In a virtual debate Saturday, two of the three Halifax mayoral candidates weighed in on issues like policing, affordable housing and how they would better support marginalized residents.
Kate Macdonald, DeRico Symonds and Trayvone Clayton served as moderators.
The 22-year-old Taylor, well-known on TikTok and a generation younger than the other candidates, said he doesn't have a lot of expenses. He joked that he eats a lot of ramen noodles, and doesn't need the full salary.
The mayor now receives $190,000 annually.
If elected, Taylor said he would donate half of his mayoral salary back to lower-income communities and called for the other municipal candidates to promise something similar.
"I think we need people to put their money where their mouth is," Taylor said.
When both were asked about their plans to tackle affordable housing, Savage said although housing falls under the province it should become a shared responsibility with the municipality.
Savage said the city can partner directly with non-profits and be a contributing partner on housing projects, while the Centre Plan's housing fund brings in money from developers building in the city that can then be used to create more affordable spaces.
He also brought up council's recent vote to allow basement apartments and backyard suites for single-family homes, townhouses and duplexes that will create affordable options in gentrified areas.
Savage also said the municipality is working to ensure short-term rentals like Airbnb are not taking up the majority of apartment buildings.
"Everybody deserves a place to live," he said.
The city's 2019-20 surplus of $30 million could be better used for action on affordable housing and supporting low-income communities rather than just continuing to talk about those issues, Taylor said.
Savage said they don't normally see that kind of budget surplus, which was used to maintain programs going during COVID, which ranged from keeping people employed to testing lakes.
Taylor said he'd like to borrow strategy from Colorado, where unused buildings are turned into affordable housing units or shelters.
He'd also like to make sure property taxes are separated between residential and commercial, so the city could raise taxes on expensive properties while not impacting small business owners.
Taylor also said developers building these affordable units should be better monitored to make sure all are being rented at an affordable price, and there should be a landlord registry.
Both candidates were asked whether they support defunding the police.
Taylor said yes if it meant the money would go into mental health supports, while Savage said that is not the right question.
Savage said there needs to be consensus on what that defunding means, and it's important to wait for the report from El Jones. She has been tasked by the Board of Police Commissioners with developing such a definition.
Savage said he was supportive of council's decision to scrap the purchase of an armoured vehicle for the city's police force in June.
The Wortley report lays out a roadmap for how to address racism in policing, Savage said. The report shows Black residents are six times more likely to be street checked than white people.
But he said "it makes no sense for the city of Halifax to say we'll take $25 million away from the police budget to give to the province for mental health, if we have no way of knowing it will be used for [that]."
Taylor talked about increasing accountability for police officers who have so much power in communities, and ensuring that people feel safe when they call them for help.
He also suggested using some of HRM's surplus to have people trained to better deal with people experiencing a mental health crisis.
Both said they support the Black Lives Matter movement, and talked about their understanding of their own whiteness.
Savage said the reality is Halifax was an "old boy's network" for a long time, and someone's name, skin colour and their community dictated their place in life and privilege.
"Without even knowing it, we perpetuated this whole cycle of those who do well, continue to do well. So I think to break that cycle [it] needs to be deliberate," Savage said.
Matt Whitman, the third candidate for mayor, did not take part in the debate. In an email Saturday, he said he sent his regrets to organizers more than a week ago.
"My campaign is completely mapped out until election day," Whitman said.
The municipal election day is Oct. 17.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
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