Halifax regional council will debate raising parking-meter rates in downtown Halifax and Dartmouth tonight.
A staff report to be presented to council this evening recommends increasing the Halifax parking-meter rate to $2 an hour, from $1.50, effective May 31. It also recommends increasing the Dartmouth downtown rate by the same amount, to $1.50 from $1.
No reason for increasing the rates is mentioned in the report. If the increase is approved, however, it would mean an extra $542,000 in the city’s coffers for 2010-11, and an estimated $650,000 annually.
Additional funds would be welcome news for the municipality, which is facing a $32.4-million deficit this year.
But Paul MacKinnon, executive director of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission, said yesterday increasing fees is taking the easy way during tough financial times.
“We have some big issues with (the increase),” MacKinnon said. “I understand that HRM is in a position where they’ve got some fiscal challenges … but I think (the increase) falls under one of those obvious and easy categories.”
MacKinnon said the increase effectively punishes customers for choosing to shop downtown, rather than places like Dartmouth Crossing or Bayers Lake.
“This is a fee that’s paid by our customers, so we’re asking them to shell out a bit more for the privilege of doing business downtown, with no corresponding value associated with that,” he said.
According to the report, the increase would still put Halifax below the national average of $2.50. That number, however, is brought up by the likes of Calgary and Vancouver, which charge $5 an hour.
MacKinnon was quick to point out downtown Halifax businesses are not competing with Calgary, but with big-box stores on the outskirts of the municipality.
HRM last increased the parking-meter rate in 2006, from $1 to $1.50 per hour.