Cities in the Time of COVID-19: One-on-One with Halifax Mayor Mike Savage

A candid conversation with Halifax Mayor Mike Savage on how his city is dealing with the challenges of COVID-19 and what the short, medium and long-term impacts on the city could look like

5 Key
Takeaways

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation

1. Keep the buses running

Cities are going to have to make some hard decisions in terms of finding efficiencies and cutting services. But transit service is non-negotiable. Mayor Savage shared his emphatic opinion that if Halifax had stopped transit service when the crisis first broke, the city would have stopped functioning – it’s as simple as that. Essential workers – such as cleaners, sanitary workers, home-care workers, and supermarket clerks – continued working, and a lot of these workers depend upon public transit. At a loss of $3 million per month to the city’s coffers, it’s the cost of doing business and having universal access.

2. Floating new ideas for mobility

In the spirit of thinking outside the box, Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) has an integrated transport plan aimed at “future-proofing” the city, that will build on the lessons learned from COVID-19. In addition to looking at the redesign of buses and routes, they are doubling down on bolstering cycling as a commuter option, and importantly, looking at options that more fully utilize the vast harbour and abundant waterways that connect the region. The Mayor said that federal recovery funds must invest in sustainable municipal transportation systems. “This should not be seen as bailout, but a viable tool for investing in the future of cities,” the mayor said.

3. Take off the handcuffs

Municipalities are bound by legislative and financial frameworks that no longer make any sense. There were challenges with other levels of government pre-COVID, and now they are stark and irrefutable. Municipalities can’t borrow to cover operational expenses — they only collect about 10 per cent of taxes while providing much more in services that are very expensive such as transportation, and police and fire. “Give us a charter that contains exclusions, instead of permissions, so as to not restrict, but enable,” Mayor Savage said.

4. Paying it forward

Mayor Savage predicts the costs associated with COVID-19, and the recovery process, will take a generation to pay back. He strongly believes that government at all levels have the best interests of cities at heart. The response to COVID-19 has shifted the orders of government into windows of collaboration and cooperation. However, “coming back to life will be done in the cities, therefore, it is imperative to allow cities more independence and flexibility,” Mayor Savage continued. Cities don’t have access to the revenue tools that they need, and financial problems with liquidity and revenue are anticipated.

5. Stronger together

Cities are not only looking for money, but they want to be part of the solutions going forward.  Pre-COVID, Halifax was undergoing a growth phase, with a strong environmental influence. An expansive geographic region, HRM covers 55 sq. km and includes 900 parks and trails. Halifax had the foresight to invest in an urban wilderness reserve and strong policies that protect farmland within the city limits. “We will learn from this for a long time,” stated Mayor Savage. He concluded by calling for better cooperation and recognizing that we’re “stronger together.”

Additional Reading
& Resources
Full Panel
Transcript

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 events@canurb.org with “transcription” in the subject line.  

Mary Rowe Hi, good morning, everybody, in Nova Scotia. Midday here and in central Canada. And actually, it’s early afternoon in Nova Scotia. My apologies.

Mary Rowe It’s midday here in Toronto and it’s morning in Vancouver.

Mary Rowe We’re happy to have you join us for city talk, in particular for City Talks Fridays, which are one on ones with me and a mayor. And we are very, very pleased to have his worship there. Mike Savage with us from Halifax. He’s got a lot to talk to us about, about how they’ve been dealing with COVID and also the other tragedies that they’ve had to absorb. It seems like every week they have a new bit of bad news that hits Halifax or hits Nova Scotia. So we’re very pleased to have him with us. I’m just going to do our usual introductions here.

Mary Rowe I’m Mary Rowe. I’m the president of the Canadian Urban Institute. Said we’re in the connective tissue business and that’s what all our work has been about since covered. We put up City Watch Canada dossier. So you share Canada dossier. Those are sites that are tracking what municipal governments are doing and what communities are doing in response to COVID.

Mary Rowe Tons of smart, responsive stuff. And that’s part of what the mayor and I are going to talk about, about how local governments are on the frontlines in every way. And the communities that they serve are doing smart, resourceful things to try to police the way, pull us out of how we as best as we can from the challenges that are ahead of us here.

Mary Rowe This effort that CUI has been mounting has been made possible by partners across the country and many, many, many, many, many volunteers who continue to watch those sites and supply content and help us with City Talk Canada, which is what we’re participating in today. If you’ve got any band that if you’ve got time, if you’ve got half an hour, if you’ve got an hour a day to help us track and watch and try to make sense of what’s going on in urban Canada, please volunteer with us and send us an e-mail at covidResponse@can.urb.ca. Have we got a little task for you, though? We’d be delighted to have you be part of this city. Talk is about having candid conversations off the record, and we generally say to our folks who are on these calls that they’re participating as individuals as so that they don’t feel obliged to deny not feeling under pressure, that they’re embarrassing the institution they might work for the clients they have. But in the case of the mayor, he’s got a lot of people that he’s accountable to. So I guess the mayor here is the mayor and he doesn’t get the same disclaimer that everybody else does. We are very cognizant that when we have these city talk calls, sessions, that this is not a replacement or in any way a distraction from the thousands of Canadians who continue to be working on the front lines, saving lives, keeping people safe and who are engaged in emergency response.

Mary Rowe So we always want to acknowledge that and be cognizant of that as we have these conversations also here in Toronto where I have live. This is the original territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Annishnabec, and the Chippewa and the hodhan, Ishani and the Wendat peoples. And it’s now home to many, many diverse first nations, in a way to native peoples from across Turtle Island. And we’re aware that Toronto is covered by Treaty 13, signed with the Mississaugas of the Credit and with the Williams trees, which were signed with multiple Annishnabec, nations. And we continue to always be aware of our ancestry and our history and the lands upon which we walk. Maybe not as much. We don’t walk as much, but hopefully we’re gonna be walking soon on them. These conversations are about practical things what’s working, what’s not, and what what’s next.

Mary Rowe And we appreciate people being frank about that. And it’s also really about what we’re seeing. And these conversations are not restricted to just this online conversation that Marinello have. We also have a very active chatbox. So if you’re familiar with Zoom, you know about chats and those chat functions are really important. We get hundreds and hundreds of folks who participate on these chats and we encourage you to use that. And when you post a comment, please direct it.

Mary Rowe You’ll see the little toggle switch at the bottom.

Mary Rowe You can direct it to all panelists and everyone attendees and do that so that everybody gets to see it. Because the best thing about that is that you can all talk to each other and have a big, big, big, robust conversation there. And I’ll keep an eye on the chat and perhaps the Mayor, too. But he doesn’t have to because our feed in periodically when I see things Mayor savage that you might want to respond to. We are recording this. And as I suggest, if you put something on the chat, it stays in the chat. So just be aware of that, that these are go up.

We then post them online so that people can watch them again and again and again, which is good. And we have a Twitter hashtag, of course, which is hashtag city talk. So the conversation really only begins here and then it just lives on. And we’re very, very happy to have you. Savage So let’s start, if we can with you, just describing for us, if you would please, what the impact has been on how effects of coded specifically in talk to us about the things that you’ve had to be uber focused on. And then we’ll get into the details after that. So welcome. Thank you very much. And thank you to the institute for inviting me to be part of this session.

Mayor Mike Savage And let me acknowledge that I’m on the traditional and the unsuited land of the big my people. And we say in Nova Scotia we are all treaty people governed by the treaties of peace and friendship. So, yeah, we’ll have a conversation about Kovar. But allow me first of all to just address Nova Scotia in particular has had a horrendous couple of weeks. So what about the over issues? The terrible shootings that happened in Nova Scotia affected all of us. We all, I think, knew one or more of the people who were killed. I knew Constable Heidi Stevenson and I know her family. And I know that Emily’s heart goes out to everybody, all of the victims of that terrible crime. And then this week we had a helicopter, a cyclone stationed out of Dartmouth, not far from where I live. That went down in Greece. And again, some people were waiting to get the results, but we know at least one person, really impressive young woman who had been around many times past. So it’s all been exacerbated by the ongoing COVID crisis. So to address your question on COVID . You know, we have the two issues. We have the overall community issue and then we have the impact on the municipal government. And it’s pretty significant because as you know, Mary, from all your work, municipalities are a little different than the other orders of government. We’ve seen, I think, quite extraordinary action from the federal government recognizing that this is a time to put money into the pockets of Canadians and to businesses which are which have been shut down. And it’s extraordinary action by any definition, plans being made as they’re being introduced, adjusted as need be. The provincial government here has taken action as well. And I commend to the two orders of government for the work that they’ve been doing for us. It’s a little different. And not everybody understands how municipalities work and both the legislative and the financial handcuffs under which we operate. We can’t just go and add to our debt, you know, to help people out as we would like. Now we have significant constraints right off the bat, like most other municipalities. We decided that we would keep transit going. Just as one example, because transit is needed even in some of the hardest hit places in the world, the transit has to continue. And for us, that means we can no longer collect revenue on transit because we’ve moved people to loading the buses from the back away from the fare box to protect our operators. For us, that means in excess of 3 million dollars a month in lost revenue. And a lot of the other services that we provide, the rec programs, parking fines and things like that, we’re forgoing now to make it easier for those who are continuing to do work. So as a as you might know, Mary, the municipalities in this country collect less than 10 percent of taxes, but many of the frontline services, including those most needed right now, like picking up the garbage, like transit, police and fire have to go on.

Mayor Mike Savage So we don’t have access to our normal revenue stream. People are paying. Some people are paying their taxes and I commend them for that. But we’ve had to reprofile our budget in a dramatic way. We’ve laid off workers and we’re looking, frankly, for partnership with the other orders of government so that we can continue the growth. And Halifax saw when we went into COVID as a as a rapidly growing city. So that’s sort of a nutshell. We’re here.

Mary Rowe When I was in Halifax not long ago meeting with you and dad and I was really struck by the economic vibrancy that we could see there. I mean, I know you had some struggles perhaps with commercial office space for yet some empty commercial sites, but you had a lot of residential construction. There’s a lot of a lot of things are having on your waterfront. And I know you were you were starting to build up an interesting tech sector there. Right.

Mayor Mike Savage Yeah, yeah. Yeah, for sure. So we feel we’ve had great success. We’ve become a tech hub, which we really weren’t five years ago. And we had a lot of growth, a huge amount of growth and development in the city, which is in enough itself a good thing, but it’s particularly good is it allows us to look at the other issues, some of the social issues that we can then contribute in a more effective way as well.

Mayor Mike Savage But the growth was good. We did see the same kind of factors on the commercial side that other cities do that that are growing, which is just as businesses, for example, move from one office to another one. They don’t take as much space anymore. People are working a different way than they used to. So even though we’ve had a very strong growth in our commercial marketplaces, we didn’t see as much on the on the tax revenue side. We did see it on what we call deed transfer. I think in Ontario, it’s called land transfer tax. So we saw a lot of commercial activity that was paying dividends. So the city was growing at a very substantial rate and I think a sustainable rate environmentally as well as economically. And we intend to come out of that the same way. Like many other cities, we have an economic recovery task force that’s being led by the Halifax Partnership, which is our civic economic development arm, and involves people like Volta Labs, which is our accelerator program or incubator hub, which has really been very, very effective in this city over the last number of years.

Mayor Mike Savage And of course, the trick is how do you how do you when we come out of this sort of. Frozen economy. How did we come out of gangbusters in a sustainable way? That’s certainly what we’re turning our attention to, as is anybody else.

Mary Rowe So can we talk to me? Why? I mean, I obviously want to get this big picture because we had a whole session yesterday within its like and some CFOs was from Edmonton and Burnaby. And and we had the head of the transit system in London talking just about all that sort of financial constraints you’re talking about. I want to get to that. But before we do just I want to keep giving people a picture of exactly what you’ve been dealing with. So. And you had to you had to keep transit going. You liked it to do that. And did you? And you’ve started bearder during entry. So obviously your user fees are way down. And you made that decision to do that. And what’s been going on with the long term care facilities in in your town, your city?

Mayor Mike Savage Well, I think what’s happening in a lot of cities we have had workover has as has happened, a lot of it has happened in the long term care facilities. And it’s heartbreaking. We have one facility here, a very good one with tremendous staff and a place that I spend some time when I as mayor northward, where we’ve had the vast majority of deaths in Nova Scotia.

Mayor Mike Savage Today we recorded our twenty nine deaths from colvard and a large number of from virtually all of them were in senior care facilities, a lot of them at Northwood. So have folks there. And we’ve had some other pockets of areas where we haven’t seen as much physical distancing as in other places. And so our medical officer of health, Dr. Sterling, has been very, I think, very strong, very effective at getting into those those areas compared to the other maritime and Atlantic provinces.

Mayor Mike Savage We’ve had many more cases. New Brunswick hasn’t  had a case. I don’t think for a while. PEI has been may have had one case in the last 10 days. And so the bigger cities where people gather and where this long term care facility seems to be, where this is really taking hold. And when it gets into some of those places, it’s like a brushfire and it just goes and it’s tragic. You know, we just about everybody knows somebody who’s somebody in the family has died in a long term care home here.

Mary Rowe Yeah. I mean, that’s that’s the thing. When it’s a small community, a smaller community than as you say, it touches everybody in terms of, as you’re suggesting, the capacity for people to congregate.

Mary Rowe So how has that affected municipal life and civic life in Halifax? What are you even doing about parks and streets and roadways and things like that?

Mayor Mike Savage So that’s a that’s a bit of a, let’s say, touchy, because I think people generally understand it. But when physical distancing first came in, we felt that we have 900 parks and trails and Halifax Atrium is physically large where fifty five hundred square kilometers. We have a pretty vibrant downtown which the suburbs and we have the rural part of our community.

Mary Rowe Yeah, I think I get that what struck me when I was there and and Sheila took me around, your sister took me around to show me the region and I was really struck by that. You’ve got a lot of diversity of land use within the region is piloting. Right. So you’ve got. Yes. You’ve got a downtown dance downtown and you’ve got trees and then you’ve got vast. I mean, we were in the car and it just we were still in Halifax and it was quite rural. Right. So. Yes. So tell me about that in terms of how that’s affected, how you need to cope so well.

Mayor Mike Savage So I would say that we have the best downtown in Canada, but we also are of this view that as agricultural without it. Yeah. So we have 900 parks and. Proud of them. And we have invested in maintaining parks and trails. We’ve also in the last couple of years bought land so that it couldn’t be developed. So we could turn it into urban wilderness within the core of the city as well. And so when physical distancing came in, it was certainly my view that we had areas that you could go to and still maintain physical distance and provincial medical officer of health was was supportive of that. But then what happened was I actually went out and did a video and one of these places encouraged everybody to get out to the parks and trails. And the next day, not because of my video, but the next day, we had pictures of hundreds of cars at the park and lots of trails. And so the medical officer of health stepped in, said, no, we can’t have that. So parks, provincial parks and trails and shut down sports fields are shut down. And so that’s been a problem. And so people congregate there, we’re told, to exercise on our streets. So my wife and I go walking every day and I can see everybody in my neighborhood now. I can see who needs their their houses to be fixed by sit on the radio a couple of weeks ago that I know somebody whose porch needs to be painted. And I got an email from somebody saying, Are you talking about me

Mary Rowe you probably were!

Mayor Mike Savage I hope it’s not too far off that we can open the parks and trails because they’re a great asset. And I think you can maintain physical distancing while you’re out in a park or on a on a trail. But I certainly get where the Premier was going when he famously said stay the Blazers home. And I’m looking forward. OK. I think that’s one of the things that we should be able to do relatively soon. I know people want to get out and exercise and mental health is as I think as the physical health is maybe leveling out. The mental health anxiety has been going up, things like domestic violence, intimate partner violence. I’m very concerned about all those things. I think to some extent it can be helped by letting people get out, get into the parts of walk and do all that sort of stuff. So hopefully we’ll be able to get to them.

Mary Rowe I think that there’s tension, isn’t there, in this, because on the one hand, you want to you want to when you want to, as you suggest, contribute to people’s mental health so that they have the opportunity to do things. But at the same time, the dilemma is that if you make it to permissive and people don’t necessarily heed Social distancing and I I appreciate that it’s a struggle for a public official. And recent we’ve seen this across the country where citizens, residents want. Why aren’t you opening streets? Why don’t you get rid of the cars in the streets and let us walk on them? But I also know we’ve heard lots of examples of bylaw officers who were having to actually go up to people and who are congregating in or not six feet apart and start to quiz people, “are you in the same household?” If you’re not in, then they’re issuing tickets. So it’s a quite I guess it’s partly a question, isn’t it? As we move fast, as we live longer into call it. And even if even as we re-open, are we going to still see Social distancing practices? And further, will we have next fall when the weather gets cold again? Well, we have to go back to some kind of period. Do you think that do you. How much can you trust people? I guess that’s the question, because I think people start to feel infantilized that you’re setting rules and not just you. But, you know, officials are setting rules. Why can’t we be as responsible ourselves to social distancing and still go into a park?

Mayor Mike Savage So I think that when we when we come out of this, we would have a form that is there will be still some legislative physical distance and for a while. But I think more than that, we will see a change in how people interact. I remember as a kid. People coming into a classroom who had survived the depression and telling me telling us kids how the depression changed. So they looked at everything from other money to other people to how they looked at government. And I think that some of that will happen with this. This is this is really the biggest single challenge of our lifetime in my lifetime with the possible exception of climate change. This has been the biggest dramatic event that has had the opportunity to shape our behaviors. I hope that we still get along with each other. I hope we don’t ever take for granted again. You know, the opportunity to be together, you know, Easter dinner for us. We have a daughter who lives in Halifax where on the Dartmouth side. And, you know, Easter meant, you know, we boxed up a turkey dinner and put it on the doorstep. And she came and picked it up and we waved to you. You know, I miss my kids. Well, I have a child who’s away at school in Newfoundland, so I hope we don’t have to take for granted again the great pleasure of this to actually spend time with people. Terrible. But I do think that you’ll see less handshaking. We’ll see some of a lot of those things certainly for a while. People would be much more careful because we don’t know if this will come back. And frankly, we don’t know if it’s not this. Is there something else?

Mary Rowe Yeah, yeah, I know what you mean, though, it’s gonna be, you know, the some of us are relieved that there’s that it’ll be the end of that sort of compulsory hug that we’ve that will be that navigation about, oh, is this a person I hug or not? But there is an element of whether we can reestablish conviviality and can we do it at a distance. So as so I appreciate that you’re trying to navigate that. If do you think this should affect how we design like should the urban planning and design provisions? I’m noticing in the chat function, we’ve got some designers on the call here. Shouldn’t. Should designers be challenged now to figure out how they can create the civic space, public space that is distanced and safe?

Mayor Mike Savage I think that may be the case. You know, I think that the creator has already done that in some ways. I think that there’s a lot of open space where we live that once we’re allowed to get back into it, that we’ll have that. I think a lot will change from this. One thing I think of Mary is, for example, on the buses, you know, there are places where the buses have barriers between the drivers and the passengers. And that’s generally been for the physical safety of drivers in places where people might get aggressive. What we’ve seen here is if we had the right kind of construction, could you have something around the driver that might prevent the transmission of something like that? And will that become part of the design of buses? I think that that’s going to happen again. When you look at the revenue that’s being lost on the bus system in candidates, hundreds of millions of dollars, billions of dollars, I think our our folks in transit are already looking at things like that. I can tell you as well that one of the best forms of transit in Halifax area, which you probably take a very system and very traffic is down ninety two percent. So, you know, there’s there’s a lot of things that are changing about how we’re designing, about how we do in the city shows the design of cities. We will learn things about this for a long time. And there will be changes that come in design of our cities from this. As I say, I hope that I hope that we we come out of this as more generous as a population, not not, you know, questioning, not not looking to so much as the switch on our neighbors as as really wanting to all be in this together in a true way and not a negative one.

Mary Rowe Yeah. What about bikes? I mean, I you know, I appreciate you rent you mentioning fairies because lots of folks who are in inland communities don’t know about fairies. But if you live in a coastal community or a community that has a big water, as you guys do, and the fact that you’ve been able to navigate, I’m old enough to remember when darkness because I’m even your father who was Mayor of Dartmouth, Dartmouth was this municipality. And then you went through amalgamation. So you you’ve managed to stitch together quite a diverse set of communities into the region on this county. And Ferry system has been an important part of that. I hear you. So is there a way of pandemic proof fairies?

Mayor Mike Savage Well, you know, some of the ferry traffic is outside, and now that we’re getting into a part of the year when people will be outside more than jammed inside, the ferries are iconic in our community. I wouldn’t want to change that much about them. I would say this that if you took a map with Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford Sackful and you showed it to a traffic designer. I think what they would say is you should use the water more, that the water should be less of a divider and more of a method of bringing people together. That’s what the theories are about. We’re looking at extending theories in the community because with traffic coming in from the Bedford area and beyond. And so the ferry system is integral to Halifax. And you mentioned bikes. You know, we’re not a city that has as strong a bike network as I’d like us to have, but we’re working very hard on that and putting a lot of money into making sure that we do have all of our active transportation routes. You know, we’ve got a pretty walkable downtown core of our city outside of the hills.

Mary Rowe I just feel my thighs are already anticipating bike biking in Halifax. I remember the hills well

Mayor Mike Savage We’re looking for a federal infrastructure support to level out the downtown Halifax. But I think that’s. I think that our bike network would fit into that. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I guess because we were working on the bike network, we’re going to we have a pretty strong active transportation plan for Halifax working with the cycling coalition and others. I will tell you that every time we put a new bike lane, we get complaints from people who don’t think that cyclist spend money or or, you know, or obey any of the traffic rules or anything else. But any city that’s doing well these days is a city that’s encouraging people to take alternate routes of transportation. And that’s what we want to do as well.

Mary Rowe I mean, do you think here’s back to the dilemma of transit. And then I know we talk about money and lots of lots of chatter is going to ask you about money stuff. But do you think that we have a window here, that it’s a sort of perverse window where people will and people will be reluctant to take back to transit? And we know that cities won’t work. Transit isn’t supported. So we’re. That’s a serious issue. But could we take some folks that are apprehensive about transit? Could we put them on it? Will people be persuaded to get onto bikes or scooters or whatever other two wheels thing they’ve got? And could that be an option so that you’ve got choices? And could there be some flexible infrastructure on your part? But if you have to go back into this kind of locked down place that, you know, suddenly some certain lanes were made for bikes, you were opened up only for bikes. Is that something you guys are thinking about at all? Some flexible approach.

Mayor Mike Savage Sure. Absolutely. You know, we have we bought in what we call our you know, our are integrated transportation plan last year, which is focused on pretty aggressively changing the modes of transportation in the city. We do have a good number of people who take transit, which is useful. And in a growing number of people that are using cycling as a way of getting to work and not just for recreation, which is also good. And I think any city that really wants to be progressive today has to has to say we need more control on bikes. And what we keep hearing is that only X percentage of people who are on bikes and that’s not what it’s about. It’s about who will be on a bike if they have the opportunity. So a big piece of our plan is to make the bridge that connects Halifax start with the McDonald Bridge, the first bridge that was built to make that more accessible for bikes and through the McDonald Bridge bike. And a lot of people look at and say that’s an expensive projects. The cost six million dollars. But, you know, to me, it’s sort of like a line in the sand saying I’ve said before, come hell or high water, we will be a biking city and it will take some investment off of money. But we have to do it. Feds have been very supportive and the province have been supportive. In the last year, we announced $25 million active transportation plan that the province contributed to and the feds contribute 50 percent. And you feel more. Who is the piece of infrastructure, for example, was a big supporter of that. So we’re getting there. And I think that that’s that’s part of future proofing the city.

Mary Rowe So you’ve been talking about partnerships and collaboration. And a lot of people are remarking just generally, you know, the chatter is how cooperative it appears to be at the moment. The levels of government do appear to be with one another. I think lots of people are refreshed to find it refreshing. You know, there’s not quite as much sniping back and forth in the sort of Canadian political narrative. And as you’re suggesting, you need partners. You know, cities need partners. So let’s talk about let’s talk with the hard numbers. First of all, and because I know you and I would make would agree and make the case that cities don’t have access to the revenue tools that they need just to make life work. In normal times, but the increased costs that you’ve had during COVID just lists off those, not the numbers, but just areas where you’ve had extraordinary expense opportunities to throw money at. What are they?

Mayor Mike Savage Well, transit is one, a big one. Obviously maintaining vital services like solid waste is an important one. In fact, this has been a good demand for that. Through this period, people being able parking enforcement would be one. Not being able to do recreation programs has been a significant one. People who are not in a position to pay property tax at all because of the economic circumstances that they’re in. This year is a big one.

Mary Rowe If they have a default deferment there and you defer your property tax, did you do that? Or did the province do that.

Mayor Mike Savage We did. So this is what happened. We deferred. You didn’t actually defer. We changed the due date of property tax from April to June. Right off the bat with a plan that we wanted to work with the problems to allow us to defer taxes for those who need it. Businesses and individuals. But the province has to allow us to do that. So far, they haven’t allowed us to do that. But we need to be able to assist people on deferral of property tax. And that’s going to cost us tens of millions of dollars just in deferment costs and other big cost for us today. I assume every other city is that commercial taxes are based on the value of commercial buildings the year before. The value of commercial buildings this year is way down. Right. Look at windows, buildings that are totally empty. So next year, cascading problem, which is gonna get worse next year. We have two issues mirror liquidity and revenue. The province of come in with a program that allows us to borrow money, which we will probably do that helps us with the liquidity that can then allows us to have money. But it doesn’t change the revenue equation that we could be down, you know, 80, 90, 100 million dollars in revenue this year for a mid-sized city, that’s a lot of money. And so if you said the biggest things, the biggest things will be what can we do in property tax? And then transit would be probably the second biggest one. And we’re trying to maintain our workforce. We we laid off fourteen hundred eighty people, mainly seasonal term people, for whom we’re not going to have programs to offer the summer. We can’t pay people, but we want to maintain our Full-Time workforce and we’d like to bring other people back as soon as possible. We’re going to have to reprofiling our budget over the next few weeks. We hope to get a bit of support, a bit more support from the other orders of government and particularly the feds, with whom, as you know, we are having lots of conversations.

Mary Rowe I mean, one of the I think one of the pieces about layoffs happening across the country. People may not have done the math here. About 10 know, as you suggest, your counties are going to not be able to offer certain services so they can lay off seasonal staff at that. If you if this were to become chronic and as you suggest, if those user fees completely diminish, then you’re going to have to lay off permanent place. And those are big severance agreements and big severance arrangements. And so city will be even leavens will be even more cash strapped because it’s nice to just let people go.

Mayor Mike Savage And, you know. So for anybody who sits and thinks so, well, you know, in this capacity will be an OK. You know, you can let some people go. I mean, who do we let go first? The police. The fire. The folks who pick up the garbage, the transit folks to take care of the parks, the ones who fix the roads. Which one do you want us to let go first? You know, we we have some reserve money. We’re in pretty strong shape. But, you know, that’ll be that’ll be gone. We’re going to use that. And but other orders of government, I’m hoping, would say, look, the constraints were just different, for example. So so the provincial government announced this week that they’re making $380 million available for municipalities in Nova Scotia, about half of which Halifax would have access to. At one point one percent. And they’ve extended the term from one year to three years. OK, so that’s better for sure. We appreciate that. Let’s talk about the federal government. How long was going to take to pay off the money that the feds have put into the economy? 200 some odd billion dollars is going to be a generation or a three year payback. Still means that over the next three years we’re going to have issues of revenue. It’s going to be compounded if we don’t have the liquidity that we need to pay our services. So we’re just different. And people need to understand that municipalities don’t have the ability to just borrow money for operating costs and carry on. We’re not you know, we collect less than 10 percent of all the taxes. But think about the major services and we provide a number.

Mary Rowe So, I mean, if we work together. Yeah, I mean, even before COVID, you were in that mismatch situation where there are a number of services and programs that municipalities are expected to deliver. And Joe Public and Joe Public have no idea really who actually pays for a particular service. You know, we just know a government somebody in government does it. They don’t realize that you are expected to do a whole bunch of things that. So the feds have let you have told you you have to do, but you don’t have to like housing, for instance, where you’re thinking about how you can intervene differently in affordable housing, it’s. There’s no community in Canada that’s not struggling with housing. Right.

Mayor Mike Savage That’s right. Well, so Nova Scotia that we don’t have a mandate for housing. But any mayor or councilor who thinks that they can manage a city without dealing with housing is is just crazy. And, you know, I remember when I was first elected mayor, which is now almost eight years ago, I guess, and a number of has talked about housing and counsellor’s sort of put their hand up and said, that’s what our file. But within a year or two, we endorsed the housing proposal for the city in conjunction with the United Way and the Affordable Housing Coalitions to say we need to play a role in this. So housing has been a big issue. And every crisis that we face, whether it’s this one or whether it’s climate change, every crisis we face, those who have the least get hurt the most. That’s just a that’s a fact. So right off the bat, you know, we work with the problems to offer up our buildings for four homeless shelters or for shelters of different times of people with people that need it. And I think that this crisis is is going to bring more attention to the fact that we really need to do more on the issues of housing, food security, domestic violence. All of these things get worse and in time of crisis. And the only answer the only answer, there’s one answer, and that is that everybody has to come to the table. And if we can forget about whose jurisdiction it is.

Mary Rowe Right.

Mayor Mike Savage And actually look at a solution and then figure out who contributes. I think we’d be a lot better off.

Mary Rowe So it’s it’s really how do we arrive at a place based policy? How do we get things led at the local? And because really your your folks are the ones that are left holding the bag in every literally and metaphorically. Right. OK, so let’s think a little bit about what the choices what the options are. So you’re part of the big city mayors caucus. The FS team put forward a proposal last week. Do you want to just sort of lay out the sort of principles of that about what what is what is motivating you to advocate for those kinds of solutions? Talk to us about that.

Mayor Mike Savage Sure. So a lot of thought has gone into, you know, how do we work with the federal government? Let’s be very clear that this federal government has been extraordinarily supportive of laws about this. So one could even argue they got elected in twenty fifteen. And their biggest proposal was to go into debt to fund infrastructure, much of it municipal. And they followed through on that. So that’s been very positive. We ask that we have made up the feds 10 billion for municipalities. That’s not a small amount of money. But we know a few years ago the feds doubled what they call the gas tax. That’s an incorrect name for this fund. It’s no longer based on gasoline taxes, but it is a direct allocation to cities and it’s about two and a half billion. So they doubled it for one year, made a big difference in the case. Halifax made a difference of about twenty six point seven million dollars a year on our budget. That’s a lot of money. So what we’ve proposed is two things to the feds to help both municipalities. Number one, a lump sum gas tax direct to municipalities, allocation of money that does not have strings attached that allows us to deal with the pressures of Koven. And that’s about 7.6 billion dollars. The other part of the is specifically on transit, since we have to maintain transit to do a ridership based allocation on transit. The direct gas tax allocation piece is important because all municipalities benefit from that. You know, the largest ones that Toronto’s Vancouver’s months will also benefit from that. So to the small communities of Cape Breton Regional Municipality in Nova Scotia or or Hanso County East. So that’s an important one. And then the transit piece specifically recognizes that transit has to keep going. It’s costing every municipality that has a transit system a fair bit of money. And there should be some recognition of the cost of the lost revenue, but also cleaning the buses, making sure that we have the right buses on the road, making sure we’re protecting our workers, sanitation, everybody who’s involved in helping out. So those are the two pieces of what we’ve asked and we’re hoping that we’ll get a response.

Mary Rowe Let’s talk about the transit 1 percent. I don’t know if if it’s broadly believed how critical transit is to making cities work. That’s that’s one of the dilemmas I think we’ve got. And I’m wondering if there’s going to be even more backlash against it now because people can say, well, actually, what we want is for people to travel less. We don’t want to have everybody going into a core area anymore. And this that if we if we lose, you know, I said at the outset, CUI Zoom, the connective tissue business and boy oh boy is transit every the illustration of connective tissue and. I’m wondering what collectively you and I as urbanists, what do we need to be doing to persuade folks that even if those buses aren’t at capacity, it’s still fundamentally important to provide that service. And as we recover, I’m hard pressed to understand how anybody could think it’s a good idea to cut transit. But I think we’re going to hear it. I think people are going to say that’s not our problem.

Mayor Mike Savage Well, I hope we don’t hear that. And if we do, I hope we’re ready to make the case that it’s exactly the opposite, that this crisis pointed out the importance of public transit. If we didn’t have public transit. There’d be no health care system, by and large. People would not be able to get to get to work. People wouldn’t. Do you know the essential home care and health care? Long term care workers, many of them rely on transit. So do the people who work in the grocery stores who are sodium heroes of this whole thing to the folks behind Glass or COVID and the superstore, the pharmacies. People who work in banks who are maintaining these services. One thing that this crisis is highlighted is that essential work happens all over the place. Right. They may not be designated by legislation, but there’s people doing work that are keeping us going through a very difficult time. So a lot of them rely on transit. And so we have to get better transit. We have to get more effective. We have to electrify or hydrogen to our fleets. We have to do all those things. We have to have better routes. We know we have to make sure that we do everything we can to make sure the transit is a sustainable thing. Our roads can’t take, you know, the result of not having public transit. Our health would be worse off. So public transit has proven itself to be an essential service through this crisis, unlike any other that I can recall.

Mary Rowe Yeah. Yeah. And I think actually a transit with transit systems and authorities across the country have been remarkably resourceful in terms of trying to make the rear door entry, as you suggested. And here in Toronto, the three cars have very clear markings where you’re to sit and where you’re not to sit. So I actually don’t I would not be apprehensive about taking transit in its current configuration because I think it’s actually very safe. And as you suggest it, it’s showing us where where the people need to get to the people that really need to get somewhere. And we’ve had some criticism on this program and others on other kinds of program platforms that CUI is running. The preoccupation with bikes is a tends to be a sort of upper middle class white person’s pet thing. And how do we actually identify that? There are lots and lots of folks, not just from diverse communities for whom a bicycle. It’s not going to work. You got three kids. You got to get them somewhere. Then you’re not. Rarely are you all on a bike together.

Mayor Mike Savage OK. So I believe this will then also go by on the chat screen that not everybody can work from home. And I think that’s really important part of this as well. Right. Any of the people who are able to work from home are not necessarily the people who want to use transit. So is transit use for this. But if you look at the essential work that’s being done by those who are using transit, and if you shut that down, then we’d be in a we’d be in real trouble as both from a health point of view and an economic problem.

Mary Rowe Yeah. I mean, I you know, I live in New York for five, six years after after I was in New Orleans. And I really became such a believer in transit. Also, as as one of the only ways that people actually saw people from other neighborhoods, that it was essential to social cohesion and nixing that if you did if you didn’t take transit, if all you took was a car service from your house to your office or your apartment, your office, you never saw anybody that didn’t look like you. You never saw anybody outside of your own socioeconomic bracket. And I I will be at like you stubbornly determined that we keep transit routes and transit function and transit capacity that we invest in it. So that speaks to this point, which is let’s talk about how the money is going to flow. You know, we’ve got a window here where we could actually argue that it’s time to build up your cities. You know, after World War Two, governments made huge investments in build in the G.I. Bill and in various investments in various systems. So could we be arguing and is this, in essence, what the FCC is saying is this isn’t a bailout. This is actually an investment in creating viable infrastructure? Yeah.

Mayor Mike Savage Sure, absolutely. That could be one of the things that comes out of this, is that it changes the dynamic. You know, I had a conversation with Don Iverson the other day in Edmonton. His point is true, which is that this crisis has exacerbated the problems that municipalities face in terms of our ability to generate revenue, to serve our public and to work with other orders of government. Those were existing issues that have been made more apparent through this difficulty. So I guess I got to go back to the fact that the federal government has been very supportive of the role of cities. Even the prime minister does not. He doesn’t talk about the levels of government. He talks about the orders of government. He talks about municipalities. And that’s appreciated. Not not because we’re thin skinned, but just because we know the issues and we know what role we think that we can play in the rebuild we build of or the coming back to life of the country. And the city is largely going to have to be done in cities. So it’s going to be done, you know, on the on the on the patios. And that’s going to be done on the doorsteps of people who live in cities. And it can’t we can’t rely only on the federal or the provincial governments, you know, doing things the way they’ve always done them. I think it’s going to be imperative to look at new ways of allowing cities to have the independence and the flexibility to help to help with the economic vibrancy of our overall communities.

Mary Rowe Now, I’m I mean, the majority of Canadians live in cities and also, you know, well over half the GDP is created and then five regional centers, so metropolitan centers. So we I think we I think we’ve got that argument going in a more compelling way. Let’s let’s talk about mechanisms to actually get the money in the hands, get the money to where it needs to be. And I just want to encourage chatters, including my colleague Jane Angle, who I see is sending messages only to panels. Jane, turn your Thomas switch so that everybody sees that all panelists and everyone so everyone can see it. And let’s talk about things like urban development agreements. Savage, what do you think about this? Is that. Is that something that I know you’ve I know you’ve explored it. So is that a mechanism that you might want to. Formalize and invest in more deeply.

Mayor Mike Savage We’ll talk to me about that urban development agreements, I’ve talked about it most with my sleep. Well, what’s the other word that I would know?

Mary Rowe The well-known urban development agreement. I mean, there are there have been examples. They almost got one in Vancouver. It would be it would basically be, as you suggest, a formalized collaboration with you in the province. Nova Scotia and the federal government. And it wouldn’t have deliverables and resources and investment tied to certain kinds of jobs, because I think one of the dilemmas that some folks may have with the idea of just upping the gas tax and putting more money is that it doesn’t have the accountability or the specificity. And that’s the dilemma for these orders of government. They seem less keen on writing blank checks. Right. So is there another way to do it?

Mayor Mike Savage Yeah, I think. One of the problems with getting government to do anything is that no order of government wants to do something that they think another order of government might take responsibility for. We’re seeing that now.

Mary Rowe Yeah.

Mayor Mike Savage You know, the feds don’t want to help if it’s the province’s responsibility, the problems doesn’t want to help if the feds might step in on this.

Mary Rowe Yeah.

Mayor Mike Savage  That’s exactly what it is. It’s their problem. It’s not our that’s not our problem. We have in Halifax the city charter that was negotiated about 10 years ago.

Mary Rowe Yeah.

Mayor Mike Savage And the problem is it says enslaving as it is enabling. And we’re not even allowed to do some things that every other municipality can do on density bonuses. For example, we still have to go. So in terms of our arrangement with municipalities, what I say is with the provinces in particular is we have to get elected to there seems to be this sense that the municipalities look, you guys don’t really know what you’re doing. And why would we give you those powers if you’ve never had them before? But we have to get re elected to we’re responsible for our our actions. And there should be more. If you’re going to have a deal, basically, if you want to have a deal with with us in Nova Scotia and we have a provincial government that I think is as good as any. But if you want us to help drive the economy, which clearly we’re doing. Clearly, no. Halifax has to lead. And Nova Scotia were almost 50 percent of the population, almost 60 percent of the GDP. Then allow us to lead. Don’t tell us just the things that we can do because so much will be left out. I’d rather you tell us the things we can’t do everything else like let us do those other things. You know, we passed a motion that that I bought to counsel a number of years ago to allow permanent residents to vote in municipal elections. It hasn’t been enacted by the provincial government yet. Immigration is one of the biggest focuses of the provincial government. And we hear from new aliens who are who are our permanent residents. Being allowed to vote would be something that they would appreciate. They own businesses. The kids go to school. They coached soccer. They’re hiring people. So I think that any new arrangement with the three orders of government should be based on the fact of what we, you know, the things that we can actually do not look to restrict each other, but to enable each other, because at the end of the day, it’s the benefit of everybody.

Mary Rowe So there’d be. So instead of there being permissions, there’d be exclusions. So you can’t tell us what you can’t meet here.

Mayor Mike Savage Well, any time you want to do something, if it’s a speed limit or something else, we have to go to the provincial government. And it’s a waste of their time as much as it is a waste of ours. Why should something like that need to go to a legislative committee or cabinet or not just allow us to govern those affairs that we have? And then the big thing for me is let’s just work together and argue less about jurisdiction and more about what we can actually do, whether it’s housing. Whether it’s, you know, food security in any of these issues on which the future of our society will rest, all of these things we need to do together, not apart. Maybe that’s the lesson. You mentioned cooperation. I spent a number of years in the House of Commons. Yes. And when I look now and I see how they’ve been meeting and generally supportive of each other, I think that’s a great thing. It’s not going to last forever, but it is a model that shows that things can happen. And if there is a component that’s working through COVID, it’s that this whole stronger together piece, you’re seeing places where where it’s played out. So let’s have a bit of trust in each other and be less cynical.

Mary Rowe Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you’re you’re very impassioned about that and I appreciate the kind of emotion piece that you’re bringing to it because we really are collectively so much better. And the acrimony that the drama the theater gets, whereas people down, doesn’t it? All right. So let’s as we sort of round the corner here, it’s the end of this this time to get together. Can you think about sort of three things that you that you will you would like to see emerge from the Cauvin time? And I and I’m wondering about, for instance, your local business community, for instance, thoughts on a particular kind of benchmark in your own mind. You’ve got about if I could see this, then I know that we’ll will come through it. I mean, I hear about the trust and less cynicism and that stuff, but anything on specifically on the business recovery piece.

Mayor Mike Savage You got me?

Mary Rowe Yeah, I mean, I’m sort of struggling with it myself. So, for instance, do we want to see Main Streets? We don’t want to see. We don’t want to see plywood upon on storefronts. Right.

Mayor Mike Savage One thing I think is. I worry that governments. In some cases like to see problems that they can get credit for solving. Yes, I hope that that doesn’t happen with provincial governments saying, you guys don’t worry about that. We’ll take care of that. You just, you know, cut the grass and pave the roads. Right. And when it comes to things like Main Streets, I see our business improvement districts as hugely important in the recovery piece. And I think that whatever we can do with cities eliminating fees for decks, patios and things like that. Yeah. Working with the provincial government to loosen up some of the restrictions that exist for retailers and particularly restaurants and bar owners as they come out of this. And some of which will cost money, some of which will only mean a little jurisdictional change. I think that we all have a role to play. And cities, by the way, have to I’ve said this since I got elected mayor. We can’t just always come looking for money. We have to come with some solutions. And I think as I see them have done a good job of that. And the big city mayors caucus to a meeting as we speak and who will jump on with whatever we’re doing. We have been very conscious of the fact that we just can’t always come looking for money and complaining that we don’t get enough. We have to be partners. And, you know, I tell people all the time, it’s amazing what you can get done if you don’t care who gets the credit. Politicians always want credit. I get that. But this is not a this is really there’s enough to go around right now. There are enough problems that we can solve. I mean, a crisis does give us an opportunity to solve problems and do experiments in terms of what the role of government is. I believe in government. I don’t like people who say government is bad. All taxes are bad. That’s not the way that’s the way it is. What we’re seeing in this crisis is that government can be a force for good. And yeah, it’ll take a generation to pay this off. Government, I think, has stepped up and said we’re going to fill a void here, which is that people don’t have money and businesses aren’t open or dramatically closed. And we’re going to be here for that. And I think if we work together, the three orders of government and all look at the solutions and identify them together, I think that there’s a potential that we could have a new dynamic coming out of that.

Mary Rowe Yeah, well, you know, on that note, I feel like we should just wrap it up and close. But, you know, you’re you’re a you are a innately optimistic person. And the fact that we know this because you have entered politics a number of times, only an optimist would do that more savage. And you served in the House of Commons. Now you’ve been serving for eight years for Halifax. And as you say, you’ve been equipping that municipality to deal with all sorts of shocks and Buffett being buffeted by a bunch of circumstances. So the fact that you are still in that seat and you’re still optimistic about all this, and as you suggest, we’ve got an opportunity to take the spirit of collaboration and see if we can propel ourselves forward to a better place. And we appreciate the efforts of big city mayors and your leadership with them and with Mayor Iverson. We had his CFO on yesterday, and we we really are we are the ones who believe that cities are on the frontlines of this and who need to be resourced appropriately. So thank you, Mayor Savage, for joining us. And thank you for all the work that you do there in the traduce serving the country, as well as three big city mayors. This is a Friday city talk session.

 Mary Rowe And so I want to thank all the folks that are part of the production of city talk, city watched city share. We have partners, as I said, all across the country. And then staff wise, we have. I’m going to just list their names the way the CBC does. So thank you to Daniel. Daniel, Selena, Lisa, Aryana, Gina, Sue, Kate, Emily Chang, Cheryl and Carmichael. And then we have a lot of interns and students also working across the country. William Kali’s Richard Charlotte. Alex, anything I wanna do is just signal a couple of we’ve got a couple of Super City talkers and we get hundreds of people on these talks every week. And we’ve had thousands cumulatively coming across the threshold of city talk and then thousands going to those other platforms.

Mary Rowe If you’re not on a CUI mailing list, please sign up. It’s at canurb.org That you get the emails that we send up and those six super city talkers, people who are so diligent on the chat function. I just want to shout. Abigail Slater, Janna Levin amorously. So he has been on several and we’ve had former members of cabinet. We’ve cut current members of cabinet, Alison Ashcroft, our great partner, and couscous off and on. And we have people from Istanbul, Sao Paolo Caballe all over the place, plus Canada plus the United States of America. So we really, as the American suggested, this is our all hands on deck moment. We’re all galvanized into action. And we look forward to having you continue to join us next week. So we talk we have issues that are actually central to what the mayor mentioned to Tuesday is about housing and what’s actually happening. What’s the moment that we might have to actually correct housing and Thursday all about immigration? Exactly what  Mayor Savage said the cities have more input into how newcomers come and continue to say. Canada and what will that look like kind of post-carbon world and then on Friday, we have a mystery mayor who will take the seat as mere Savage bravely did today. So, Mike, really nice to see you. Thank you so much for all you’re doing for Halifax, Canada. And thanks. And we wish a quiet weekend for Halifax. Let’s have a quiet one for you. This one with you.

Mayor Mike Savage Thank you. Thank you.

Full Audience
Chatroom Transcript

Note to reader: Chat comments have been edited for ease of readability. The text has not been edited for spelling or grammar. For questions or concerns, please contact events@canurb.org with “Chat Comments” in the subject line.

12:01:04          From Sue Hallatt, CUI Staff: Please be sure to toggle your CHAT to ALL PANELISTS and ATTENDEES.

12:01:52          From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Today’s conversation is with Mike Helps, Mayor of Halifax, NS.

https://www.halifax.ca/city-hall/mayor-mike-savage

12:02:05          From Jayne Engle to All panelists: Hello Mayor Mike Savage! Wonderful to see you.

12:02:37          From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Today’s conversation is with Mike Savage, Mayor of Halifax, NS.https://www.halifax.ca/city-hall/mayor-mike-savage

12:02:43          From Canadian Urban Institute to All panelists: covidresponse@canurb.org

12:02:54          From Canadian Urban Institute to All panelists: #citytalk

12:04:37          From Canadian Urban Institute to All panelists: You can find a recording and transcript of this webinar later today at canurb.org/citytalk

12:04:50          From Jayne Engle to All panelists: Good to see Mary too ; )

12:05:02          From Canadian Urban Institute: covidresponse@canurb.org

#citytalk

You can find a recording and transcript of this webinar later today at canurb.org/citytalk

12:09:38          From Tessy Britton to All panelists: Hi Mary and Mike — lovely to see and hear you – Tessy here – from Participatory City

12:11:35          From Shaune MacKinlay to All panelists: Hi Tessy and Jayne, nice that you’re “here”

12:14:01          From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Please be sure to toggle your CHAT to ALL PANELISTS and ATTENDEES.

12:15:19          From Tessy Britton to All panelists: awesome Mike!

12:16:24          From paul mackinnon: During the recovery period there will need to be targeted and coordinated infrastructure investment. Any thoughts to reviving Urban Development Agreements to coordinate $$/goals from 3 orders of government?

12:17:38          From Abby S: Today Mayor Tory has begged people not to use the parks this weekend

12:18:10          From Abby S: mary is right…closing the streets would help resolve some of the congestion around walking

12:19:13          From Janna Levitt: Actually on CBC this AM Tory was musing that it would be ok to go to the parks this Sunday but keep your distance!

12:19:32          From Jayne Engle to All panelists: How are you thinking of retrofitting the city for covid in ways that would be beneficial longer term?

12:19:43          From Abby S: @Janna Mixed message,…

12:19:52          From Janna Levitt: Struck me as a bit of a misstep on his part.

12:20:01          From Abby S: you may be right…

12:21:45          From KIERON HUNT to All panelists: How is the downtown looking at public spaces and mobility? In particular, Halifax is a late-comer among comparable cities in North America to embrace changing the streets to allow for more physical space for cyclists and pedestrians.

12:22:20          From Canadian Urban Institute: Folks, please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.

12:23:08          From robert Plitt: Love the question about Urban Development Agreements.. would love to hear the Mayor’s perspective.

12:23:39          From KIERON HUNT: How is the HRM looking at Downtown public spaces and mobility? In particular, Halifax is a late-comer among comparable cities in North America to embrace changing the streets to allow for more physical space for cyclists and pedestrians. If Winnipeg can do it, I’m sure Halifax can

12:25:41          From Amarjeet Sohi: Nice to see you mayor Savage. I love Halifax too! It is the second best city in Canada! You know which one is the first! LOL! On a serious note, how are you helping your most vulnerable, homeless residents, and do you think building more social housing be part of the economic recovery to provide permanent homes for people in need?

12:25:41          From Abby S: Only those who can afford alternatives will not take transit…some don’t have the choice and bikes are not necessarily the answer for some workers…whether shift (at night) or distance or just winter…

12:26:14          From Abby S: (not that I am against bike lanes!!!)-

12:26:26          From Abby S: It’s just not a panacea

12:29:38          From Sue Hallatt, CUI Staff: @Abigail – not a panacea – but models suggest 60% mode split is very doable – wouldn’t that lessen pressures on transit?

12:31:12          From Allison Ashcroft to All panelists: wouldnt it be better to get wage subsidy to munis so you can put staff to work providing services to residents and businesses instead of having them collect EO

12:31:14          From Allison Ashcroft to All panelists: O

12:31:36          From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Please help CUI improve its CityTalk programming with a short post-webinar survey – https://bit.ly/2yfvA80

12:31:37          From Abby S: @Sue 100% We need fewer cars…I wonder where the shift occurs? Is it transit or cars/

12:31:56          From Allison Ashcroft: woulsnt it be better to provide munis with access to 75% wage subsidies so they can put staff to work supporting reaisnta and huanwas

12:32:58          From Abby S: Without a doubt bike lanes make cities more livable and safer for cyclists in general…just don’t want it to be used as an excuse to defund other non-auto modes.

12:33:34          From Shaune MacKinlay to All panelists: Tough balancing act, city is losing $3 million/month now on transit with elimination of fares. Have to be able to provide service for those who rely on it, including essential workers, while also providing for real safety concerns.

12:33:36          From Allison Ashcroft: oh my goodness sorry. trying to type from mobile. wouldnt it be better to keep city staff working for residents and businesses and preparing for recovery rather than at home collecting EI because cities are forced to do layoffs in order to manage cashflow issues

12:37:45          From Sue Hallatt, CUI Staff: @Allison – PeaceCorps / RecoveryCorps

12:38:51          From Abby S: @sue love recovery corps…we don’t have Americorps equivalent in Canada…it would be a nice outcome…for Recovery.

12:39:29          From Samira Farahani: I am wondering why its fundemental to keep transit.? wehn we say people to stay at home why there is a need for example to pay 3 M dollars a month to run transit for Halifax?

12:39:51          From Abby S: Not everyone has the luxury to work from home

12:40:36          From Janna Levitt: Mot people earning minimum or even middle clss wages depend on public transportation

12:41:51          From Abby S: Car bubble

12:42:38          From kathleen Llewellyn-Thomas: We need to keep transit going for essential trips, many people in cities depend on transit for their mobility. We need to provide nearly 80% of transit service to serve 20% of ridership so passengers and operators can keep physically distant

12:42:40          From Jayne Engle to All panelists: How about FDR and New Deal? And community dev financial institutions?

12:43:38          From Carolyn DeLoyde: What about green infrastructure – perhaps green infrastructure investment can also assist with climate change? thoughts?

12:43:41          From Jayne Engle to All panelists: New Deal for Cities

12:43:46          From Abby S: The reality is the majority of Canadians live in Cities

12:43:50          From Allison Ashcroft: agree re your nyc reference. I lives here almost 10 yrs and worked all over US. and transit and high ridership in NYC was absolutely what made NYers more aware of, support of, and advocates for taking action on equity, addoesability and wellbeing challenges and disparities

12:44:16          From Samira Farahani: good point Kathleen, regarding the percentage of transit for still far fewer riders

12:44:25          From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.

12:45:07          From Abby S: Thank you Mayor Savage!

12:45:19          From Jayne Engle: New Deal for Cities — infrastructure for 21st century, including community development financial institutions

12:45:57          From Jayne Engle: … and retrofitting cities for cascading crises: public health, climate and inequality — housing, etc.

12:46:20          From paul mackinnon: Thank you Mayor Savage for your local leadership, and as a strong voice for cities, nationally. Keep it up!

12:46:47          From Allison Ashcroft: dont be too specific (project level) or too general (pure gas tax) but be directed and impact-driven towards major strategies ie climate action plans which are supported by deep local knowledge and evidence based modeling

12:48:29          From Janna Levitt: Thank you CUI and Mayor Savage. Another great conversation…looking forward to next weeks!

12:49:52          From Allison Ashcroft: from OECD Financing Climate Furitees

12:50:04          From Canadian Urban Institute: #citytalk

12:50:12          From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Please help CUI improve its CityTalk programming with a short post-webinar survey – https://bit.ly/2yfvA80

12:51:22          From Allison Ashcroft: OECD Financing Climate Futures recommendation: Empower city governments to build low-emission and resilient urban societies, by developing capacity to more effectively plan and finance the right infrastructure, aligning national and local fiscal regulations with investment needs, and building climate-related and project finance capacity at the city level.

12:53:03          From Carolyn DeLoyde: This has been a wonderful session! Thank you so much Mary and Mayor Savage!

12:53:04          From robert Plitt: According to Future of Good over 70% of existing small business owners plan to exit their businesses in the next ten years. They make the case for transfer to new models of social purpose business and cooperatives

12:53:59          From robert Plitt: great session.. Thanks CUI

12:53:59          From Abby S: Thank you Mary and CUI, and Mayor Savage!

12:54:08          From Jayne Engle: Thank you Mayor Savage and Mary!

12:54:44          From James McCallan: Thanks again for another engaging discussion!

12:54:56          From Abby S: hahahah

12:54:57          From Canadian Urban Institute: We are looking for volunteers. If you can spare some time to help CUI with the great work we are doing please contact us at covidresponse@canurb.org

12:55:12          From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Please help CUI improve its CityTalk programming with a short post-webinar survey – https://bit.ly/2yfvA80

12:56:00          From Abby S: Hearts to Halifax

12:56:11          From Tessy Britton to All panelists: thank you!

12:59:12          From Canadian Urban Institute: If you want to leave any final comments, please do so now. We will close the chat in a few minutes. Thanks again for a dynamic chat!