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.
When public health protocols in response to COVID-19 halted in-person Training & Development opportunities, teams across the municipality collaborated to provide a virtual solution for employees.
One team that recognized the need to increase their capacity in facilitating online training was the Office of Diversity & Inclusion/ANSAIO. In addition to having two employees attend an Online Design and Delivery course through Dalhousie University, the team has been able to collaborate with Organizational Development to redesign modules as necessary, facilitate virtual conversations with Business Units and offer online workshops.
“Although we continue to work through the challenges that come with virtual training, the process has brought opportunities for more collaboration with various business units, including HR and ICT,” says Huwaida Medani, D&I/ANSAIO Senior Advisor and the team lead for training. “Colleagues from across these divisions are available and ready to answer questions, discuss solutions and exchange knowledge.”
The Organizational Development team partnered with D&I/ANSAIO to support this pivot to online training. This included determining which courses needed to transition to Virtual Instructor Lead Training (VILT), which is training that is delivered in a virtual environment; increase proficiency of engagement tools within Microsoft Teams to achieve the established learning objectives; redesign courses as necessary; and conduct pilot sessions ahead of the courses being launched.
“There have been pockets of awesomeness that have come to light as a result of our need to work from home. One of them has been VILT,” says Jodie Shreenan, Learning & Development Specialist. “Like most employees, we found ourselves challenged to deliver on the same job functions but needing to find a new way to do so. At the time, we were all new to using Microsoft Teams and had limited experience with VILT, so these skills were new to us. As well, we learned to expect the unexpected, like planning for technological challenges that arise when working from home.”
By sharing these processes, reflecting on lessons learned and adapting quickly to new ways of doing business, D&I/ANSAIO and Organizational Development have been able to make the transition to online training as smooth as possible.
For most, a snowy forecast means hunkering down and staying inside, but for many municipal employees it means gearing up and getting out there to face mother nature head on.
Throughout these weather events, Winter Operations crews work around the clock clearing snow and mitigating icy conditions.
Did you know?
With each weather event, crews are responsible for approximately 3,800 lane kilometres of streets, about 1,000 kilometres of sidewalks and 2,295 bus stops across the region.
The team at Halifax Transit also continues to do an incredible job managing snow plans to ensure citizen and employee safety and satisfaction.
To all of the municipal employees across the organization who have and continue to play a role in delivering services and staying on top of citizen inquiries during the winter months – thank you!
See a sampling of community kudos that citizens have shared over the past few weeks. Express your gratitude by leaving a note in the comments section below.
There was a snow bank that made it hard for me to manage since I use a walker. Please thank the young gentleman bus driver who got out of the bus to assist and help me get over the snow bank and onto his bus.
The [Transit] driver did a great job driving in the snow. I felt safe and wanted to commend him on his driving in such bad conditions.
Compliments to the snow plow driver who worked over the January 22-23 snowfall. A huge effort was made to clean around cars that were impeding snow removal.
This is just a quick line to pass on a “Thank you” to the snow removal operators…The driver that did this area did a really great job at widening the driving area on narrow streets. This clearing was done quickly and thoroughly.
Compliments on the sidewalk clearing in my area…They have done a great job this year and I am very happy with the work done from last Friday's storm.
Editor’s note: Some comments have been edited for consistency and clarity. Many thanks to 311 for their efforts to support citizen inquiries, and for documenting and sharing these accolades.
On November 19, members of Halifax Transit’s ferry team – Captain Gustavo Millacet, Sergey Zavalko, Eduard Tavityan, Blake Nugent and Jenny Rowlands – received the Canadian Urban Transit Association’s (CUTA) Individual Leadership Award for the bravery they displayed last year aboard the Vincent Coleman ferry.
Last October, when the ferry was approximately halfway through its crossing from Halifax to Alderney Landing, the crew was notified that a passenger had fallen overboard. Once alerted, the team acted quickly to turn the ferry 180-degrees and proceed back towards Halifax to locate the individual.
Upon location of the passenger, who at this point was floating in the water with little movement, the crew began activating passenger overboard procedures, including utilizing a large rescue net. After several attempts to rescue the passenger from the deck of the ferry, Mr. Tavityan dove into the frigid water to guide the passenger into the net. The crew also proceeded with first-aid measures and called first responders to ensure they would be prepared once they docked at Alderney.
A heartfelt congratulations to the award winners – if it were not for their quick action during a crisis, combined with their training, the outcome might have been very different that day.
When much of our region closed in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Halifax Transit staff on the frontline and behind the scenes demonstrated immense collaboration, ingenuity, innovation and dedication to keep the region moving. Halifax Transit implemented service changes and COVID-19 safety protocols at an unprecedented pace through the cooperation of multiple divisions.
To enhance precautions and resume fare collection, the maintenance team initiated the design and prototyping of polycarbonate barriers tailored to meet the unique requirements of each style of conventional bus. Additionally, in the spirit of safety and customer service, staff stepped up to ensure buses were thoroughly disinfected every day. Over the summer and fall, a mask giveaway program was launched, providing nearly 20,000 reusable masks to passengers at locations throughout the region. With the creativity, resourcefulness and initiative of staff at all levels, Halifax Transit continues to adapt to changing public health directives and provide exceptional service to move the region forward.
As public health directives continue to change, teams across Parks & Recreation have significantly adapted their programs and services, providing opportunities for residents to safely stay active. Below are just some highlights from the past several months:
Through collaboration and innovation, and with their customer’s safety in mind, Parks & Recreation continues to provide amenities that support the physical and mental well-being of residents of all ages.
Arts & crafts was just one topic in the Rec at Home video series.
When COVID-19 impacted the in-person Permit/Subdivision application process, a skilled group of employees from Planning & Development and ICT quickly addressed this gap by collaborating on an electronic solution to meet the needs of residents and industry stakeholders.
Within nine days, the interim solution was up and running, which includes:
Throughout the process, staff regularly met with industry stakeholders to provide project updates and collaboratively work through roadblocks – something they continue to do weekly.
Coming very soon – is the launch of Release 1 of Planning & Development’s Permitting, Planning, Licensing and Compliance Solution. This will replace the above-mentioned interim solution for permit applications. Planning & Development is excited and committed to continually improving customers’ digital interactions with a focus on service excellence.