Participatory Budgeting 2017 Results

Participatory Budgeting at the Findlay Community Centre

Well Dartmouth, it was a busy night at the Findlay Community Centre as District 5’s first participatory budget became reality. Turnout was more than I was expecting. We had 640 people cast ballots. At one point the line to register and get a ballot was out the door and down Elliott Street. Luckly that was just the initial rush and by 7:00 things were moving smoothly.

I feel the evening was a great success in providing residents with the chance to have a direct say in how District 5’s funds are spent. We did more than just award money though. Together we did some community building. Several of the 19 groups in attendance remarked that they had made new contacts and several residents shared with me that they learned about non-profit groups that they didn’t know existed. The kids also seemed to enjoy getting the chance to have a direct say. They’re a demographic that is key to our future, but they’re not always engaged in decision-making. I’m very pleased with how it all went and fully expect to do it again next year. Might need a bigger venue though!

Thank you to everyone who participated, to the City Hall staff who worked a very long day to make it happen, and to the folks at the Findlay Centre who were very understanding about the big crowd. Without further adieu, here’s how Dartmouth voted to award $50,000:

  1. Banook Canoe Club $10,000
  2. Back to Our Roots Farm $2,595
  3. MacPhee Centre for Creative Learning $8,914.80
  4. Bicentennial Home and School $10,000
  5. Senobe Aquatic Club $10,000
  6. Mic Mac Amateur Aquatic Club $8,491



  1. Thank you Councillor Austin and District 5 residents for supporting Accessible Gardend Beds at the Back to Our Roots Urban Farm! Much appreciated to make our City a more Inclusive Community 🙂

  2. Obviously a wonderful evening if you are a member of one of three canoe clubs that received well over half of the available funding. But quite disappointing for those several deserving groups who were asking for less (in some cases, much less) funding to undertake projects with an arguably much wider public impact — and were not in a position to easily mobilize children in support of the cause.
    Measured against the metric of “providing residents with the chance to have a direct say”, OK, let’s agree to call it a success. But in terms of an equitable distribution of funding across a range of useful civic activities and projects, not at all.

    • Experience from PB in other districts indicates strongly that anything involving kids tends to do well. It’s not just that kids can vote, it’s that the stuff they use tends to enjoy community support. The tendency of PB to advantage large groups is part of why you’re required to make 5 picks on a ballot. You might have come out to support one specific cause that’s near and dear to you, but when having to mark in several other choices, most people take the choice seriously and go with what else they would like to see in their community. I strongly suspect that’s why the Back to Our Roots and MacPhee Centre did so well. Back to Our Roots doesn’t involve kids while many of the MacPhee Centre’s kids were ineligible to vote because they aren’t District 5 residents. And yet, only Banook beat them.

      I know the process isn’t perfect, it has it’s own biases and that’s why I split the District 5 pot. $50,000 awarded through participatory budgeting and $43,000 that I’m directing. The $43,000 that I’m directing is going towards small contributions, enhancements to municipal property, coordination with other councillors, stuff I identified in the election campaign, and opportunities and challenges that arise. I think it’s a decent balance.

      • Thank you to all those who voted for Banook Canoe Club! Since 1903 Banook Canoe Club has helped develop many generations of our community members. It was a lot of fun last night interacting with the many generations of Banook proud members. You are all welcome at Banook!

        • I believe organisations seeking significant sums each year should publish their audited financial statements each year. I can remember when MicMacAAC was bankrupt in the 1990s and asked council to write off the taxes owing in order to allow the organisation to pay RevCan, and other creditors.

      • Councillor Austin: I’m sure all Dartmouth Centre constituents look forward to understanding how the remainder of District 5 pot is allocated. It would indeed be encouraging and reassuring to know that some of the deserving activities that did not make the PB cut are to be acknowledged through your direction.

  3. Hi Sam I could not be at the meeting but I must commend you for this fine example of participatory democracy.

  4. I like the idea of participatory budgeting and I do like the idea of doing it live and in person, but as someone who just got over surgery and is immune-suppressed so stay away from crowds, I would have preferred and online voting option as well. Is that something we can consider in the future?

    • The challenge with online is a cost and technical piece. It would need to be secure and it’s not something that myself and four City Hall staff volunteers can pull off with just a stack of paper and a box. If participatory budgeting spreads beyond Districts 5, 7, 8 and 9 and becomes something that HRM is doing in many places, than it might start to justify a bigger investment.

  5. Well done Sam for bringing PB to district 5… it was interesting to meet the diversity of applicants and learn about their unique contributions to the development of the district and so encouraging to see so many from the community to show up to participate. Thanks also for the excellent balance in implimenting PB alongside of directing some of the budget within the district.

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