Budget consultation announced for Halifax

Finance Minister Graham Steele announced his department will be holding a budget consultation in Halifax.

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Finance Minister Graham Steele makes a presentation at a budget consultation meeting in Dartmouth North.

Life may have gotten easier for Halifax students hoping to have their voices heard at one of the province's budget consultancy meetings.

At a meeting in Dartmouth on Monday, Finance Minister Graham Steele announced his department will hold a meeting on the Halifax peninsula, most likely on one of the last two Saturdays of February.

Steele has been touring the province since Jan. 22, holding meetings to discuss how the province can get its budget, as the consultations are titled, "Back to Balance." At the meetings, attendees discuss budget priorities in groups before being given the opportunity to offer solutions to the finance minister about how to tackle the province's rising deficit.

While announcing the Halifax meeting, Steele defended the decision not to include Halifax as one of the initial 23 locations scheduled for a meeting.

"I don't consider the north end of Dartmouth to be too far removed from Halifax," he said. "I think it's a bit of a misapprehension to say that unless a meeting is held in the south end of Halifax, students can't attend."

Steele emphasized that he has scheduled the two meetings on campuses of the Nova Scotia Community College and two other meetings in university facilities.

"Post-secondary students have so far had absolutely no trouble coming out to the meetings. There have been students at every one," he said.

But before Monday's announcement, the closest meetings to the Halifax peninsula were scheduled for Dartmouth North and Eastern Passage. The Canadian Federation of Students rented a van and drove 15 students to the meetings, both of which were held Monday.

"I think it's excellent that Steele is bowing to public pressure and holding a meeting in Halifax," said Rebecca Rose, the Maritime manager for the student group. "We've been quite vocal about the meetings being completely inaccessible to students in Halifax who don't have cars."

While pleased with Steele's announcement, Rose was concerned with the scheduling of the meetings. Steele hinted the meetings were being tentatively scheduled for one of the last two Saturdays of February, which would coincide with reading week for many students in Halifax.

Rose raised the issue with Steele after the meeting, and said he seemed unaware of the dates conflicted.

"I think it would be really unfortunate if they held the meeting during a time when students aren't in the city and couldn't participate in the process."

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