Halifax councillors have agreed to provide $7 million in municipal funding for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia as they work to finalize their 2022-2023 budget.
Council’s budget committee met on Wednesday to debate the budget adjustment list. The meeting is the culmination of the months-long budget process. Over that time, as each municipal department has brought its budget to the committee, councillors have added items to the budget adjustment list for further consideration later in the process.
The total operating and capital budget will likely be more than $1 billion, and on Wednesday, councillors added nearly $7 million, net.
Among the millions added to the budget for 2022-2023 was $700,000 for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. It’s the first of 10 equal payments HRM will make toward the $130-million project planned for the Halifax waterfront.
With the provincial government paying $70 million and the federal government $10 million, the gallery’s CEO came to council to ask for a contribution of $7 million paid over five years. Councillors voted to consider the request in 2021, but the figure didn’t make it into the budget.
In January, staff recommended a smaller contribution of $3 million paid over five years. As the Halifax Examiner reported in February, a majority councillors were keen to bump that number back up:
Coun. Shawn Cleary moved to increase HRM’s contribution back up to the original $7 million, asking staff to come back to the budget committee with a recommended payment schedule.
“Halifax is the major beneficiary of this,” Cleary said.
“It’ll be a foundation for arts and culture. People talk about the central library like it’s the living room of Halifax. This could be our rec room, or certainly some other third space that’s extremely important.”
Cleary moved to add the contribution to the budget on Wednesday, opting to lower the payments to $700,000 starting in 2022-2023. Chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé said the province has signaled it’s content with that arrangement.
Councillors also voted to add $825,000 to the budget for free fares for all transit on Fridays and for ferries on Saturdays in July and August.
The move is one of several designed to kickstart the economy coming out of the pandemic. The municipality will also void parking tickets if drivers provide proof they were at a local business when they were ticketed at a cost of $200,000, and it’s providing $275,000 in funding for a marketing campaign, a Black-owned business campaign, and events grants.
Parks or development?
HRM will spend $1.25 million in 2022-2023 on master planning for three proposed subdivision developments: one in Morris Lake on the border of Cole Harbour and Eastern Passage, one in the area of Sandy Lake in Bedford, and one on the Akoma Holdings lands in Westphal. There was a fourth area proposed, encroaching on the proposed park at Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes, but councillors voted to remove it.
Karen McKendry, wilderness outreach coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre, used her public speaking opportunity at the beginning of Wednesday’s meeting to urge councillors not to support the master planning at either Sandy Lake or Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes.
McKendry argued the municipality is already conducting studies to determine the ideal boundaries for parks in both locations, which are important for biodiversity and wildlife connectivity in the area as reflected in the city’s own Green Network Plan.
“There’s this disconnect in the regional plan. One section, it says these are growth centres, and we want to advance them to development before the end of the plan. Different section, it says these are regional parks, which we want to also advance,” McKendry said.
“I’m saying let’s finish some studies and some other information about those areas before you go ahead with planning for development.”
Councillors previously raised concerns about those areas’ proposals in the regional plan during a meeting in January.
Kelly Denty, executive director of planning and development at HRM, told councillors on Wednesday it’s important to look into each of the four areas to determine their suitability for development.
“We are contemplating that they will eventually be areas that are developed, so better to know now what the constraints are and take advantage of perhaps a single consultant, looking at this work, looking at all of these areas, doing it in a uniform manner, and getting some intelligence relative to what is actually possible on these lands,” Denty said.
Mayor Mike Savage agreed.
“There’s environmental implications that will be better served by doing some of that planning now, and I think it’s important that we get those done,” he said.
Savage, along with councillors Becky Kent, Trish Purdy, Tony Mancini, Waye Mason, Lindell Smith, and Iona Stoddard, voted in the minority to keep the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes area on the list for master planning.
Councillors voted 11-5 in favour of keeping the Sandy Lake area on the list, with Cleary, David Hendsbee, Lisa Blackburn, and Paul Russell voting no.
Here’s the full list of what councillors added to the budget on Wednesday, totaling $7,888,200:
- $200,000 for one of several proposed “Parking Initiatives to Support Business Recovery,” voiding parking tickets when people show proof of purchase from a local business
- $50,000 for a “Welcome back Downtown” marketing campaign
- $25,000 for “Supporting and promoting Black-owned business”
- $700,000 for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, committing to equal payments over 10 years
- $825,000 to make buses and ferries free on Fridays and ferries free on Saturdays in July and August
- $200,000 for events grants to help the reopening effort coming out of the pandemic
- $200,000 for planning for development surrounding the proposed Mill Cove fast ferry terminal
- $1 million for “bylaw simplification,” meaning new land-use planning documents for rural and suburban HRM
- $1.25 million for master planning for new development in the areas of Morris Lake, Sandy Lake, and the Akoma lands in Westphal
- $40,000 for an off-leash dog park in Governor’s Brook in Spryfield
- $160,000 to subsidize multi-district facilities like the Zatzman Sportsplex
- $75,000 for an “Assistant Emergency Management Coordinator” to help with HRM’s efforts to house people
- $220,000 for staffing to create more sidewalks across HRM next year
- $200,000 to upgrade crosswalks across HRM
- $300,000 for rural library access, including longer hours, community kiosks, and mail delivery
- $250,000 for library programming designed to promote community and early childhood development coming out of the pandemic
- $924,700 to hire more city planners to work on permitting applications
- $568,000 to increase wages for HRM’s casual staff (details in camera)
- $110,500 for a new youth centre in Spryfield
- $35,000 to provide grants to cover insurance at community rinks
- $250,000 in increased funding for Discover Halifax, the city’s tourism marketing group
- $300,000 for more ebooks and audio books
- $55,000 for education and programming for volunteer Joint Emergency Management teams
- $100,000 to hire a staff person for the Board of Police Commissioners
- $50,000 for the clerk’s office to convert a part-time staffer to full-time
Councillors also removed $990,000 from the budget:
And while it doesn’t move the needle up or down, councillors agreed to allow Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency to reduce its overtime budget to hire 10 new firefighters next year.
The net outcome of council’s moves on Wednesday sets the city up for a 4.6% increase to the average tax bill, which is the number contemplated in January, down from 5.9% at the start of the budget process. As the Examiner reported in January:
The new proposal is to cut the tax rate, from 0.813% to 0.797%. While that could be presented as a tax cut, that’s not how HRM presents it. Rather, the municipality’s finance staff presented the change to council as an increase to the average residential tax bill of 4.6%, or $94 (again, it’s more for properties assessed at more than $270,000, and vice versa).
It’s unclear what the rate will be, but it’s likely to be in that vicinity.
That 4.6% on the average bill includes the 3% climate action tax announced at the start of the budget process last year. That portion of the tax increase, amounting to more than $150 million over the next four years, is intended to fund electric buses, electric fleet vehicles, protection of critical infrastructure, and deep energy retrofits of municipal buildings.
There was some controversy earlier in the budget process about whether councillors would end up keeping the tax increase, and whether it should be framed as an additional tax at all. Protesters showed up to Halifax City Hall on Wednesday to make sure councillors followed through, and in the end, they made no changes to the climate tax.
Councillors avoided further tax increases during Wednesday’s meeting partially by following staff’s advice and increasing the budget for deed transfer taxes in 2022-2023 by $3 million to $83 million. That tax revenue, from a 1.5% levy on all property transactions, is expected to continue to increase with HRM’s hot housing market. They also voted to fund millions worth of one-time items by using some of the project $19 million surplus from 2021-2022.
The final budget vote, setting the tax rate for 2022-2023, is scheduled for April 12.
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PROFILE: Christine Hager a behind-the-scenes pillar of local art
Behind every local art event and program are those who make it all happen, and one person who works hard to make Orillia’s arts community thrive is Christine Hager.
Since moving to Orillia more than 20 years ago, Hager has found herself involved in a variety of non-profit organizations in the city.
She has volunteered full-time at Couchiching Jubilee House, served as executive director of the Sharing Place Food Centre and, for the past eight years, has worked as secretary for the Orillia and District Arts Council (ODAC).
One might think Hager, given her resumé, has had a lifelong passion for non-profit work and the arts, but her involvement in Orillia’s creative scene stems from a background in business, and her artistic career is limited to her hobby of sketching horses while growing up.
“I am not an artist. I do not paint or sculpt anything … but I love art,” she told OrilliaMatters. “It’s part of your soul. Everything around you is art. People just need to open up their eyes and recognize that.”
Originally from Sudbury, the soon-to-be-70-year-old Hager comes from a background in inside sales. She spent much of her career working for mining companies.
She said her current path began through making connections with others.
“You get tapped on the shoulder by somebody, you go for coffee, people ask you something,” she said. “I moved down here around 2002, and that’s when I kind of fell into doing not-for-profit work.”
Her background in business and sales has helped Orillia’s arts scene grow. Most arts programs and events in the city need funding, after all, and that’s where Hager shines.
She recently stepped down from her position as secretary to take a role in revenue development for ODAC.
“That’s what we need right now. We need the stability to be sustainable. We can’t depend on grants. You have to have a diversified revenue stream,” she said. “I’m the best one to do that because I have the most contacts.”
Her transition to non-profit work happened smoothly, and it continues to bring her great satisfaction.
“It’s given me that sense of satisfaction that, when I tell someone I can understand how (they’re) feeling, it’s because I’ve been there, and I can empathize with what they’re going through,” she said. “One of my favourite things at the food bank was until you walk a mile in somebody’s shoes, you have no right to criticize them.
“It’s always teaching and educating the public. That’s all these positions have always been. The public needs to know the reality of not-for-profits and vulnerable people, homeless people, and hungry people — and the arts people, too. They are trying to make a living as well.”
When Hager joined ODAC in 2014, “the board was very thin,” she said, but the organization now boasts an array of opportunities for local artists, thanks to the work of Hager and others.
ODAC hosts numerous art exhibitions for members, local and county art projects, public events, and more, on top of advocating for its members and other local artists.
One new program rolled out through ODAC is its Helping Elders with Arts (HeARTS) program, which provides seniors with the chance to learn a variety of art styles, art history, and enjoy physical activity on a regular basis.
With all her work helping the local arts scene thrive, Hager — who said she enjoys Sudoku and jigsaw puzzles — does not take much downtime for herself.
She also volunteers with St. James’ Anglican Church through its Sunday breakfast program, social justice committee, and community garden.
While she hopes to eventually take a bit of a step back from her responsibilities, Hager said she loves connecting with people.
“It’s nice meeting people. I love meeting people and developing the network that I have,” she said. “That’s been one of my big things: just getting to know people, building relationships, and then finding opportunities.”
Looking to the future, she hopes to see ODAC gain a full-time staff member and become a true “umbrella” organization that provides opportunities and advocacy for all local artists.
More about ODAC can be found here.
Great news: The future of Catholic art is alive and well – Aleteia
Amazing contemporary art is compiled into a gorgeous new volume … a wonderful thing for all fans of sacred art!
You can get Aleteia inspiration and news in your inbox. Our specially curated newsletter is sent each morning. The best part? It’s free.
Take a walk through any art museum and you’ll see the glorious heritage of Catholic art.
Catholic sacred art is central to the history of Western art. There are countless beautiful examples of art depicting Christ, the Bible, the saints and the angels in museums and churches all over the world.
But most of these works were made centuries ago, and we might wonder whether they will be followed by anything comparable in our present age. After all, much of modern art doesn’t exactly inspire a sense of admiration for truth, beauty and goodness.
The good news is that the future of Catholic sacred art is alive and well. And there are plenty of examples to show you.
Neilson Carlin | Courtesy of Ignatius Press
One of today’s great artists, Marco Caratelli, lives and works in Siena, Italy. He specializes in the rare, ancient and beautiful egg-yolk tempera technique. His work draws comparisons to Fra Angelico and other all-time great artists.
Another is Christopher Alles, a sculptor of sacred art who works in Poughkeepsie, New York. He studied European sacred art in Italy, and today, his award-winning work is both inspired by and reminiscent of Michelangelo.
Even closer to home, there are a number of contemporary Catholic artists producing truly extraordinary works. Samples of their work are now compiled into a breathtaking new volume … a wonderful thing for all fans of sacred art!
Courtesy of Ignatius Press
This new art collection, The Catholic Home Gallery, makes it clear that Catholic art is not something of the past. The volume showcases 18 works of sacred art by contemporary artists, revealing the beautiful diversity of their impressive talents.
The nine artists represented in the volume are Matthew Alderman, Neilson Carlin, Bernadette Carstensen, Matthew Conner, Gwyneth Thompson-Briggs, James Janknegt, Timothy Jones, Michael D. O’Brien, and Elizabeth Zelasko. The collection is the perfect introduction to their work, and can be a jumping-off point for exploring it in greater depth.
Timothy Jones | Courtesy of Ignatius Press
The editor of the collection is John Herreid, a graphic designer and illustrator for Ignatius Press. He brought a discerning and experienced eye to choosing the artwork for the collection.
Herreid explained some of the inspiration behind the collection, saying, “Most people are familiar with great Catholic art from ages past. But what many don’t realize is that we have many, many great Catholic visual artists working today. My hope for The Catholic Home Gallery is that it will introduce people to a few of these artists, as well as lead them to seek out, discover, and support others!”
James B. Janknegt | Courtesy of Ignatius Press
He has been moved to see the positive response to the volume, saying:
It’s been extremely heartening to see the response The Catholic Home Gallery has generated thus far. It shows that, far from being a static heirloom from the past, Catholic sacred art is an ongoing, dynamic force that can’t help but move those who encounter it.
Best of all, each work in the collection is printed on an 8” x 10” detachable page, so you can easily remove it from the book and frame it in your home. What a perfect way to build your own collection of sacred art!
France buys new masterpiece for Orsay museum with LVMH gift
PARIS (AP) — France has acquired a stunning Impressionist masterpiece for its national collection of art treasures, with a donation from luxury goods giant LVMH paying the 43 million euros (nearly $47 million) for “A Boating Party” by 19th-century French artist Gustave Caillebotte.
The oil on canvas shows an oarsman in a top hat rowing his skiff on languid waters. The work, remarkable in its realism, delicate colors and almost cinematic perspective, as though the artist was in the boat with the rower, went on display Monday in the Musée d’Orsay. It is the latest addition to the Paris museum’s already impressive collection of Impressionist art.
The painting was sold by Caillebotte’s descendants. It had been one of the last Impressionist masterpieces still in private hands, said Jean-Paul Claverie, an adviser to LVMH boss Bernard Arnault.
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