HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's Progressive Conservative premier picked a former political adversary to lead his government's new task force aimed at addressing housing shortages in the Halifax Regional Municipality.
Premier Tim Houston said he named Geoff MacLellan, a former minister of infrastructure and housing under the previous Liberal government, to the role because of his track record and because of the fact he isn't from the Halifax-area.
"It was actually important to me to have somebody a little bit removed from HRM that could be completely objective about how to get things done," Houston told reporters.
MacLellan will chair the panel, which will include two representatives from the municipality and two from the provincial government. The task force is part of a broader plan the Progressive Conservatives announced last month to increase Nova Scotia's affordable housing stock.
Houston said he has no reservations about appointing MacLellan to the job.
"I have always respected his commitment to Nova Scotians and his strong track record," Houston said. "As a former minister, he knows the issues around housing very well. He will be able to hit the ground running."
MacLellan, who is from Cape Breton, held several portfolios under the previous Liberal government before deciding not to run in last summer's provincial election.
Houston said the task force will look for ways the government can more quickly approve residential housing projects in the region, and he tried to dispel concerns that the panel was created to override planning decisions made by the municipality.
"We need more housing stock," Houston said. "We want to be absolutely respectful of the consultation process … but there's also a time for action."
MacLellan said the panel will investigate all the procedures around developing housing in the city and will try to find out why some projects are held up.
"These things are incredibly complicated," MacLellan said. "It's really about working with the provincial representatives and Halifax representatives to understand how do we unblock these things and how do we get affordable housing built."
Other panel members include Kelly Denty, Halifax's executive director of planning and development; Peter Duncan, the city's director of infrastructure planning; Stephen MacIsaac, CEO of Nova Scotia Lands; and Paul LaFleche, deputy minister for municipal affairs and housing.
The panel’s first meeting is to be held next month.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2021.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press