It's all about buildings, cars and buses.
In a series of interviews with 11 council candidates from the Halifax peninsula, candidates were asked open-ended questions and were encouraged to raise whatever issues they felt were most important. But invariably the candidates wanted to talk about development and transportation, with other issues either falling to the wayside completely or getting only minor attention.
This article reviews candidates from Districts 11, 13 and 14; the four District 12 candidates were reviewed last week. Each of the full, unedited interviews is posted at thecoast.ca/Halifaxvotes.
This district covers the north end of the peninsula, everything north of a line running along North, Robie and Bayers. It pits incumbent councillor Patrick Murphy against Jerry Blumenthal, who had represented the north end in the old city of Halifax and into amalgamation.
Blumenthal defeated first-time candidate Murphy handily in the 2000 election for the same seat, taking 83 percent of the vote. But when Blumenthal retired in 2004, Murphy bested a field of seven candidates to win the position with 35 percent of the vote, and has gone on to become a popular representative for the area.
"I was tired," says Blumenthal in explaining his retirement. "After 32 years of teaching and 10 years on council, I was tired, and my wife has a condition called primary progressive MS, and we wanted to take a rest and see if everything is going well. Everything is going well, and I'm getting a lot of phone calls from people telling me they want to see me back again, so I'm giving it another shot."
Still, Blumenthal declines to discuss Murphy at all, and won't criticize Murphy's performance. "I only talk about me," he says.
"I'm getting a lot of phone calls from people telling me they want to see me back again, so I'm giving it another shot"
Murphy, for his part, is running for re-election because "once you put your head out there to run and represent the neighbourhood, you're in there to do it, and you're in there to do it for the duration. To quit and come back, you know, I don't know what would motivate someone like that. I'm not a quitter, and that's why I'm running again."
"They waste a lot of time," Blumenthal says of the current council. "Too much time is wasted on the cat bylaw. We live by the harbour; if we get rid of all the cats, then we're going to have rats."
Blumenthal expresses frustration at the secrecy of the Commonwealth Games bid, although he would like to see a new stadium built. He also wants the Halifax council split between urban and rural areas.
On the transportation front, Blumenthal finds both the proposed fast ferry and the proposed third harbour crossing, "ridiculous---a waste of money."
Murphy, however, is less willing to immediately discount the possibility of a third harbour crossing. "I told to get it out there---what's the alternative to a third crossing?"
Murphy underscores what he says is his strong record of working for the constituency. "I've done as much as I can do for the area in the last four years," he says. "The proof is on the streets. We've got three new playgrounds, I started a citizens' committee on the Hydrostone and Fort Needham, I took care of a 25-year drainage problem. Bloomfield didn't just happen; I didn't just show up in 2004 and the place was falling apart."
This district covers the south end of the peninsula, everything south of a line running along Quinpool, Robie and South. Incumbent Sue Uteck faces challenger Beverly Miller, which is something of a rematch of the 2004 election, when Uteck took 62 percent of the vote to Miller's 33 percent (a third candidate brought in the remaining votes).
"I filed my papers the last day, because I thought should have an opponent," Miller says of the 2004 campaign. "As it turns out that other guy also filed on the last day. I got 1,700 votes, and I know that every one of those 1,700 people will vote for me again. I have a very strong group of supporters."
Uteck and Miller agree on most issues. They both solidly oppose a third harbour crossing, which would drop thousands of additional cars into the district each day, and they oppose a proposed fast ferry to Bedford, saying the money could be better spent on buses. Both say they want to see a larger voting turnout among university students. Also, Uteck and Miller are both enthusiastic supporters of the tax reform effort, which, if passed, will see large decreases in taxes levied on pricy south end homes.
But the candidates sharply differ on one issue: development. That issue seems to be driving the race, with Uteck winning the support of pro-development forces and Miller winning the allegiance of heritage preservation supporters.
" has voted for the Midtown Tavern," says Miller. "She voted for the Twisted Sisters, she voted for, I think it was the Brewery one, the she was absent for. The question is, how she's going to vote on Waterside?"
Miller says had she been on council, she would have opposed all of those projects.
Uteck says it's unfair to paint her with an unreflective, pro-development brush. "It's ironic. I brought back the residential heritage incentive program, and I brought back the commercial incentive program and I came up with the first heritage streetscape design program.
"I'm not anti-heritage," she continues. " is a heritage purist; I'm a heritage realist. What is the opportunity here for this building before it gets knocked down? What is the compromise? And some of the things that she suggests---for example, Waterside---are just not financially feasible.
" is actively working against me in this election---that's fine, everyone can have their opinion---but if you look at my track record, it speaks a lot differently than it's portrayed."
This district covers the west end of the peninsula, everything south of Bayers, west of Robie and north of Quinpool.
The present councillor for the area, Sheila Fougere, is running for mayor, which leaves this race wide open. Seven people are contending: Katie Campbell, Glenn Dodge, Bill Forbes, Andrea Hilchie-Pye, Ross McLaren, Sean Phillips and Jennifer Watts.
Because the district sits between downtown and the western suburbs, transportation issues loom large for all the candidates. Each opposes the fast ferry to Bedford, wanting the money instead spent on additional LINK buses, with the hope that through traffic will thereby be reduced.
The seven, of course, have a range of life experiences and place slightly different emphases on issues, but they generally resemble Fougere in their political stances, although Watts alone opposes the tax reform proposal, which Fougere has championed.
Likely, personal appeal and campaign organizational skills will play a large role in the outcome of this race.