Nova Scotia

Halifax police, fire to come up with new budgets that would still see cuts

Halifax regional council is reconsidering proposed cuts to police and fire services, but will instead consider smaller cuts than originally proposed.

City is looking at budget cuts because of financial shortfall brought on by COVID-19

Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency would have to leave vacancies unfilled, cut funding to post-traumatic stress disorder support and scale back volunteer incentives in order to meet the initial budget target. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Halifax regional council is reconsidering proposed cuts to police and fire services, but will instead consider smaller cuts than originally proposed.

The city is trying to deal with a massive financial shortfall because of COVID-19.

Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency was originally looking at a cut of approximately $5.4 million, while it was $5.5 million for Halifax Regional Police.

Coun. Tony Mancini said he had major concerns about the original proposals.

"I've heard, I know my colleagues have heard from many of our residents that are very concerned with the volume of cuts you've been asked to make," he said to Dan Kinsella, the chief of police.

Coun. Tony Mancini asked police and fire services to come up with new proposals based on smaller budget cuts. He believes the initial plans went too far. (CBC)

The cuts would result in unfilled vacancies with both essential services.

The fire department would also be cutting back on incentives for volunteer firefighters and reduce funding that supports staff with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Plans to increase coverage on the Eastern Shore would be impacted even though "the risk continues to grow," said fire Chief Ken Stuebing, who also warned council that their recruitment efforts for volunteer firefighters would take a hit.

"Budget adjustments are never easy and this one was particularly difficult," he said.

Kinsella told council the police department would not fill 18 current civilian and sworn officer vacancies, and a further 10 retirements expected this year would not be replaced.

"If there are 17 [fewer] constables in the organization, they have to come from somewhere," said Kinsella. "It's my job to go in and prioritize how we're going to respond and how that's going to happen."

Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella says there's no doubt a $5.5-million cut to his department would lead to a reduction in service. (CBC)

Kinsella emphasized that no matter the cut, all urgent calls and major crimes would continue to be addressed.

"There will be impacts, and remember I think it's important to say, the impacts will be temporary," he said.

The original proposals left many councillors uneasy.

Shawn Cleary, who represents Halifax West Armdale, said he has received "desperate" calls from constituents who are worried about losing their community response officers.

He believes they play an essential role in preventing crime.

"In some ways, cutting these kinds of things is penny-wise-pound-foolish," he said.

Halifax Regional Police will now be tasked with coming up with a budget with a $3.5-million cut, down from the original proposed cut of $5.4 million. (Robert Short/CBC)

David Hendsbee, the councillor for Preston, Chezzetcook and the Eastern Shore said if approved, the new budget would be a step backwards.

"Public safety is paramount for me and we need to find any resources possible to restore that," he said.

Mancini put forward a new motion, asking both police and fire services to come up with new presentations to show what would happen if the losses were smaller.

Council unanimously approved, and both chiefs are expected to quickly bring back reports to show both a $3.5 and $4.5-million cut, respectively.

Kinsella said he appreciated the opportunity.

"Any less of a reduction is going to help," he said. "I would be grateful for any increase."

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About the Author

Carolyn Ray

Videojournalist

Carolyn Ray is a videojournalist who has reported out of three provinces and two territories, and is now based in Halifax. You can reach her at Carolyn.Ray@cbc.ca

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