Premier, cabinet ministers defend controversial parkade planned for Halifax
Parking is a 'critical' part of hospital redevelopment, says Stephen McNeil
Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines told reporters Thursday he is "very confident" construction on a controversial parking garage in Halifax, slated to be built partially on land owned by Halifax Regional Municipality, will start this May.
The parking garage on Summer Street would be part of the QEII hospital redevelopment. Halifax regional council has not agreed to sell or swap the land.
Groups that use nearby properties are worried the seven-storey parkade will encroach on their space or have a "significant impact" on their operations.
Hines said the roughly 800-space parkade is needed to accommodate people from outside the city who use the hospital.
"There are 14,000 people that go to the [Halifax Infirmary] site daily," said Hines. "Forty per cent of them, around 5,600, are from outside metro because it's a regional hospital that serves the whole Atlantic region."
Premier Stephen McNeil told reporters the need for the parking spaces is "critical" to the province's redevelopment plans, which he called the "the largest health-care infrastructure project in the province's history."
Although at least one city councillor, Waye Mason, has been critical of the plan, McNeil expects Halifax council to support the project.
"Listen, no matter what government does there's always those who are for and against," said McNeil. "It doesn't matter what the decision is.
"Cooler heads will prevail."
Cabinet minister Labi Kousoulis, who represents the downtown area, also stood behind the government's plan, not only for the parkade but also for a power plant to be built on the opposite side of the Museum of Natural History.
"It's a positive move," he told reporters following a cabinet meeting.
Asked if he was concerned about building on common land or green space, Kousoulis said these were projects designed for the common good.
"The top service and the top priority is hospitals, so anything we can do to provide a world-class hospital for people to ensure that we can get them better, I'm all in favour of it," he said.
"For me hospitals trump everything."
He dismissed the suggestion any of the land earmarked for development was green space.
"Although there's grass there, no one uses it as green space and the same on the other side where the parkade is [going to be].
"When I drive by there nobody is sitting there having a picnic."
He then suggested any green space lost to the redevelopment project might be made up when older hospital buildings are torn down.
NDP Leader Gary Burrill said he was startled by what the minister had to say about the space to be used for the parkade and the power plant.
"I think this demonstrates a foolish disregard for the importance of green space, open space and commons in the city of Halifax."
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