How to Really Lower Taxes: Sustainable Growth

Time for the last and most important blog post of this campaign.

Imagine if there were one thing we could do that would lower taxes, reduce CO2 emissions, and make residents more healthy. Could one change do all that? Yes, and it’s called smart growth.

It costs roughly $18,510 per km to maintain and plow roads in Halifax. That number does not include garbage pickup, policing, transit service, or building and replacing the road itself. The cost of every service the municipality offers homes depends on one crucial number: how much road we all have to pay for per person.

In most of District 9, there are between four and six meters of road per person. In Kingswood, there are over twenty meters per person. It costs at least four times more to pay for that new development yearly, but Kingswood does not pay four times higher taxes. That means low-cost communities in the core subsidize such new high-cost developments.


Between 2000 and 2016, the time my political opponent has been in power, taxes have increased by 122% (71% when you account for inflation). Ask yourself: have municipal services improved that much? Are parks 71% better? Is transit over two thirds more effective?

The fact is, we are wasting this money on unthinkably high-cost, inefficient growth, and it needs to stop.

But it is worse than that. The more we build communities where residents are forced to rely on their car for every trip, the greater our carbon emissions and the more we pollute the air we breathe. The less walking or transit are realistic options, the less active we are. The Heart and Stroke Foundation finds that car-dependence is the biggest factor in encouraging inactivity, which has surpassed smoking as the greatest source of health costs in Canada.

Indiscriminate growth plays a central role in polluting our lakes and eliminating wilderness. I don’t know if I have underlined this enough, but unchecked sprawl is a really bad idea.

But don’t we need to grow? Yes, we do! But according to planner Paul Dec, Halifax has grown in physical size far faster than it has grown in population. Meanwhile, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver all grew in population faster than geographic size. We have a problem. We can grow far more efficiently than we are now, saving money and improving health in the process.


Two Solutions

First, if elected, I will ensure that new development pays for itself. Halifax is working right now on new development charges, which require that new growth pays for its first 20 years of infrastructure costs upfront. That would encourage developers to build communities that have lower costs, which is exactly what we need to get our growth under control. Why should the rest of us pay for it?

Second, I will use the Green Network Plan to establish a growth boundary, or “greenbelt,” for Halifax. Cities like Portland, Vancouver, Toronto, and London, England have all drawn clear lines around their cities to keep growth under control. I would ensure that there would be flexibility in the rules so that rural residents who want to build a single house for themselves or their kids would be able to. The focus of the rules should be to prevent the worst, large-scale development, involving hundreds of new homes on our forests where they would have the maximum environmental and cost impact.

It is time Halifax acts decisively to rein in its ballooning taxes. It’s time we ensure healthy living is not only possible but encouraged in new developments and that we reduce our emissions. It’s time we have smart growth.

  • Hamish Anderson
    Posted at 16:23h, 10 October Reply

    Thank you for combining common sense with latest research.

  • Catriona Talbot
    Posted at 04:12h, 11 October Reply

    At last! Someone who wants to be on council who actually thinks about the big picture! May you be the first of many who lead our city in becoming the best it can be.

  • Maurice Cramm
    Posted at 15:31h, 02 November Reply

    Very interesting facts. Out taxation system is backwards and should take these things into consideration and not just the value of your home. If you want to have a home on 10 acres then you need to pay your fair share for the services provided. Penalizing a homeowner based mostly on value is simply robbery.

  • Michael Smith
    Posted at 15:39h, 10 November Reply

    Awesome to hear this from an elected official. It’s not about confrontations between communities. We are intertwined and sensible growth benefits all. We also tend to
    build sprawl because they are the only projects that are shovel ready. Sporadic and unplanned spikes in federal infrastructure dollars are not helping. The city is perennially caught flat footed and ill prepared to present projects that exact real change. No wonder we get unwanted overpasses and trunks on highways. Meanwhile our established and downtown and industrial lands languish. Giv’er Shawn

  • Maurice Cramm
    Posted at 10:36h, 05 March Reply

    Great plans Shawn!!

    I look forward to hearing more.

    Keep up the great work.

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