Halifax council meets digitally, will examine tax relief during COVID-19 pandemic

Halifax Regional Council held an all-digital meeting for the first time under Nova Scotia’s state of emergency on Thursday.

The provincial government declared a state of emergency on March 22

in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Part of that declaration saw Chuck Porter, Nova Scotia’s minister of municipal affairs, direct “all municipalities and villages in the province” to discontinue holding their in-person meetings.

Instead, municipalities have been told to hold virtual meetings by video or telephone.

Tuesday’s meeting had councillors calling in from their homes or offices, while residents were able to watch councilors debate the respective motions.

Much of the first portion of the meeting was spent addressing the new reality of life under the novel coronavirus.

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CAO Jacques Dubé said staff are reviewing the municipality’s budget as a result of lost revenue, which includes the $3-million a month lost as a result of no longer accepting bus fares during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dubé said the revised budget will be available in late May.

One of the things that will play into that budget was addressed later during the meeting. Municipal tax bills are normally due at the end of April but Deputy Mayor Lisa Blackburn issued a notice that she’ll make a motion to extend when property taxes are due.

The notice of motion indicated she’d ask the due date be moved from April 30 to June 1 as a result of COVID-19.

It’s not clear when her motion will be introduced but the next meeting of Halifax Regional Council is scheduled for April 9.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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