News / Halifax

Halifax councillor 'not disappointed' chief planner out of job

Councillors were given no advanced warning that Halifax's now former chief planner Bob Bjerke would be leaving.

Coun. Matt Whitman in Halifax regional council chambers.

Jeff Harper/Metro file

Coun. Matt Whitman in Halifax regional council chambers.

At least one Halifax regional councillor isn’t sad to see the municipality’s now former chief planner out of the job.

Bob Bjerke’s three-year tenure as chief planner abruptly ended this week.

“I am not disappointed or surprised,” Coun. Matt Whitman said in an interview.

Whitman said he was frustrated by Bjerke’s recent recommendation to council that a handful of development applications be denied.

“I don’t know for sure if that had anything to do with this, but I know that myself, other councillors, builders and some citizens were getting frustrated with the amount of time it took to process applications in HRM,” he said.

Coun. Tim Outhit said he and Mayor Mike Savage were in Moncton Tuesday when they got an email announcing Bjerke was no longer with the municipality.

Councillors weren’t given any advance warning, and Outhit doesn’t think the mayor was either.

Outhit said he is disappointed to see Bjerke go.

“I found him very bright, very personable, very professional, and with a good vision for the city, I’d say a progressive vision,” Outhit said.

Outhit said he knew some people were frustrated with the planning department, but he doesn’t think developers were putting pressure on the municipality’s top bureaucrat, CAO Jacques Dubé.

“Did all those things come together and factor into it? Maybe, possibly, but I don’t think developers decide who our CAO hires and fires,” he said.

Whitman said it wasn’t necessary for developers to pressure Dubé.

“I think our CAO is good at reading satisfaction levels of folks that are trying to invest here,” he said. “Perhaps he was sensing frustration or lack of pleasure with the process.”

As for the timing of the change, mid-way through the Centre Plan and planning department restructuring, Whitman said it might be what’s needed “to propel us to the next level.”

Coun. Shawn Cleary said he was shocked at the news, but was also trying to be optimistic about the timing.

“Is this a good time? I don’t know, but now we’ve got lemons, let’s make lemonade,” he said.

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