Coming to Halifax council: Booting regulation, single-use plastic bags and Mumford terminal

Halifax Regional Council is set to meet for the first time in 2019 on Tuesday and it has a heck of a schedule in front of it.

Even with no public hearings on the slate, council will likely be meeting well into the evening to address the variety of items in front of them.

The meeting on Tuesday will also be the first time council will meet back at Halifax City Hall’s council chambers. Council has been meeting at the Harbourfront Marriott since October as the council chambers underwent technological upgrades.

But with new HD cameras and a complete update to the municipality’s broadcast centre finally installed, it’s time for the municipality’s decision makers to deliberate on issues facing the city.

Here’s what you can expect at council this week.

Possible ban on single-use plastic bags

Halifax council will consider whether it can engineer a virtual province-wide ban on single-use plastic bags on Tuesday.

The effort comes amid council’s growing frustration with the provincial government, which has so far refused to implement a ban in Nova Scotia.

Instead, the largest municipality in Atlantic Canada has decided to lead the charge and make an attempt to form a patch-work quilt of regulations with the 10 largest municipalities in Nova Scotia.

The Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) says residents use between 125 and 208 million plastic shopping bags are used in the municipality annually.

Matthew Keliher, the HRM’s solid waste manager, has said a ban on these single-use sacks would mean less material is shipped off to local recycling facilities and dumped in landfills, provided residents adhere to the ban and don’t purchase other plastic garbage bags as a replacement.

If the ban is enacted, Keliher explained, it would come with an education campaign on the changes and benefits of scrapping single-use plastic bags.

Montreal, Victoria and Vancouver are some of the other Canadian municipalities that have banned or restricted plastic bags.

Mumford terminal redux to move ahead

Halifax council is set to approve the new location of the $15.4-million Mumford Transit Terminal — a large remodelling of the existing terminal — and direct staff to negotiate with Cushman & Wakefield, the property managers of the Halifax Shopping Centre for support in the new location.

The new terminal would greatly expand the size and scope of the current terminal located near the Halifax Shopping Centre, according to the report heading to the HRM on Tuesday.

Approximately 5,000 people board the 350 buses that travel through the current terminal every day, making it the third-busiest node in the Halifax Transit network.

But that means the strategically located facility is over capacity and “due for replacement before additional service can be introduced,” as part of Halifax Transit’s Moving Forward Together Plan (MFTP), according to the report.

The MFTP, passed by council in 2016, is meant to re-invent the municipality’s transit network and transit infrastructure in a phased approach.

The MFTP has tentatively scheduled the Mumford terminal replacement to be completed by 2020/21 and design work is slated to start in 2019/20.

Staff say the current facility doesn’t have enough bus bays, provides insufficient amenities for passengers, and  access to the terminal for pedestrians is “indirect and awkward.”

The new terminal — if accepted and built — is expected to increase the number of passengers served, boost the number of routes it services to 12 from 10 and have an effective lifespan of 50 years.

Asking the province to increase ticket fines

Halifax is looking to increase the dollar amount for parking fines in the municipality, but it’ll need the province to lend a hand to do so.

Council is looking at increasing Category A fines, such as stopping or parking in prohibited areas like a bus stop or taxi stand, to $50 from $25; increasing Category B fines, such as failing to obey a parking sign, to $75 from $50; and increasing Category C fines, such as parking in a fire lane or an accessible parking zone, to $200 from $100.

But the HRM cannot make the changes unilaterally.

The rules governing parking tickets are found in a piece of provincial legislation which means it must be amended by the province.

As a result, if the motion passes on Tuesday council will request the province change the legislation while also having Mayor Mike Savage write a letter requesting the same amendments.

Black and blue bins for recycling and garbage

Sam Austin, councillor for Dartmouth Centre, is asking for a staff report on adopting a bin program for recycling and garbage.

Halifax is one of the largest municipalities in Canada that continues to require recycling and garbage be disposed of in plastic bags rather than large plastic black and blue bins, the request says.

Austin is asking that staff look at the economic and environmental pros and cons of a potential program.

 Request for a staff report on regulating booting

Lisa Blackburn, councillor for Middle/Upper Sackville-Beaver Bank-Lucasville, is asking that council direct staff to prepare a report on regulating vehicle immobilization (or booting) on private property.

The motion is set to address concerns brought forward from citizens about practices employed by private companies.

Those complaints include:

•    the cost of having a vehicle freed from immobilization/booting/wheel-clamping
•    the uncertainty of the identity of the person requesting payment
•    an option to pay credit/debit rather than cash
•    the timeframe for having a vehicle freed

Council is set to convene at 10 a.m., at Halifax City Hall.

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