What the city election means to students

Bianca Müller

Not long after you've finally figured your way around campus, the city of Halifax is holding an election, on October 20. This is excellent news for students.

See, for the first time, returning university students can vote in city elections---so long as they've lived in Halifax for more than three months (even if they spent the summer away) and aren't registered to vote somewhere else. But even students who are new to town should enjoy the drama, and here's lots of easy material for term papers and such.

The basics: The "city of Halifax" is really an animal called the Halifax Regional Municipality, which sprawls out over an area bigger than PEI and encompasses the former cities of Halifax and Dartmouth, the town of Bedford and a bunch of rural communities you've never heard of, with names like Head of Chezzetcook. (You don't want to know about Chezzetcook's other body parts.) Right now there are 23 councillors representing this giant area, but that number has been reduced to 16, meaning lots of the sitting councillors are running against each other.

Then there's the mayor. Our present mayor is a milquetoast-y mealy-mouth-y guy named Peter Kelly, who's been charming the retirement home circuit to get himself elected three times since 2000. But in February, The Coast published an exhaustive investigative piece detailing how Kelly had mismanaged the estate of a family friend named Mary Thibeault. "Mismanage" is an understatement---our investigation revealed that Kelly removed over $160,000 from the dead woman's personal bank account, then signed court documents that failed to list that money as part of her estate at death.

In the wake of our investigation, Kelly went into hiding for a week, then announced that he wouldn't run for re-election. This being Nova Scotia, where no one rocks the boat in Canada's Ocean Playground, in the wake of The Coast's revelations, the cops didn't investigate Kelly, and the populace seemed content to let sleeping dogs lie. So now, as we go to print, Kelly is once again making noises about running for something---maybe mayor, but more likely for council, hoping to represent Bedford.

Kelly will have to face a judge about the estate matters in late September. Presumably, he thinks he can delay any moment of reckoning until after the election. We'll see.

Whether or not Kelly runs for mayor, the race is proving interesting. Former Dartmouth MP Mike Savage, who was defeated in the self-destruction of the Liberal Party during the last federal election, appears to have the upper hand, but is facing competition from Tom Martin, a former cop who faults the police department for its high unsolved murder rate, and Fred Connors, a north end hairdresser and backyard chicken advocate who has surprising organizational skills. Lesser candidates Vince Hall and student Tom Worona still have have time to mount challenges.

In the south end (the area around the universities), long-serving councillor Sue Uteck, whose late husband Larry Uteck was football coach at SMU and himself a councillor, is being challenged by Waye Mason, the brains behind the Halifax Pop Explosion music festival and by Dawg Father Ph.D (his legal name), the hotdog vendor outside the Dal Student Union. Each candidate hopes to capture the student vote.

There are lots of issues important to students at play in this election, including plans for increasing transit, the possibility of rent control and a variety of environmental issues. Consult The Coast's election coverage---found at thecoast.ca/VoteHRM---for details.

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