EASTERN SHORE – In addition to enduring a global pandemic during 2020, residents here carried on with as much normalcy as they could muster while wearing face masks and social distancing.
The pandemic did not adversely affect the October election in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), as candidates campaigned by using social media platforms, print advertisements and signage, while electors voted by phone, on-line or in person at polling stations, following government health safety protocols.
Incumbent councillor of District 2 – David Hendsbee – was handily re-elected.
Affordable housing is an ongoing issue for the municipality and, while funding has been announced by the federal and provincial governments, no formal announcement has been made as yet to benefit the rural end of HRM.
The councillor sits on the board of the Eastern Shore Lifestyles Centre (ESLC) – a new complex owned by HRM being built to replace the existing aging Sheet Harbour Lions Club Community Centre – and is vocal in what he advocates as necessities for the facility.
Federal, provincial and municipal governments have pledged $9.6 million to the project.
The facility continues to be a priority for the councillor, as he sees the economic, recreational and social benefits that it will bring to the eastern end of HRM. Sitting on the board since its inception, Hendsbee has been an active liaison between the board and city council, navigating timelines and processes followed by the municipal government.
Q. How well do you feel your community responded to the pandemic this past year? What stands out for you?
A. I think overall very well. Especially how quickly people responded and continued to do so. Once the parks, beaches and trails opened up for physical activity, while being socially distanced, there was a tremendous turnout of people with pets everywhere. And seeing painted rocks with various themes and messages being found throughout these outdoor amenities was a nice touch to put a smile on one's face during this difficult time.
Q. What other notable challenges confronted the municipality in 2020?
A. HRM had anticipated a difficult time with opening its recreational and community facilities during the pandemic. At least our outdoor amenities were used quite extensively. Now in the new year ahead HRM will see what small businesses and services will remain after a hard fiscal period during the pandemic.
Q. What municipal achievements are you most proud of this year?
A. Finally having the tripartite funding announcement of $10 million for the Eastern Shore Lifestyle Centre in Sheet Harbour. And seeing more backup generators being installed at more of our community facilities to ensure we have local comfort centres ready and available when an emergency arises.
Q. What priorities are on the horizon for the municipality in 2021?
A. The federal government and the province have asked municipalities to get involved with social and affordable housing. HRM has initiated some tax relief for this type of shelter, but we are now being asked to waive permit fees and other development charges to make this housing more readily affordable and accessible.
Q. What challenges do you see coming up next year and how would you like to address them?
A. Trying to navigate the fallout from the COVID 19 coronavirus affliction. What public activities will be allowed or still be curtailed until more of the vaccine is rolled out, and see what businesses survived the tight fiscal pandemic period. Will there be impact on employment and the needs for families to get through this ordeal, and how will HRM respond? Any tax relief or deferring deadlines to allow folks to better manage their cash flow priorities; perhaps freer access to recreational amenities once community facilities are allowed to reopen?
Q. Any other parting thoughts on the year?
A. First of all, my thanks and appreciation for being re-elected as the municipal councillor for HRM District 2. Secondly, I want to convey my wishes for everyone to have a happy and safe holiday season. And may 2021 be pandemic free! God bless one and all!
Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal