As you begin to settle back into the busy personal and professional routines that September brings, I want to take this opportunity and provide you with an overview of the significant organizational changes that have occurred during the spring and summer months.
At the senior leadership level, Jerry Blackwood was appointed to the position of Chief Financial Officer/Executive Director of Finance & Asset Management (FAM); Caroline Blair-Smith’s portfolio expanded to Executive Director of People, Communications & IT (PCIT), a new business unit comprised of Human Resources, Corporate Communications and IT; and David Thorpe joined the IT team as Chief Information Officer. Earlier this week, I was pleased to announce that John MacPherson accepted the position of Executive Director, Corporate & Customer Services, after acting in this role for the past several months.
At the business unit level, the Real Estate team has moved to Corporate & Customer Services, and Performance Excellence now reports to Corporate Planning. For the latest business unit charts and contact information, visit the Municipal Organizational Chart.
Now that many of us have returned to our regular worksites, you’ve likely noticed that some business units and divisions have relocated. Check out this interactive map to help guide you around municipal offices located in downtown Halifax and Dartmouth.
September 30 marks the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation | Mui’watmnej na’kwek wjit Ketlewey aqq Apiksiktatimk. Stay tuned to the Employee Hub for information on how you and your team can recognize this and other upcoming dates of significance, including Treaty Day (October 1), Mi’kmaq History Month, and National Disability Employment Awareness Month (both commemorated in October).
As we begin to safely live with COVID-19, I hope you are allowing yourselves and others the space to ease into this unfamiliar reality.
Stay safe and be well,
The municipality is committed to addressing anti-Black Racism issues that still exist within the organization and across the region to help create safer and more inclusive communities and workplaces. In 2020, Regional Council asked for the development of an anti-Black racism action plan to acknowledge and address anti-Black racism related issues with respect to municipal government and service delivery. This past June, Regional Council endorsed the Anti-Black Racism Framework, which will guide the development of an Anti-Black Racism (ABR) Strategy and Action Plan.
Russel Brooks joined the municipality as the ABR Program Coordinator to support the work of the African Nova Scotian Affairs Integration Office (ANSAIO) as it leads the municipality in the development and implementation of the ABR Strategy and Action Plan.
We spoke to Russel to learn more about his passion for this important work and the goals he hopes to achieve through this initiative.
Q: When did you begin your role as ABR Program Coordinator and what attracted you to this position?
A: I began my role with the municipality as the Anti-Black Racism Program Coordinator in April 2021. This opportunity appealed to me because it put me in a position to be involved in meaningful work and pursuing necessary change.
Q: How does your previous experience apply to your current role as ABR Program Coordinator?
A: In the past I’ve had a variety of opportunities, as a tutor, mentor and advocate for people of African descent both in Halifax and Ontario. This, along with my lived experience encountering barriers throughout my own life, helped me understand the importance of this role and the influence it can have not only within the municipality, but within the community at large.
Q: What are some of the things you have been able to support in your role so far, and what goals do you hope to achieve?
A: To date we have been able to develop a framework that will shape the creation and implementation of the municipality’s Anti-Black Racism Strategy and Action Plan that was endorsed by Regional Council in June. I’ve also had the privilege of collaborating with other employees who are Black and/or are of African descent across the organization to bring forward recommendations and strategic initiatives that address several issues of anti-Black racism that impact municipal employees. Facilitating corporate training with the Office of Diversity & Inclusion/ANSAIO team has also given me an opportunity to support this work and make connections with all business units throughout the municipality.
As for goals, one of the focuses is to increase the awareness around the importance of this work. With the increase in awareness I hope to see a deeper understanding of these issues and how addressing them will result in a better municipality both for employees and citizens.
Through the implementation of the Anti-Black Racism Strategy and Action Plan, the goal is to see a significant change in the experiences for Black people and people of African descent, both in our organization and our communities.
Q: What are some ways municipal employees can support ABR initiatives? Do you have any updates to share with employees related to the ABR Strategy and Action Plan?
A: Employees can go to halifax.ca for updates on current and upcoming initiatives related to anti-Black racism initiatives. Also, employees can continue to check the Employee Hub for any upcoming events, as ANSAIO will continue to create and provide learning opportunities for municipal employees. Employees can reach out directly via email to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
As housing insecurity continues to be an issue in the region, collaboration with professional service providers and other levels of government has significantly accelerated to help address both affordable housing and homelessness.
This week, former Assistant Chief of Emergency Management, Erica Fleck, began a new three-month role as Housing and Homelessness Administrator, to lead the emergency response to homelessness for the municipality. Deputy Chief Roy Hollett, Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency, will temporarily take over as the Emergency Management lead in Erica’s stead.
Erica’s new role is focused on the immediate support and coordination required to advance Regional Council’s directive to invest $500,000 towards emergency accommodations. The funding will focus on leveraging opportunities that will have the most immediate impact on the ground, including increasing the inventory of temporary accommodations as soon as possible.
When asked what this new position means to her, Erica says, “I came to the municipality with the hopes of making a difference and helping people. This new role is certainly a challenge but to be able to assist in making this situation better for the people of HRM is the best job that I could ever ask for.”
In her new role, Erica will liaise with professional service providers, collaborate with business unit Executive Directors and staff, and work closely with external partners on potential temporary accommodations. She will also lead the municipality’s encampment operations team and act as primary spokesperson for all municipal homelessness efforts.
Erica holds a Bachelor of Emergency Management and has significant experience in policy development, execution, and review of emergency plans.
Erica joined Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency in 2017, following a distinguished 30-year career with the Canadian Military. Erica transitioned to a parttime reservist when she joined the municipality and continues to serve with the 5th Canadian Division.
This past summer, team members from Facility Design & Construction (Corporate & Customer Services) and Road Operations & Construction (Transportation & Public Works) toured the future home of the new Mackintosh Depot, a significant corporate improvement project that will meet the needs of municipal employees and residents alike.
After much consultation, many design iterations, and even a location change, the construction tender for the depot was awarded this past March.
Minor maintenance and storage of Road Operations & Construction fleet vehicles occur at the depot, which is also home to divisional and administrative teams, and to Procurement’s Stores Department that stocks supplies for various business units.
Constructed in the 1960s, the existing facility has three separate buildings that are no longer meeting employee and operational needs, including exiting issues and service bays that do not allow for minor vehicle maintenance and cleaning.
In contrast, the new centralized facility will boast 14 bays for vehicle storage; a large area for the Stores Department; a flexible, collaborative office concept; improved vehicle flow for increased safety; and adequate parking for fleet vehicles and staff. The building size was increased to allow for the growing municipal workforce, as TPW will begin to take on road transfers from the province.
In addition to these features, in alignment with HalifACT recommendations, the depot will be built to LEED silver standards, have efficient lighting and mechanical systems, a solar panel array and electric vehicle charging stations.
Once complete, teams from Road Operations & Construction, Procurement, and Parks & Recreation that currently exist across different municipal facilities will relocate to the new depot, allowing for operational efficiencies and minimal capital investment, resulting in improving service delivery to residents across the region.
Completion of the new Mackintosh Depot is scheduled for fall of 2022. Until then, we look forward to seeing more updates from the planning team, whose collaborative work is bringing this innovative facility to reality.
If you’ve been downtown over the last few months, you will likely have spotted work underway as part of the Spring Garden Road Streetscaping project. This major project will create an improved pedestrian experience along Spring Garden Road, with better accessibility, more greenery, new public artwork, and undergrounded wiring.
A project like this requires considerable collaboration – both across departments and with external partners. A core internal team, with representatives from Traffic Management, Infrastructure Planning, Project Planning & Design, Halifax Transit, Road Operations & Construction, and others, worked together right from the start of the project to ensure the proposed design was strong. According to Project Manager, Elora Wilkinson, this collaborative team structure allowed the project design to push the limits of what has been done before in Halifax.
External relationships were equally as important. From the beginning, and through construction, the Spring Garden Area Business Association has been a key project partner. The partnership began when the municipality installed a temporary stoplet (bus stop and mini park) on Spring Garden Road in Summer 2018. The stoplet added more space and amenities to the sidewalk and improved the comfort of pedestrians and transit passengers.
“It also kickstarted our extensive public engagement,” says Elora. “Here we tested ideas and recorded feedback that helped us understand what the public wanted to see on the street.”
The streetscaping project aligns with multiple Regional Council Priorities, by making Spring Garden Road a destination (Communities), investing in spaces to safely walk and roll (Integrated Mobility), and improving rainwater collection, planting over 30 trees, and decreasing traffic lanes on the street (Environment).
The project is expected to wrap up later this fall. Learn more and read project updates at halifax.ca/imaginesgr
Effective, well-written reports are essential in supporting Regional Council as they make important decisions that impact our region.
That’s why Report Center staff from my office, Hannah Forsyth and Sarah Jane Angevine, recently launched a re-developed, two-part training opportunity, Writing Reports for Council, to assist staff with report writing. Whether you’re a seasoned author or a new employee, the training is beneficial to anyone involved in the report writing process.
This training opportunity is a collaborative effort between People, Communications & IT (PCIT) and the CAO’s Office, and incorporates feedback received from staff across the organization. Thank you to those involved in re-developing this important training!
What will you learn through this training?
Participants will learn:
Participants will also be provided with a practical report writing guide.
Who could benefit from this training?
Along with report writers, this training is also incredibly valuable for support staff that are involved in moving reports through the process - from the initial request to the final approval stage. Colleagues are encouraged to take this training together, especially if you collaborate on reports or are looking to create internal procedures. It is also encouraged that participants take the companion module (Part II), Helpful Writing Techniques for Effective Reports.
To sign-up for Writing Reports for Council training, please see the corporate training calendar for upcoming opportunities on October 7 and 19.
As we turn the page on celebrating another successful African Heritage Month, this year’s theme, Black History Matters: Listen, Learn, Share and Act, was especially poignant.
Reflecting on the past, and demanding a better future, the municipality is committed to taking important steps to address internal and external anti-Black racism related issues with respect to municipal service delivery.
Guided by the Anti-Black Racism (ABR) Project Charter developed based on recommendations by the Anti-Black Racism Working Group, we have been furthering key priorities outlined in the Charter.
One of the first steps included the formation of the ABR Steering Committee last month. This ten-person Committee includes representatives from across the organization including Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency and Halifax Regional Police, and they will be supported by the soon-to-be hired ABR Program Coordinator. Together they have been tasked to manage the development and implementation of a multi-year Anti-Black Racism Strategy and Action Plan – one of five key deliverables under the Charter.
As well, as part of our commitment to improving the representation of African Nova Scotians and those of African descent in leadership roles within our organization, we will be offering a second designated cohort of the Foundations for Aspiring Leaders Program solely to employees who identify as African Nova Scotian and those of African descent. Applications for this designated cohort will open soon.
We know that the active dismantling of structures and norms upholding racial inequity is everyone’s responsibility. Though we will be shown the way by the ABR Steering Committee, Office of Diversity & Inclusion/ANSAIO and others, it’s imperative we remain humble about where we are starting from and each commit to backing up conversations with actions.
A few places to start:
Lastly, I’d like to share a special thanks to the Office of Diversity & Inclusion/ANSAIO, Anti-Black Racism Working Group, ABR Steering Committee and others for your incredible leadership and expertise as we continue to move change forward towards a more inclusive, equitable and safe environment for all.
Prior to joining the municipality this past November, Iain held several municipal roles for the City of Edmonton and the City of Wetaskiwin. In his volunteer pursuits, Iain is very involved in football and had been the Head Coach of the Edmonton Huskies Football Club since 2011. Welcome Iain!
Q: How did your experience with the City of Wetaskiwin and the City of Edmonton prepare you for your position as Municipal Clerk for the Halifax Regional Municipality?
A: While this may sound a bit strange, I have known what I wanted to do for my career since I was in Grade Six — to work in municipal government and coach football. I have been incredibly fortunate to have had diverse experiences so far in my career that have allowed me to pursue these passions.
Working in small, medium and large municipalities in both urban and rural settings, has allowed me to see the diverse opportunities and challenges that arise. The Halifax Regional Municipality has all these communities under one administration, and I am thrilled to be a part of the team providing services to residents.
In Wetaskiwin, I was able to work both for the County and the City with firsthand experience in regional partnerships between urban and rural communities. I was able to work on all facets of a municipal government, from Public Works to Finance. I felt like a jack of all trades most days. It was a great chance to get firsthand knowledge on how municipalities work and create community for residents, it was an experience that I will always be grateful to have had.
The City of Edmonton provided a chance to work in a large organization where specialization and a true corporate approach to governance was always required. This allowed a farm kid to experience big city administration. I was lucky enough to be able to work on and lead teams while with the City of Edmonton that not only challenged me but encouraged me to grow as a leader.
I hope these experiences will allow me to add value to the organization, while continuing to learn about the region and how the municipality works.
Q: What attracted you to this position and the opportunity to relocate to Halifax?
A: The opportunity to become part of the team was one that I jumped at when it became a possibility. My wife and I fell in love with the region when we spent our honeymoon here and cannot wait to become a part of the community. While there have been more than a few times that moving across the country has been daunting, we are excited to give our three young children the experiences that growing up in Nova Scotia will bring and hope to make lifelong friends in our new home.
Q: Since starting your role in November, what are some of the initiatives you and your team have been supporting?
A: To say it has been a fast start would be an understatement.
From wrapping up the 2020 General Election, privacy impact assessments, processing access to information requests, the continuous work on corporate records program and of course the procedural support to Regional Council, Community Councils and the numerous Agencies, Boards and Committees it has been very clear to me how committed the Municipal Clerk’s Office is to service excellence.
It has been an absolute pleasure to get to know everyone within the office and throughout the organization and I am thrilled to be a part of it.
Q: What are some goals you envision for your role and for your team?
A: A principled-based approach to teamwork and leadership is something I have strived for throughout my career. Defined principles help to ground not only what work needs to be done and how to do it, but why the work is so critical. A paramount goal for me is that our team continues to define these principles, within the requirements of the Clerk’s Office and continue moving forward with championing this approach to our service level for all external and internal stakeholders.
As for more specific items, I am looking forward to finding efficiencies with the virtual meeting process for all meeting types, including agenda distribution as well as some new processes within the Access & Privacy Office that will help ensure we meet legislative timelines.
There will also be opportunities for process changes in the Election Office as we continue to unpack the lessons learned from the 2020 General Election.
There will be many more as my colleagues continue to educate me on the office and how I can best support them.
Q: COVID-19 must have added another layer to relocating and (virtually) joining a new team. Can you speak to this experience?
A: The experience has been unique to say the least — from virtual interviews to quarantining upon arrival to meeting many of my colleagues in an online environment — but it has been very rewarding and challenging. I am so grateful for the Clerk’s Office in helping make the transition rewarding and fun!
A special thanks must be given to Karen Marr and John Traves for putting up with more than a few ridiculous questions as I have gotten my feet under me.
Please, if I have not had the chance to meet you send me a note or, when we are able to, stop by and say hi — I look forward to getting the chance to meet you!
There are countless success stories when it comes to the municipality’s Youth Live Program, but one story stands out as it’s within our municipal team.
Lexie Macpherson joined Youth Live, a program offering 24 weeks of paid work experience and life skill building for youth who face employment barriers. Today, she works as a Bus Operator for Halifax Transit and has been with the team since 2018.
In her own words, Lexie shared about the impact Youth Live has had on her career aspirations:
“Youth Live helped me gain the skills and knowledge to obtain the job I have now as a Bus Operator for Halifax Transit. The best memories I have of Youth Live is Rick always singing while doing carts and all the laughs I shared with the staff. A few things I love about Halifax Transit are my co-workers, the positive energy in my workplace and being Captain of my own bus.”
Initially, Lexie decided on a career with Transit when the opportunity presented itself at a recruitment session. She wanted to see if she could rise to the challenge and be successful in this type of role. Turns out she succeeded at both and everyone at the municipality is proud to have her onboard.
The Youth Live Program is currently accepting applications for the next 16-person cohort beginning in late April. Throughout the program, participants receive on-the-job training and mentorship opportunities as well as take part in skill-building modules designed to prepare participants for future employment.
As the Youth Live team gears up for the next round, Program Manager, Paul Forrest shared this sentiment:
“It continues to be very inspiring to see the energy the participants and staff bring to the Program. Youth Live provides a great opportunity for participants to gain real work experience, and it is extremely exciting to know we are helping them move onto successful employment and careers both within and outside the municipality.”
This past January, the Cogswell District project reached a significant milestone, as all major land negotiations were finalized, and the construction tender was issued.
The Cogswell District is one of the biggest city-building projects in the municipality’s history that will bring transformative change to the area’s landscape. This multi-year project will see the development of a new neighbourhood – where the Cogswell Interchange now stands – designed to connect downtown Halifax with the north end and waterfront, creating a stronger, more inclusive network of communities.
The municipality has entered into a land exchange agreement with Crombie REIT (Crombie) to facilitate the development of Granville Park, a new Transit Hub and the planned Proctor Street connection as part of the Cogswell District project.
Given the size and scope of the project, significant work happened behind-the-scenes prior to the tender being released to three-pre-approved bidders. This involved an extensive review process by multiple municipal divisions as well as engagement with external partners and agencies to help ensure the project proceeds as smoothly as possible. “With a small project team, collaboration with municipal business units has been critical to the success of the project to date,” according to John Spinelli, Project Director.
Another goal of the planning process is to ensure that the Cogswell District will be reflective of the thousands of residents who will call the area home. Procurement opportunities have been identified to include contract requirements in the tender that aim to achieve social benefits, specifically regarding workforce development and supplier diversity. To support this effort, the project team continues to regularly engage with the construction industry, and with Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian communities.
Congratulations to the project team on this significant accomplishment, a critical step in making future milestones a reality.
More information about the project can be found on halifax.ca/cogswell.