27 May 2010

Clear Support For Significantly Smaller Council in HRM

HALIFAX: A growing percentage of those living in the Halifax Regional Municipality are either completely (12%) or mostly (31%) dissatisfied (43% in total, up from 38% in February 2010) with the overall direction of the municipal government in the Halifax Regional Municipality, according to the most recent survey conducted by Corporate Research Associates, Inc. A slim majority (52%, down from 55% last quarter) remain at least mostly satisfied with that direction.

Despite the Mayor’s stated goal of raising taxes only as a “last resort”, there are other measures that residents favoured to address the budget deficit that had been forecast. Chief among these measures were decreasing the size of Council (78%), containing the costs of salaries and wages through wage freezes (55%), reducing the number of staff (53%), or a hiring freeze for vacant positions (49%). There was little support for increasing property taxes (19%), increasing transit fares (36%), or reducing services (29%).

With regard to the issue of the size of Council, it is clear that the vast majority of those living in the municipality would like to see Council significantly reduced in size. On average, residents suggest a Council of fifteen. Of those who provided a definite response (81% of those surveyed), nearly two-thirds (62%) suggested a Council of fifteen or less. Only 15 percent suggested the status quo and 83 percent suggested a smaller Council than is the case today.

“In the current economic environment of high unemployment and wage restraint, particularly among private sector workers, it is perhaps not surprising that citizens are expecting similar sacrifices from workers in the municipality”, according to Don Mills, President & CEO of Corporate Research Associates. “The combination of tax hikes and fee increases with the impending increase in the HST are decreasing the spending power of the vast majority of those living in a municipality where the increase in expenditures is well over both the cost of inflation and the growth in GDP for both the operating budget and the capital budget.”

These results are part of the CRA Halifax Urban Report, an independent survey of Halifax Regional Municipality residents. The results are based on a sample of 400 adult residents, conducted from May 6 to May 20, 2010, with results accurate to within +4.9 percentage points, 95 out of 100 times.

For more information, please contact: Don Mills, President and CEO at (902) 493-3838.

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Amanda Bates