“The challenge is, as a mayor, you want to focus on big issues,” says Mike Savage of his past four years. It’s a difficult role—to act as a figure head and authority on an entire municipality.
“I was a member of parliament for three terms, and nobody really ever called me up to ask me what I thought of a concert that was coming to town, or what I thought of the way they allocated a certain tax, or what I thought of a protest that happened at Grand Parade,” he says. “As an MP, you’re always looking to make news. As a mayor you’re always being asked your opinion.”
In the 2012 election, Savage defeated five opponents on a platform calling for a liveable, entrepreneurial and inclusive Halifax. He won by a landslide, with 57 percent of the vote. He also raised an unheard-of $342,000 in campaign donations.
According to the mayor, it’s been a successful first term. Over the phone, he lists about a dozen election promises from 2012 and describes the ways in which council has “moved the ball” on each. Amongst them, economic success is something he keeps bringing up. Halifax had Canada’s second-slowest growing economy in 2012, and now the Conference Board of Canada ranks it second.
“We’ve got an incredible entrepreneurial culture now in Halifax,” says Savage. From transportation to arts and culture funding, to reducing crime, and increasing diversity and inclusion, Savage’s platform for HRM is at least well-rounded. Like his challenger, Lil MacPherson, he’s also trying to lead the municipality toward a greener future. The mayor points to council’s recent $300,000 investment in the 100 Wild Islands along the Eastern Shore, and the municipality’s high waste diversion rates thanks to clear garbage bags as two of many examples.
“There’s always more to be done, and that’s what we’re going to do,” says Savage, echoing his campaign slogan of “Let’s keep it going.” According to the mayor, the municipality has had “remarkable success” over the past four years, but Savage knows how much more he has left to do.
Savage on liveable cities:
“I think a liveable city is a city that’s green; that allows people to be mobile (both transit and active transportation); where there’s good theatre; where you can be in a vibrant downtown but be in a canoe in 20 minutes, or surfing out in Cow Bay in Lawerencetown.”
On Halifax’s identity:
“People think of Halifax in a certain way, which perhaps, if they’re not from here, that might be kilts and fiddles and lobster…and we have that, but we go way beyond that.”
On small business:
“Part of my platform speaks to [the] issue of reducing red tape....We can do better, there’s no question. I mean for decades, this has been an issue of governments at all level.”
“What I’d like to do is set up a new small business group within our city administration, where people can come and talk before they go through the process.”
“I think it’s very important that people understand the obligation we have to understand and honour and respect our relationship with First Nations here in Halifax…I think we need to do more on that.”
On his opponent:
“Lil and I have had a very good conversation throughout this campaign. I think we’ve done quite well and have a mutual respect for each other.”