today particularly is really relevant to us as we all look to see what happens. We’re gonna have storm surge. We’re going to have a lot of rain almost a year ago or just over a year ago we had Hurricane Dorian, which came up, famous images of a construction crane being blown over. And so many other images of the trees being completely uprooted. And that’s becoming a lot more prevalent. So we as a city, we’re one of the first cities to declare a climate emergency. Twenty nine, early, early. Twenty nineteen. And we followed that up. We have some amazing staff, the folks that you’ve mentioned who are involved in this, the Jen Angels and the Kourosh and Paul McKinnon and so many other folks also who’s involved in this are our great librarian we have the best public library, single library in the country. But I would also say we have the best library system in the country. But Lisa may dispute that, but these folks are really important. So is our staff who have taken direction from council to come up with a very ambitious climate action plan, which we call Halifax 2050, Shannon Media is our key staff person on this. And we would talk about this while she was putting the report together. And I just said, look, here, you have to challenge us with this. She said, not a problem, Mr. Mayor. And so we we we’re going to get to net zero emissions by 2050. But a lot of that work is going to happen in the first 10 years. And as a city, we want to get to net zero emissions in our own operations by 2030. And that’s going to require a lot of action. And it’s going to cost a bit of money. But in the long term, this is as important economically as it is environmentally that this will be important. As we all know, climate change and its impacts disproportionately affect those who can afford it the least. And so we all have to dig in and make sure as we sort of get ourselves ready for the continuingly changing climate that we recognize that a lot of people need our help along the way. So proud of some of the stuff that we have done. It’s a journey ahead of us. And I’m I’m confident that as a city, we will we’ll get there. I’m happy to have a conversation about that with my colleague Lisa and yourself, Mary. I’ll leave it at that for now.
Mary Rowe [00:08:16] Thanks Mike Savage. Mayor Helps. Can you give people a bit of a picture of what Victoria’s facing and I appreciate too that one of things that was raised in a session this morning and that we see repeatedly now is that Covid presented one emergency, a pandemic, a public health emergency, that as the mayor just underlined, actually, there’s a climate emergency happening concurrent with that. We seem to be having an economic crisis at the same time. We’re certainly having an inequity and social justice crisis. So there’s a whole bunch of things rattling around at the same time. Mayor Helps talk to us about Victoria and how it’s how you’re sort of making sense of things in terms of the challenges you’re facing.
Lisa Helps [00:08:54] Sure. Thanks. Good morning, Mary. Good morning, Mike. Nice to see you. Someone asked me just the other day, did I know Mike Savage? And I was like, well, actually, if you want to join a conversation. So I want to begin by recognizing where I am. Yes, I’m in the city of Victoria, but we’re on the Lekwungen speaking people’s homelands. That’s the homelands of the Songees in the Esquimalt nations. We are we are in a very similar situation as a coastal city to that which Mike described and as a region we’re taking that really seriously to try and get a handle on what are the impacts kind of, you know, in the year twenty one hundred. So we’ve done a lot of research at the regional level, a lot of modeling. And just to give you a sense of of the impact. So, again, this is from a recent study by twenty one hundred. So that seems like years off. But Mike’s right. We’ve got to make the changes in the next 10 years to prevent this kind of kind of change. So land and buildings right in our inner city with a total market value today of three hundred and forty million dollars could be subject to regular flooding with with the projected sea level rise, which is about a meter, and that the economic impact again. Twenty one hundred seems years off, but the work is now over four hundred thousand dollars per day in economic impact. So. So that’s just one kind of sample of what climate change can bring right into our downtown, which is very, very low lying. I mean, you can skip stones from the Inner Harbor and much like Halifax and other cities across the country. We’re taking this really seriously. So in 2018, we adopted a climate leadership plan, which probably has many of the same actions in it, that Halifax has buildings, transportation and waste, trying to curb our own emissions corporately. We also declared a climate emergency as a region in early twenty nineteen. And you know, I am like Mike, optimistic, but it’s going to take a Herculean effort to actually make the changes needed in the next 10 years so that by 2050 and 2100 we’re not we’re not where we where we could be otherwise. And just on your note about a climate emergency and a Covid emergency and an inequality emergency and race emergency with respect to Covid and climate. There’s this really great report. I’m going to flash up the cover of it. But when Mike’s talking, I’ll put it in the chat. It’s about the economic way out of Covid out in terms of the title is Will Covid Fiscal Recovery Packages Accelerate or Retard Progress on Climate Change. It’s a it’s an international report by Nicholas Stern and Joseph Stiglitz and others. And there’s a really, really prescient sentence in here. Let’s read it and then I’ll stop talking. They say the climate emergency is like the COVID-19 emergency, just in slow motion and much graver. And I think that’s why it makes it so difficult to respond to climate, unlike Covid, because the threat is immediate. It affects all of us. We know what to do. Climate is this the slow moving emergency that is literally, you know, taking communities like Mike’s today or later today by storm?
Mary Rowe [00:12:08] Now, you know, it’s interesting. I think both of you know that I was in New Orleans for the five years after Katrina and watching, trying to understand how that community was going to self organize, how the Gulf Coast, but particularly the city of New Orleans, was going to recover and rebuild itself. And in similarly to what we’re seeing now, there were a whole bunch of preexisting conditions around racism, poverty, inequality, and then some really crummy, poor, poor planning decisions that had allowed people to have houses that put them in harm’s way. But all of that kind of cascaded in, you know, at the same time. All of a sudden you had all of it to deal with. And then five years later, when it started to get its feet, then Detroit started to manifest in American cities of being the one. And I used to compare it that it was like Detroit was going through a slow Katrina. It had a Katrina over decades of, you know, economically just disinvestment. So I guess that leads me to a question to both of you. How are you picking your priorities right now and how are you working with your councils? Because as you’ve suggested, there’s an acute crisis. And when I had both of you on city talks early on in the pandemic and you were both focused on public health and trying to make sure that you kept people safe from dying, and and now we’re into what feels like potentially a second wave or whatever we’re going to call it. We have rising numbers and in various parts of the country. How are you deciding what your priorities are and what are your council colleagues insisting their side? Do you want to just speak first to that?
Mike Savage [00:13:43] Sure. So just to pick up on this issue of the crisis, I tell people there are five crises in the world right now, there’s a health crisis that has led to an economic crisis. There is a social equity crisis exemplified but amplified because it already existed by the death of George Floyd and what happened in Kenosha and other places.
We have the climate crisis, and I think it all leads to a fifth crisis, which is a crisis of hope and optimism in the world, that it’s just overbearing. And as cities, you know, we have certain, as we’ve talked before, certain legislative as well as financial handcuffs on cities as to what we can do. And so I think that Covid has to be the number one issue that we’re all dealing with. But, you know, it’s not a question of choice. It’s a it’s a it’s a question of necessity that we have to continue to deal with these other ones. I was very proud that we came up with– our council debated this Our Halifax, 2050 during the Covid crisis. And it is an ambitious plan and it passed unanimously, I believe, through council after a lot of discussion, because people recognize if if we’re ever going to get to a place of what you might call normalcy, what passes for that these days, you can’t you can’t just stack up the crises and deal with them one by one. We have to deal with all of it. And we have to deal with them in a way. I think that makes sense. We also passed a very ambitious public transit plan that’s going to take years to implement. But as for Halifax’s is going to be a seven to eight hundred million dollar project, obviously not something we can do without support from other orders of government. But we undertook that and some people said, why you’re talking about that now, but they’re all tied in together. If you’re going to deal with the climate emergency that we have, you can’t do it. Divorced from COVID. And there are some there are some financial limitations on cities right now that allow us that don’t allow us to do everything we would like to do. But you still have to do the work. And I my teachers, the school used to say, you know, Mike’s a smart kid, but if you would just apply himself. Well, we don’t have the choice. You know, we’d have to apply ourselves. We have to apply ourselves across the board. And I do want to just say once again. How important our staff are working with the council. And you can’t, in my view, have a successful city if you don’t have your political leadership working and that the staff will follow it up. And and they do amazing work here in this city and I’m sure in cities across the country and they get us. And to me, that’s it’s a real test. Covid is a test for all of us of how we’re going to go forward and make progress on these big challenges. And one may be a bigger issue for us, but none of them can be ignored. They all have to be dealt with. The social inequities, ties into Covid, as we found out time and again, the people who have been hurt, the most are those who can afford it the least. And it’s the same with most of the crises that we’re facing. So I am an optimist by nature, and I do think we need to find bits of optimism. We have to find successes and we have to use those as the way through. But it’s no question it’s a very challenging time.
Mary Rowe [00:17:05] Can can I ask you a follow up sort of tactical question? I mean, one of the things that you made me aware of when I was in Halifax a year ago is that you have a ton of land, your physical space and part of the region and its large and it’s diverse. You know, I mean, when your sister and I were driving through and, you know, she said this is still Halifax and we were, you know, in rural, rural and conservation of it. Did you how do you do the how do you reconcile that with that with your council members who presumably have competing a sense of this? And I’m interested in how you’ve been able to cobble together a consensus that, as you suggest, would still mean that they’re willing to invest in transit. I think other governments may be struggling with that. Can you tell us what your secret was there to get them to all agree?
[00:17:53] Well, I’ve had a few years ago, at FCM I was asked to speak on a panel about the rural economic development. And a lot of people, I think some people were offended that the mayor of Halifax was asked on it. But we’re not just the biggest urban municipality in Atlantic Canada we’re the biggest rural municipality as well. So if you get a car without any traffic and drove from one end of my city municipality to the other, it’s three and a half, four hours straight, straight driving. It’s it’s it’s a big municipality. Came about as a result of amalgamation in the 1990s. And to some, that’s still a bad word. But to me, it’s harnessing the strengths and the opportunities of all the municipalities. We have some 270 or something communities within what’s known as Halifax Regional Municipality. And I believe it’s an advantage to have a vibrant downtown, but also to have something as beautiful as the one hundred wild islands, which is an archipelago of islands on the Eastern Shore, which has been unspoiled by nature. And it’s not only a beautiful adornment to the municipality, but it’s an economic opportunity as well. So I think that you have to look at the skills and talents of communities just as you do of people and say, you know, what can we do together? And I think, you know, we’re blessed. And even saying that, Mary, I was at an announcement this morning with the Nova Scotia Nature Trust that they’re going to double the amount of land that they’re preserving for the future. We have as a city, we’re purchasing land pretty close to the heart of the city, even though we own all kinds. But we need to preserve lands in the heart of the city as well for generations to come. And being a successful economic city being, I think well managed allows us the opportunity to do that. But I think it’s a responsibility to for all of us to take a look at how we how we deal with land and everything.
Mary Rowe [00:19:45] So you’re going to have, like, urban wilderness, basically, if you. If you. Yeah. So you’re going to prohibit development in those areas and keep them as natural preserves.
Mike Savage [00:19:53] And it’s not without controversy. But what is the core of the city? And we have we have opportunities for other development in our city. But when I go to Toronto or to Calgary, Houston or other places in the world, which I’ve done as mayor and I talk about, you know, my Halifax, I show pictures of the downtown, but I also show pictures of the hundred wild islands. I show pictures of Mountain Bridge Cove, which is beautiful wilderness, not far from the from the heart of the city. And I think city building is not just about buildings. City building can be about conserve, conserving what has always been there and that we will never change and we’ll be a benefit for people for generations.
Mary Rowe [00:20:31] You know, I always say CUI is in the connective tissue business. But I also think we’re in the urban empathy business. And to try to dissipate these–if it’s an us and them or if it’s an either or and what you’re saying is one of the benefits you have, the perspective you have is that you’re you’re able to hold urban and rural somehow in any healthy kind of tension.
Mike Savage [00:20:52] Well, I don’t know if I am. But that’s certainly what I like to see. I mean, you know, the one thing that brings all Haligonians together is the belief that each of us are being screwed the most on our taxes.
Mary Rowe [00:21:06] Thre you go. You have a common enemy.
Mike Savage [00:21:08] But at the end of the day, you know, and just wanted one last thing I know Lisa’s got a lot more wise things to say than I. But the one thing I would say about a municipality our size is you have to speak with one voice. You can’t go to the downtown and complain about how much it costs to service rural communities. And you can’t go to Beat Harbor and and complain about how the downtown gets everything. There has to be some kind of a vision for the entire municipality and you have to be consistent with that.
Mary Rowe [00:21:34] Interesting. Mayor Helps, I’m interested if somebody got in a car now passes in the car, maybe they get on an electric bicycle. But if they got in a car and they went from one edge of Victoria, and they drove with no traffic to the other. How long would it take people?
Lisa Helps [00:21:49] Fifteen minutes at the most. I’m envious of all of the land that that Mike has out there. Victoria is a tiny handkerchief of land. So we’re 20 square kilometers where we’re just the tiniest of tiny geographical areas with a heck of a lot of challenges and a heck of a lot more opportunities in that small space. Metro Victoria, on the other hand, is quite large, but we’re an unamalgamated region of 13 municipalities and 10 First Nations. So it’s it’s a different geographical circumstance and certainly a different political circumstance here than it is in Halifax.
Mary Rowe [00:22:28] So do you want to talk about that? I mean, this is really healthy for people and for our listeners to appreciate that the governance arrangements vary across the country. So unlike Mike, where he’s cobbling together some kind of a consensus with his own council, you actually deal with the region, have to cobble up together with municipalities and First Nations. So talk to us about how you’ve been. How have you been prioritizing? And the other thing, you’ve had I mean, I want you to talk to us about it, but I know from speaking with you, you’ve had a significant public health challenge that’s in fact, been in many ways greater than COVID, correct?
Lisa Helps [00:23:00] Absolutely, yeah. So I’ll talk about the priorities and then I’ll talk about some of those additional public health challenges in terms of what I’ve been prioritizing and what council’s been prioritizing. Thankfully, we had really solid policy development pre Covid on. So we’ve got a really good, affordable housing strategy. We’ve got a really good climate leadership plan. We’ve got a really good we call it GoVictoria, which is our future mobility plan. All of those things were adopted well in advance of Covid, you know, some two or three years ago. And so all of the staff and I couldn’t agree more with Mike about the role of staff. All of the staff are still working on those things. Right. Our housing planners are not working on Covid. Our EV Charging guy, our circular economy gal. Well, he’s a guy. Sorry. Anyway, there’s a whole team of them, and they’re not working on Covid. They’re working on all of the things that we asked them to do in our policy documents for two or three years ago. So that gives me great confidence that all of that important work is continuing. So so that’s great that we’ve got those policies and great that we’ve got that staff, you know, missing middle housing. Like many cities across the country, we have not enough housing for people who work in our community to be able to afford to live here. We don’t have enough three bedroom townhouses for families who want to get into the market and buy a home. And so all of that work and missing middle housing strategy, that’s all. So everything is still happening, which is just great that we’ve got the plans. We’ve got the staff in terms of what my priorities are and the priorities of council. It really is balancing, solving the problems that we are facing right now, which is Covid the opioid crisis and homelessness, as well as supporting our business community who are really struggling. And I want to talk more with Mike. We are chatting in the pre call about, you know, what it’s like in our downtowns right now. So so that that that’s a priority but. Not only that. And this is why we’ve been as mayors across the country working really hard because at the same time is addressing the challenges on our doorsteps right now.
We have to plan for the future. And so this other plan that’ll flash up here and I’ll put it on the chat, Victoria 3.0. I’m trying to peek out from behind it. This is this is our recovery, reinvention and resilience plan. It really tackles. What does Victoria’s economy look like for the next 20 years? And my office is leading the implementation of this plan, and it’s as much work as dealing with the crisis in front of us. What we know when we get through Covid, when we’ve solved homelessness or at least better manage it than that is happening right now. We need to plan for that future economy. And so those are the two priorities for me. Equal weight on what’s in front of us right now, but also preparing the economy and the city for the future.
Mary Rowe [00:25:43] It’s tough, like the short term and the long term, it’s hard. And as you say, as Mayor Savage made clear, is that you’re trying to do this with both with one hand tied behind your back because you don’t actually have the powers and the resources that you need to be able to tackle these things. And you’ve got to navigate it up through your province and through the feds. And can I ask a question for both of you? It’s coming up in the chat, which is vulnerable populations. And how do you how do you help vulnerable populations protect themselves when a risk is present so Mayor Savage, as the storm is approaching, are there measures that the region is having to take which I’m assuming you have had to take during Covid as well? For people that are inadequately house, precariously housed, living on the street, that kind of thing. Are there particular steps you’re going to have to take to deal with Teddy?
Mike Savage [00:26:29] Very much so. Sean McKinley, who is my chief of staff, is on this call and she will have been on the calls that we’ve had over the last couple of days with our EMO folks. And one of the consistent questions that I ask, and I know that is on other people’s mind, is what about the people who are living on the street? And that we do have people living in the street in Halifax. We have people living in tents right now in Halifax.
And so, our EMO folks are very cognizant of that. We’ve got accommodation ready. We’re going to try to move people before the storm so they can ride the storm out. And then there may be an opportunity, if they wish, to attach them to community services at the same time, if that’s there, if that’s their wish. So that’s always a big issue for us is how do we we deal with those folks? And I’m sure it’s the same with Lisa. We have a homeless population through Covid that we put up in hotels, in some cases motels. We used community centers that we had in some cases, one case. One of the ones in the school. So when school came back and forced us to have to deal with that sort of double booking, if you will. And so the vulnerable populations and communities are. You you couldn’t name a challenge. I don’t think in a city or province that doesn’t hit the vulnerable more distinctly than it hits the rest of us. So for some of us, the storm means making sure that we take the chairs off our patio. And for others, it means were they going to survive it? I remember last year we had Hurricane Dorian and I was at our comfort shelter a couple of days after with councilor, Toni Mancini and a woman who was very, very not challenging at all. Just interested. Explained to me how with the power out, she had just bought her meat for the month of losing her 40 dollars worth of meat. A huge impact on her life. So you know, we have a real responsibility to make sure that we reach out to the folks who are most severely damaged by all of these crises.
Mary Rowe [00:28:35] Yes. And as you say, whatever the particular threat is, I mean, during Covid, when people kept saying, oh, we’re all in the same boat. Oh, you know, we all have to stay at home. Well if you didn’t have a home to go to. There was no place to shelter. And Mayor Helps You’ve been similarly, I know, preoccupied with the vulnerable populations because they’re just they’re more visible and they’re more visible I think in every Canadian city, I would suggest there are more encampments in the summer of 2020 than anyone had seen before. Certainly the homelessness crisis is very visceral. Are there particular steps that you’re having to take even above and beyond what you’ve had to take over the last several months? I guess you would have had to be constantly changing and adjusting.
Lisa Helps [00:29:17] Well, I mean, yeah, unlike Mike and larger municipalities, we don’t have a lot of space. And so right now there are people camping in almost all of our parks, some of the small neighborhood ones, not so much at the beginning of the crisis, along with the province, we moved 500 people indoors to motel rooms. But there are still about two hundred and seventy five people left outside. There’s there is literally nowhere for them to go. I know the federal announcement-has that happened yet?
Mary Rowe [00:29:47] Yeah, so that’s it. And it’s happened about an hour ago.
Lisa Helps [00:29:50] Yeah so, the acquisition fund for more indoor sheltering locations is positive. But I think what what Mike said is really important that the people who are already vulnerable are even more vulnerable in these crises. And that is the nature of vulnerability. So we can buy more motel rooms or we can get more services or we can, you know, whatever it is. But really, what we need to do as cities, as a country is address that fundamental vulnerability where these kinds of issues don’t hit people equally. And, you know, that is a lot of you know, that’s a lot of unpacking to do because many of my constituents, I won’t say many actually. We get lots of emails, but I don’t get ninety three thousand e-mails. I only get about 400 e-mails. You know, people are like I just I want my park back. Yes. We want you to have your park back. We the parks are really, really important. They’re very, you know, part of the fabric of our city. And and also the people living in them need shelter. And so so these are the very difficult conversations that we’re having here and trying to do it in a way that’s loving and compassionate and draws people together rather than pushes people apart. But it’s hard.
Mary Rowe [00:30:56] You know, the session this morning, the one that preceded yours, was all about equity. And it’s a dilemma that I could just hear repeatedly was it’s all well and good. You’re dealing with the crisis now. But what about the conditions? But as you just pointed out, led people to be vulnerable in the first place. And what if that is systemic racism and its lack of inclusion and that those vulnerable folks continue to be kept vulnerable, basically, by the way, that we plan and design and manage our city. And you have to somehow do both at the same time. You have to kind of stem the bleeding, but also figure out what caused the wound in the first place and address that. It’s difficult.
Lisa Helps [00:31:35] Without question. And, you know, really and I’ve been talking with mayors across the province and across the country and in addition to homelessness and unsheltered populations. And again, I think that shows up probably differently in every city, but certainly in British Columbian cities mental like untreated mental health and addictions is really and untreated mental health and addictions issues is really, really having a negative impact on everybody, on the people who have those issues, who don’t have spaces for treatment on our businesses, on people who, you know, if if you experience somebody in the middle of a mental health episode and you’re not used to it, that can feel scary. So and that without question, there is nothing that cities can do with respect to mental health and addictions treatment. We don’t have the resources. It’s not in our mandate at all. Housing. Yeah.
Mary Rowe [00:32:25] So we’re back into that dilemma. We’re back into this. You’ve got one hand tied behind your back. Can we can we talk about downtown? Because I know that both of you are struggling with it. And I had a conversation earlier this morning with the chief of police of one Canada’s cities saying that that’s the dilemma. Vulnerable populations are now present. Even more so in downtown. Which makes people fearful they may. Maybe they don’t need to be fearful, but they’re presented with a person that they don’t know how to navigate. They don’t have to. So can I get a sense on either both of you? How do you what what are you observing as the impact on your downtown and your and the economy recovering, I guess. But at the same time, you’ve got a population that are congregating in parts of the city, as you suggest, when people are saying, I want my park back. Mayor Savage, you go first to the Gordian knot.
Mike Savage [00:33:18] You don’t solve the problem of the poor by moving the poor. The poor go where where they where they think they have their best chance to to have some kind of a life. And quite often that life is finding a shelter for the night, waking up in the morning and trying to figure out which mission they might go to for breakfast or where they might go for lunch. In some cases, they have to go and apply to get back into a shelter in the evening. So I think my own view and this goes back to my time as a member of parliament years ago, I always said we spend a lot of time in this country maintaining poverty and not as much time trying to eliminate poverty. A lot of our programs are meant to just keep people a little bit. OK. Right. And, you know, I continue to believe that the basic annual income, which I understand is something that’s being considered, is probably one of the solutions to a lot of these things. So easy for me as a mayor to say that because I’m shrugging off the problem to, you know, to other people. But there’s an impact to the downtown. Now, the downtowns are hurting already because of Covid. Right. You know, I think Halifax here, in spite of the best efforts of Paul McKinnon and Timber Cesco and the heads of our business improvement district who have done it, doing really amazing work and have done a lot of work already on the street navigators to help us help people get connected to community services. You know, we just this such an inequity and how COVID has hit people in Nova Scotia as is the same elsewhere. Nova Scotia, the liquor commission sales are through the roof. But the bars and restaurants aren’t. Sobeys is doing very well. But, you know, the restaurants aren’t. Some places. They’re doing better than some others. So there’s this inequity. But I do think particularly the inequity among those who have and those who have not. It hasn’t been just so much created by Covid, as illustrated by Covid. And all those things kind of add onto each other to make life worse for those who struggle.
Mary Rowe [00:35:13] Yeah, it’s a big you know, that expression. It’s a Gordian knot, because none of these is one single solution, not a one. Lisa, Mayor Helps, do you want to comment about all of that the issues that you’re having? I guess that’s a question. How can you how can you work with local communities? We’re getting asked this in the chat. How can you engage local communities in solution, finding together? Is that an antidote to hopelessness? If we empower people to engage in solution planning. Mayor Helps, Can you comment on that in terms of the ongoing challenges you’ve been having?
Lisa Helps [00:35:47] Sure. Yeah, I do want to talk for a minute just about downtown, though, because I think downtown and Mary, one of your slogans is bring back Main Street or support Main Street. And certainly it was interesting, again, in our pre conversation conversation just before we came on on air here and Mike and I were talking about there. He was saying and I didn’t get a chance to to respond, but I it’s been very interesting to see where the tourists have come. Everyone’s had these staycation and they’ve gone to places like Tofino, or the Gulf Islands, kind of the smaller places, although we did see nonetheless a real uptick in pedestrian foot traffic. So there was this magical thing about downtown Victoria, probably not magic, maybe everyone else has them too, but these pedestrian counters on every corner. So we can see not with like not cameras and invading people’s privacy, but we you know, we can see where people are walking and where they’re not. And so, you know, obviously during the desperate months, when everyone stayed home, it was flat. And then we saw it go up and then up, up, up, pretty, pretty steady for the summer. And then as September hit right down. And one of the reasons is because we’re not seeing provincial office workers come back to work yet. And that is going to have a devastating impact on on the lunchtime business.
Mary Rowe [00:37:01] It is happening in Ottawa, too. And I wonder, it must be happening also in Halifax, isn’t it? Mike Savage, because you spent a lot of provincial employees that are obviously in near downtown Halifax, right?
Mike Savage [00:37:10] Absolutely. Some of the large companies as well. So we, our staff have done a pretty cool job with. I guess, what you’d call tactical urbanism and opening up street, closing streets to cars, to patios and and slowing streets and allowing cyclists and walkers. But I. I went down and this is one that Paul MacKinnon would know well, I went down to a street that we closed between two restaurants, McElvie’s in The Old Triangle.
And I sat there with the owner. And early on when they did that and he said, this is really great, we love this. But that building is empty. That building is empty. That building is empty. And they normally are the lunchtime traffic. So I’m sure that Lisa’s the same as I am. We’ve been going over and visibly having lunch and places and trying to sort of show people that, you know, if you observe Social distancing Nova Scotia is done very well in the battle against COVID. Also to Lisa’s point in Nova Scotia, outside of Halifax, some of the resorts have done quite well, but there’s no business travel. So the hotels in downtown Halifax are just, you know, 20, 30 percent occupancy versus they might be in the high 90s at this time of year. You know, those challenges are big.
Mary Rowe [00:38:21] OK. Can I ask you guys a crazy question? We know that that neighborhoods that are monocultural only have one kind of user activity aren’t as vibrant as ones that have a mix of activities. Do you think this is going to spur us to actually repurpose some of our commercial office space and turn it into housing? Mayor Savage I think that you had already started to do that. When I was there last year, you were already dealing with some office building space. And I think you were in the process of turning it into residential. Can. To me, it’s such a an irony that we have downtowns where we have street people on the on the streets and we know that we’ve got floors upon floors upon floors where nothing’s happening. If there’s some way to turn our CBD and downtowns into more mixed use and complete neighborhoods? Is it feasible?
Mike Savage [00:39:10] Well, I’ve always felt that most cities, mine is no exception, have large communities of people who will like each other, whatever income people think about low income being together. But high income is the same way and mid income and the cities and closer to downtown is the future of where everybody can come together, regardless of background and income. That can be a place for everybody. I think you will see in Halifax, the office vacancy rate is 15 18 percent. The residential is less than one percent. So I think what you will probably and also with Covid people working from home and even before COVID, is companies move to the new office buildings here. They took less space. They shared space much more than they used to. I don’t know how that will be impacted by Covid. But I think you will see that a number of the commercial properties in Halifax will likely become residential. That’s something I’m not doing. But, you know, we have some buildings and in Halifax, some of the old traditional sort of bank buildings that aren’t necessarily the newer space. I think the only opportunities that those will become more more residential and make up for the very, very low residential vacancy.
Mary Rowe [00:40:25] Could you ever imagine Mayor Savage, an office building, several storey office building that had a mix, had some commercial use and it had some residential parts? We’re seeing a little bit of that, but only at the high end in Toronto. But could you ever imagine that where you might actually mix within a building?
Mike Savage [00:40:40] I don’t see why that wouldn’t be the case. We know we all like buildings that have a mix already, right. Like a little bit commercial, like some residential? I certainly think that that’s likely to do that. Probably I’m not an expert in how to design a building. I just know the benefits of having nice vibrant buildings in the downtown where they bring people downtown of all different backgrounds and ages and incomes. And that’s the future of cities.
Mary Rowe [00:41:10] Yeah. We’ve got lots of smart people on these calls who are designers and planners who do do that for a living. Let’s hope they come up with some brilliant ideas. Mayor Helps, thoughts from you on that in terms of increasing the diversity of the kind of people that are actually. I mean, you’ve actually got a- You’ve actually got a test case going on. You have parts where you’ve got more mingling than you probably have had in the past. Right.
Lisa Helps [00:41:31] Yeah. In terms of commercial buildings turning into housing. I don’t know that we’ll see that. Our downtown is really underdeveloped in terms of residential buildings already. And so over the past four years, five years, I guess we’ve been really working on that and we’ve increased the downtown population significantly even now with Covid, because our provincial health officer didn’t shut down construction, she declared it an essential service. There are new rental buildings and new condo buildings going up.
You know, on every corner is a bit of an exaggeration, but certainly there’s a lot of residential development happening right now. And again, because we’re such a small city, I would I would hesitate again. If a developer brings forward a proposal to turn our office tower into residential. We’ll certainly look at it. But we really do need to preserve our commercial footprint well into the future if we want to have a diversity of companies here with a diversity of office spaces and sizes. So I think I don’t know right now.
Mary Rowe [00:42:33] But is there an interim use? I mean, I know I know what you’re saying Mayor Helps. You don’t want to because the fear always you know, I lived in New York. And the fear always there was if you let if you let commercial space be taken over by residential, you’ll never get it back. Same with manufacturing. You know, cities have zoning that they want manufacturing. And if they give it over to residential, they never get it back. But at the same time, you’re living in this world where you’re going to have empty office floors for a period of time, like an extended period of time, potentially.
Lisa Helps [00:43:00] Potentially. I mean, we’re not seeing that yet. So as an interim use right now, you know, could we put people inside who are living in parks, in office buildings? Not not at this point. Right. Like a lot of– and the province. You know, we’ve got I’ve got a I have a business call every two weeks. And there are, commercial property owners who are part of that call. And they’re not seeing that yet. They’re not see, they’re they’re seeing leases being renewed. They’re seeing new leases being had. So you know what? We’ll have to watch that carefully. But at this point, there’s not you know, the vacancy rate in offices isn’t such that we could start having that conversation yet.
Mary Rowe [00:43:40] And I hope the listeners of City talk a bit, you know, appreciate week after week just how big a brain a mayor has to have because you have to have so many compartments for everything you’re dealing with at once. It’s not like you’re a federal minister with one mandate or I’m not. I mean, and I know Mayor Savage you sat federally. I don’t want to underestimate it. And I’m sure there are there may be federal ministers, Mayor, your honorable member, Andy Fillmore may well be on this call. I don’t want to suggest that it’s a simple job, but you you guys have to have so much capacity to be able to bridge and connect. And I’m just acknowledging that. But my brain hurts thinking about how you have to juggle all of this. And can we just go back to a thing that’s coming up in the chat again, which is around hope. You know, can you get us? I think the inference I’m reading from the chat is that if people locally are given some capacity to influence decisions, can they will they feel more hopeful about the future? Is that an antidote to your fifth crisis, Mayor Savage, sort of feeling of helplessness and and uncertainty?
Mike Savage [00:44:48] Well, I often go back to when I was elected mayor and I may be doing this because I’m in the middle of an election campaign right now.
Mary Rowe [00:44:54] Oh right how’s that going?
Mike Savage [00:44:54] Oh it’s going fine, you know, for a COVID election. It’s much easier for me than it would be for somebody who is challenging. And it really is. You can’t really go door to door very much and doesn’t have events to go and meet people. It’s a real challenge.
Mary Rowe [00:45:10] When is your election?
Mike Savage [00:45:13] October 17th. So in terms of hope. Yeah. So I go back in 2012 that our city was not doing as well. Our downtown was really quite stagnant. We had a lot of development that demanded a lot of servicing. Our population wasn’t growing. We didn’t have building in the downtown core and we overcame that. And part of it, I always felt, was that we had to believe in ourselves as a city and recognize the great assets that we have. That’s still there. We have a city, as does Mayor Helps, that has been blessed by nature, by the creator and also by the people who’ve gone before. But we have challenges today. And I do think that one of the ways that we need to move the city forward is always finding new ways to engage our citizens in such a way that they take hope from it and not despair, because compared to most of the world, we’re all doing OK. In Canada, we have we still have a lot of blessings. But that doesn’t mean that our challenges should be ignored. The way that our province, for example, has handled Covid has put us in a pretty good position, I believe, to be competitive even beyond what we were before. So I think you have to you have a city has to have hope in the old saying where there is no vision, the people perish. I, I believe that. And I think that you have to see a brighter day. Doesn’t mean that you’re ignoring the problems, but you have to be able to paint a picture of what what this is going to look like when we come out of this.
Mary Rowe [00:46:47] Do you think there’s any way that Covid could, in fact, support the broader adoption of a broader vision for all of you? Because one of the fundamental challenges of municipal government is that you’ve got council members who have a ward or have a couple of exceptions, but where they’re responsible for their neighborhood and we see it in playing out in all sorts of places. Hard to get affordable housing approved, for instance, that the local council isn’t willing to approve it. So you can’t make it happen, you know what I mean? Do you think Covid is going to have given you a chance to kind of get them all on the same page or not?
Mike Savage [00:47:20] If that’s for me, I want to be careful not to suggest that I’m ahead of my councilors. I think I’m personally very proud of the way that our council has dealt with the whole of the municipality approach to government. There is no question that there are times when people look at things very specifically from their own district point of view, and that may be more prevalent now in the run up to an election. But by and large, this city has done a good job of managing itself. There are some things that have happened in Covid that will be very positive. I think Develop Nova Scotia is one of the sponsors of show usually are Jen Angel and her gang. So there was a big announcement about that long ago. But extending broadband and Develop Nova Scotia has led the charge. If you think about being a municipality our size in an area that doesn’t have good broadband. The problems you had before are worse now. If you can’t get on the Zoom meetings and team meetings, and FaceTimes and all the things that you need just to communicate with with people. So, you know, that’s a that’s a very positive step towards improving the lives of many people and that happened during COVID.
Mary Rowe [00:48:36] Mayor Helps, what about for you? I mean, I think that this is one of the–you’ve got tough questions you guys do. You have to you have to make tough decisions. You need to provide tough leadership. There’s going to be people in a community, in a city that won’t be happy about it. It’s hard. How are you how do you navigate that? Does the crisis give you an opportunity, for instance, to insist on the siting of affordable housing, whereas neighborhoods would have previously said no way during this crisis? Are they more persuadable?
Lisa Helps [00:49:03] Yeah, it’s a really difficult question. I want to go back to the question that I didn’t answer before, and then I’ll I’ll tackle this one as well in terms of how do we engage residents to help them co-develop solutions? What does does that create hope or help with hope? I think, yes, we’ve been doing that a lot during Covid through grant programs. We’ve got a whole range of grant programs. So strategic plan grants. We put a quarter of a million dollars arts and creativity grant. Everyday Creativity grants. So we dumped a lot of money. You know, cities can’t really do much in terms of fiscal stimulus.
But we wanted to notice, you know, who was hurting most and then what could we do to support that? So, you know, dumping money into grants doesn’t sound like community engagement except the staff support. What what happens out of that, I think can be really positive. We’ve also continued running some of our programs. So just before Covid hit, we had the City Champions program. And you might want to follow this up as the Canadian Urban Urban Institute on some other call. But, you know, a group of residents who want to understand more about how to be a city champion, how do cities work, what can they do? What can they do it so that it’s been really. And so they were they turned to a Zoom group instead of coming to city hall every Saturday. And that’s just been phenomenal. So it is small things like that. But in terms of. So now to the now to the harder questions, I would say, and probably at some point in every one of your these talks or panels, someone talks about social media. And I would say that that has been a really, really divisive force in terms of having thoughtful, rational, open minded and open hearted conversations about vulnerability and about homelessness. And, you know, there’s one of our local radio hosts and he literally said this when he got off before I and this isn’t social media, but talk radio. He said, well, I’ll be back tomorrow unless I get stabbed. Right, until he is just like, it’s so unhelpful. And then. And then. So all of this email and and Twitter and Facebook. And then I walked down the street and people are like, Mayor, I really want to thank you for doing a good job. Thanks for taking care of the people who are vulnerable. This is a really difficult situation. So I don’t know which reality is real. Right. And so I think social media is having such a negative impact here in Victoria, in particular in terms of working with and supporting vulnerable populations. Yes, it’s very hard. It’s difficult for everyone. But the tone, it’s really an and I should say, you know, this is part of being an unamalgamated region. The city of Victoria proper is very small. We don’t know where people live when they tweet. So that’s also, you know, doesn’t help. So, yeah, that was a long, rambling answer. But that’s one of the most pressing issues. If we can’t talk about these these things, whether it’s homelessness or the opioid crisis or climate change, you know, someone asked about cars versus non cars. And if we can’t talk about those in a thoughtful, rational ways, even when we disagree, especially when we disagree, we’re not going to solve the problems facing our cities. And so that’s like I am just the firmest believer in having face to face difficult conversations where we can really listen to those who have differences of opinion and find our way through.
Mary Rowe [00:52:25] It’s the function of the public square. Right. And the dilemma. Some people think that social media is the new public square. But I think lots of people observe and say perhaps not. I want to go back to something that Mike Savage picked up. But you just reiterated Mayor Helps, which is the value of these intermediaries, like Develop Nova Scotia, like you just cited. And if I think of culture, for instance, you know, culture and cultural organizations are often very effective, intermediaries for bridging societal challenges of local communities. And as you suggested, your grant programing in the culture sector has been just saddled like crazy, during Covid. And so is that something back to hope again? You know, I’m interested in the number of people that are asking what are the signs of hope and what can you as municipal leaders commit to that will instill hope on that? You Mayor Helps then Mayor Savage.
Lisa Helps [00:53:20] Honestly, like I if I put my Web site up there earlier. One of the things that I think can instill hope is having those conversations that are really difficult to have in really loving and open hearted ways that can instill hope, it can still hope when we as as local leaders kind of model the way to get through some of these really difficult times. Some I reference my Web site as I’ve been getting hundreds of email on e mails on homelessness each week instead of right back to them individually, which would just like not work. I kind of take all of the thoughts and then respond to everyone together and then post on my Web site my my response. And, you know, there’s been some really thoughtful dialog and conversation that’s generated from open hearted, thoughtful interactions. And so that’s not I mean, I think the Victoria, the arts and creativity, things that those grants give people, all of the all of the actual things we’re doing. Victoria 3.0. There’s certainly a lot of hope about the future of our of our economy, particularly focused on focus on ocean sustainability. So doing things like doing, we just got some funding from the federal government to grow our Ocean Futures Innovation Hub, which we’re building on some of the great work that Mike’s done out there with Cove. So doing things gives people hope. And talking about things in an unpredictable, unconventional, non social media way also gives people hope.
Mary Rowe [00:54:46] And I think and there’s something about tangibly doing something. This is one of the things that’s been so difficult, I think, about COVID is that initially we couldn’t get out and do very much because we were told to not go outside. Mayor Savage.
Mike Savage [00:54:58] Well, I can’t help but think of what I’ve been seeing recently. We all watch what’s happening in the United States. And there’s been a lot of talk since Woodward’s book came out about how Trump was handled or not handled COVID. And I’ve heard a number of people reference FDR. The difference between Trump and FDR, Trump is always saying things are great. FDR was famous for saying things will get worse and worse before they get better and better, but they will get better when you keep telling people that things aren’t as bad as they think, but they turn out to be worse than are reasonable, then people are not dealt with honestly. And so I would say the first thing is we have to be honest with folks with all the circumstances that come up, but we also have to make sure that we don’t blame other orders of government or other people in the community. One of the most positive things that I’ve seen in Halifax in the last decade was something called the H.R.M. Alliance. The Halifax Regional Municipality Alliance, which was a group of organizations that didn’t agree on everything, didn’t agree with the downtown business improvement districts. You had the trails, folks. You had all kinds of 50, 60 organizations that came together and said we may not agree on every little thing, whether a statue should come down or or what the exact tax level should be. But we do believe that we need to densify the core of the city, have complete communities outside of the core, good transit and protect green space. And so if you can get people to focus on those things that really matter and not the small things that occupy social media so much. But the big issues that are city building and nation building, then people will have hope and we will get through difficult times as long as we don’t lie to them.
Mary Rowe [00:56:37] It’s interesting, I feel the equity movement is suggesting the same thing, that we just have to be much more honest, that this is a kind of reckoning moment and we can be honest, a la FDR, and say it’s this is very difficult. We’re going to and. And things are not fair. And we have been making mistakes that have to be corrected. But together we can collect- I think there has to be the acknowledgment of both. It is difficult. We need to all collectively engage in new kinds of ways. And interestingly, both of you have cited examples of what I would call are place based initiatives where you focus on place and the session after this is all about inclusive, placemaking and development. It’s sort of how is the rubber going to literally hit the road in an inclusive way. Any thoughts from either of you to the next session about what inclusive placemaking and development will need to look like as we continue to live with Covid? You first. Mayor Savage and then over to you Mayor Helps.
Mike Savage [00:57:35] Well, I think the whole issue of, you know, inclusive- we need we need to grow our cities, but it needs to be sustainable and it needs to be just that. If it’s not those things, the whole thing falls apart. And so I absolutely believe that. And I guess it’s sort of like saying that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. A lot of us look at the parts and say, I will protect my part. I will protect what I have and other people. I don’t need to share it with them. But when we do put everything together and we bring all kinds of people together. The growth of our city and Halifax in the last 10 years, five years, has largely been immigration. For generations, people came to Halifax on ships and Pier 21 and they went west. And now they arrive in Halifax and they stay because there’s an opportunity. I want to make sure they have a place to live and food to eat and all of us together build communities that we want to live in.
Mary Rowe [00:58:31] You both are in cities that have grown through immigration. You’re both coastal, you’re both port city. And so I’m going to get the last word to you. Mayor Helps, in terms of going forward. Your thoughts on that.
Lisa Helps [00:58:42] Well specifically with respect to inclusive placemaking? I think that, you know, it’s quite simple in some ways is that you draw on the people who are using and living in the space. So, for example, last night I had a beer well I had a beer and they all drank tea, which I thought was we were at a pub anyways about, you know, what we’re starting to think of here is to try and get some temporary tiny towns, small, small, tiny home villages for people living outside. And one of the ideas that came up is, you know, mural’s. And then and then a lot of the people who are living in camps are artists and creative. So that’s that’s just one example of inclusive placemaking. You take the people who are going to be using and living in the place to actually do the placemaking quite, quite literally themselves. But so that’s with respect to placemaking with respect to building inclusive cities, I wholeheartedly echo what Mike says. You know, we can invite the world to come and live in our cities. And when they arrive, we really need to do everything we can to to take care of them here in Victoria. We’re just about to embark on a welcoming city strategy, working with welcoming America. People are starting to come to Victoria from all over the world. We think that’s a good thing. Diversity is is increasing here, but it doesn’t just happen. We need to nurture and create that sense of welcome. So that’s one of the things we’re gonna be working on in the next few months.
Mary Rowe [01:00:01] Well, listen, thank you. Thank you, both of you. I always feel more hopeful when I talk to people like you two who have your feet on the ground. And you were talking to real people in real neighborhoods and trying to aggregate all the best ideas. And as I suggested, you have to keep so much in your brain I’m full of admiration for you both. Thank you for joining us. Best of luck as you continue to navigate Mayor Savage, whatever the next, whatever the future holds for the Region of Halifax. And for you Mayor Helps with the ongoing challenges that you’ve got ahead as well. Thanks very much, everybody. You have to switch to a different Zoom link to come to inclusive placemaking and development, the next session on the Art of City Building. Thanks, everybody. Thanks to the sponsors.
Thanks. Always great to be with Halifax. Thanks, everybody.
Mike Savage [01:00:41] Thanks, Mary. Thanks, Lisa.
Lisa Helps [01:00:42] Thanks, Mike. Thanks, Mary. Take care. Enjoy the rest of your days. Bye.
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00:32:05 Aftab Ahmad: Canadian joining from Saudi Arabia Regards Aftab
00:33:50 Canadian Urban Institute: The conversations will be saved on www.ArtOfCityBuilding.ca & https://www.canurb.org/citytalk. Thank you for sharing your observations and learnings – we celebrate engagement!
00:34:00 Canadian Urban Institute: Mayor Lisa Helps linkedin.com/in/lisa-helps-327a4a30 lisahelpsvictoria.ca Mayor Mike Savage @MikeSavageHFX https://www.halifax.ca/city-hall/mayor-mike-savage/about-mayor
00:34:58 Aftab Ahmad: Hope everyone stays safe
00:35:39 Mayor Lisa Helps: My website is a better place to connect than linked in https://lisahelpsvictoria.ca/
00:46:21 Kjeld-Mizpah Conyers-Steede: During this time of Covid and extreme weather, what are you doing for those at Risk with respect to sheltering?
00:54:06 paul mackinnon: Fun fact: People from Halifax are called Haligonians. But people from Victoria are not called Victorigonians.
00:54:35 Brad Krizan: Municipalities always struggle with vision…because Councilors represent their ward first, then the city/municipality. Too many special interests focused on small I issues, not Capital V vision.
00:54:47 Philip Lancaster: To Mayor Savage, How do you ensure that your various departments incorporate climate change considerations across all their activities?
01:01:22 Heather Keam: Community recovery is typically “owned” by municipalities and focuses on economics. How do we shift the recovery to be “owned” by community?
01:02:17 sean gadon: Thanks to Mayor Savage for taking the time to participate in light of so many things going on and given the current municipal elections which are underway! Thanks for the work to help actually “house” the homeless in permanent housing. Please keep your eye on the inclusion of permanent affordable housing as part of the City’s proposal call for the former Bloomfield school in Halifax.
01:04:24 Chris Chopik: How do you deal with constituent engagement on these dire topics in a way that creates hope? and insights active involvement?
01:05:34 David Chaney: To both mayors, how do you make decisions that might be unpopular with the voters or stakeholders in the short term but in the best interests of the City and all of its residents in the long term and vulnerable populations in particular? For example, approving housing for vulnerable populations, approving inclusionary zoning, or taking away road space from cars for active and public transportation, or taxes and fees to address issues like climate change.
01:08:52 Canadian Urban Institute: Reminding attendees to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
01:09:21 Nicole Coutinho: I hope this may be helpful to your municipalities Mayor Lisa & Mike in regards to people needing shelter..as the city of Seattle for instance has declared a homelessness crisis state of emergency has a library use alone that is aimed for inclusivity through its building program and design, connecting them to services. Not limiting it to affordable housing strategies only which I’m sure is already a priority.
01:10:09 Purshottama Reddy: To both Mayors
01:11:30 Brad Krizan: Conversion of office may help in the interim for social housing needs….consider how we use that approach as part of a transition model to help a segment of the affected population in a way that provides them community and an opportunity for employment too to help give them other legs of support and self support to bring them up and out of the conditions for that need
01:14:36 Kjeld-Mizpah Conyers-Steede: commercial property taxes provide the funding for business improvement districts. We are seeing more and more internal conversions in Halifax which will have a direct impact on our programs and services.
01:14:39 Purshottama Reddy: My apologies – technical glitch. To both Mayors – what is the progress in ensuring inclusivity in municipal governance, particularly drawing in those those from the indigenous communities.? What are the challenges in this regard and how can it be addressed ? Thanks
01:17:01 Emilie Macleod: Comment: as a public health researcher who’s done work with people who use opioids, what seems to give people hope in my experience is not just being given the chance to give input, but for changes to actually be made so they’re not left hanging.
01:17:46 Canadian Urban Institute: reports mentioned by Mayor Helps: https://academic.oup.com/oxrep/advance-article/doi/10.1093/oxrep/graa015/5832003 And here is Victoria 3.0 https://www.victoria.ca/EN/main/city/mayor-council-committees/mayor-lisa-helps/victoria-3-0-recovery-reinvention-resilience.html
01:18:39 Aftab Ahmad: Great interaction
01:19:54 Aftab Ahmad: Mayor Mike Savage best of wishes for your reelection, from Nova Scotian overseas
01:21:20 Canadian Urban Institute: Keep the conversation going #AoCB2020 @AoCB2020 @canurb #citytalk
01:21:27 Brad Krizan: Keyboard warriors on social media are not going to be part of the solution…its a pretty passive way of trying to bring awareness and effort to resolving bigger societal issues. Just one person’s opinion.
01:22:32 Canadian Urban Institute: This conversation will be saved on www.ArtOfCityBuilding.ca & https://www.canurb.org/citytalk. Thank you for sharing your observations and learnings – we celebrate engagement! #aocb2020 #citytalk
01:23:26 Canadian Urban Institute: Mayor Lisa Helps lisahelpsvictoria.ca Mayor Mike Savage @MikeSavageHFX https://www.halifax.ca/city-hall/mayor-mike-savage/about-mayor
01:23:36 Frank Murphy: Thanks from Nanaimo for another great discussion.
01:23:56 Emilie Macleod: The internet overrepresents certain views; a very small proportion of people are actually commenting on things online. It’s important to be aware of the internet, but definitely does not represent the average person’s views.
01:24:10 Heather Keam: Mayor Lisa is spot on….we need to learn to listen to each other and be understanding that there are different ideas and opinons and its okay to agree to disagree.
01:30:06 Kjeld-Mizpah Conyers-Steede: great conversation!
01:30:11 Fernando Cirino: While I agree with Mayor Lisa and the challenges of digital platforms for engaging the public, how can we leverage this system to engage all populations given the challenges of COVID and our (temporary) move from traditional face to face exchanges?
01:30:15 Purshottama Reddy: To both Mayors – Excellent work – keep it up.
01:30:27 Nicole Coutinho: Thank you for joining and all your work