HRM By Design Must Move Forward

Today at 8:51am            Stephen McNeil’s Notes

More than six months ago, legislation that would have enabled HRM by Design was on the order paper at Province House. Rodney MacDonald and his government prevented this legislation from coming to debate. HRM by Design is, however, exactly the kind of solution required by everyone in this debate. It provides clear and certain guidelines for developers and it offers a balanced approach to achieve widely shared goals for a livable, beautiful city centre.

Far from helping, Mr. MacDonald’s impromptu launch into the debate over the Waterside Centre proposal has only served to make approval more difficult. The premier’s ill-considered actions have also steered the debate to a political tit-for-tat and away from the pressing need for more new development in the downtown core.

The premier has angered council by threatening to veto its previous decision. This makes it difficult for those councillors who supported the development to continue supporting it. To do so now, they will be seen to support the premier’s decision to overrule their power to make decisions.

The premier has alienated the mayor. While Peter Kelly indicated he would not have voted in favour of the development, the fact remains he is the mayor and has committed himself to demonstrate leadership to council and the municipality. If the premier is truly interested in fostering development in HRM he should be building a constructive and positive relationship with Mr. Kelly rather than a combative one. The premier should also remember that with a recently renewed mandate, the mayor is, arguably, in a stronger political position than the premier himself.

Those in the community who may have supported, or been open to supporting, the project must now choose between which level of government they support. This is a distraction from the more pressing issue of the need for downtown development and reflects Rodney MacDonald’s inability to see the big picture.

HRM by Design was developed by HRM over a two-year period with input from everyone concerned: the public, heritage advocates, developers, the business community and urban planning professionals. If the premier truly wants to show leadership and to make downtown — and everywhere else in HRM — a desirable place for investors to spend their money, he should be championing consistent and transparent guidelines for everyone.

As premier, that’s what my Liberal government would do.

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